For supervisors, meeting frequently with your employees (especially in a one on one setting) is a great way to maintain open lines of communication with subordinates. One on one meetings also serve to help increase employee performance by improving trust and by setting appropriate expectations early. Most employees also prefer one on one meetings when discussing their performance as well as their needs. Having the undivided attention of the supervisor serves to make the statement that “you matter to me and our team.” Meeting with employees exclusively on an annual basis to discuss their performance is a well-documented recipe for failure; more communication is almost always better than less.
In addition to weekly staff meetings I make it a point to meet with each of my employees personally every six to eight weeks or so. I usually allow for at least an hour of conversation but that time is not set in stone and depends on the needs of the employee. Having frequent meetings with all employees (especially for a large team) can be challenging at times. Everyone is busy however the benefits of taking the time to talk with employees can be everlasting. Everyone’s time is valuable so it’s important to be both efficient and effective when meeting with employees. For this reason, I typically employ the WONG method when I have one on one meetings. WONG stands for Workload, Opportunities, Needs, and Goals; each of which are explained in detail below:
I usually begin my one on one session by asking the employee how things are going in general with regards to their work. This breaks the ice and helps to give me sense of what their level of stress is as well as what their general sense of well being in the office is. Discussing workload is also a good way to assess the needs of the group as a whole. It’s helpful to try to understand if there are workload disparities among employees that may need to be remedied by reallocating tasks.
In terms of work load I usually shoot for around 75% (+/-10%) utilization per employee depending on the employee’s skill level, stress level, and how critical the job is. In other words, in my field of work (engineering) employees should be spending roughly 75% of their time working on projects or tasks. Employee utilization will vary from job to job and depends on many factors. As a leader of a team you’ll need to decide what the appropriate utilization level is.
During this part of the conversation I am also looking to determine if the employee needs coaching, guidance, support from other team members, additional resources, and/or training. After meeting with all employees within the team I review my meeting notes to see what changes, if any, need to be made to work allocation.
In this part of the meeting I ask the employee to provide any input on where they believe opportunities for improvement or change exist. From the employee’s perspective are their opportunities to improve work functions or do they see need for a change in policy and/or procedures? The employees generally will have a better idea on where improvements need be made in the day to day operation. In addition to this, I ask about their observations regarding the working environment, the culture, the distribution of work and policy issues, etc.
I’ll also use this time to discuss if I’ve personally observed any areas where there are opportunities for improvement.
As a leader, supervisors should be focused on serving employees just as much as they do on coaching, directing and building a vision for the team. For supervisors, supporting your employees is one of the most essential things that you can do. Leaders who have an employee centric philosophy are often called servant leaders.
During this part of the discussion I’ll typically ask questions such as: Does the employee need anything from me? Is there anything I can do to help make the employee’s job easier? Is there some problem that I could help with? These questions need not necessarily be focused on the working environment either. If there are things in the employee’s personal life that you would be willing to help them with, doing so would go a long way to strengthening the team’s resolve to grow and succeed. This builds trust and will let your employees know that they can rely on you. Reliability is essential to success in any organization.
Finally, I’ll wrap up the meeting by looking forward into the future. This is where the employee and I review their performance to assess where they stand in regards to meeting milestones and their goals. Although, this part of the discussion is centered around meeting performance targets and workplace goals, I usually also discuss career aspirations and personal goals with my employees as well.
This part of the discussion is also a way for me to point out any potential opportunities for employees to grow and improve. This could include training, encouraging employees to go back to school, or helping them to obtain new professional certifications. Coaching and encouraging employees to strive for greatness is extremely important and will do wonders for the team and their performance.
So there you go, the WONG acronym is a very simple way for a manager to have both effective and efficient one on one meetings with employees. I’ve had great success using this method to coach, serve and grow my team. Also, as a leader, it’s imperative to have a true open-door policy, a good working relationship with everyone, and to have an honest desire to both share and receive information. Of course, you don’t necessarily have to employ this method verbatim to see success; all leaders need to develop their own style that keeps true to their values.