Having actively engaged employees is critical to creating a successful and thriving business. Employees and team members who are engaged, involved with, and excited about their jobs become strong assets for you as well as for your company. But we’ve all experienced an employee who was NOT engaged or excited about coming to work!
What does that mean for business owners? Only one in three employees is that dynamic team member who is a strong asset to your company. Two thirds of employees meet the criteria for some level of disengagement, which is not great news for small businesses!
A disengaged employee base means a bland and toxic workplace where people just slink by without giving their best. It’s not just destructive for company culture, but it ends up costing companies in profits too: mediocre culture creates mediocre service, and mediocre service results in lost customers.
There are 3 parts of fixing this issue…
Hiring people properly: making sure you’re taking the time with your hiring process to ensure you’re getting the right people on board.
Training people properly: taking the time to give your new employees all the training they will need to complete and excel at their jobs.
Managing people properly: this one is the most important, and the one most business owners struggle with.
The reason this is the most important, is because I’ve seen company after company who have hired great people and given great training and still struggle with engagement in the workplace because those people aren’t being managed properly. Those great people aren’t being managed in a way that helps them live and thrive in their energy advantage (the space where they are the most jazzed and do the most good because they love what they do).
The tool I’ve found most effective to combat disengagement in a small business is Monthly One-On-Ones following a very specific agenda.
A Quick Caveat: Before you freak out and try to schedule meetings with all 20 of your employees, let me say you don’t have to do this with every single employee. Just the ones that answer directly to you (I. E., your managers. Or if you’re a small business with only 4 employees, you can run it with all of them individually - that’s just one meeting per week!). If you have managers over a larger number of employees, have your managers run the One-On-Ones with the employees under them. You can tier out the One-On-Ones if you have multiple layers of management, but the point is to make sure every individual in the company gets a 1-on-1 once a month without overwhelming you.
One More Note…
These need to be done in person. The majority of human social communication cues are non-verbal, and exist in the form of facial or body expressions and vocal inflections. Doing the 1-on-1 over an email or phone means that you will miss important cues on the faces and in the expressions of your employees. So even if you have to use a video chat for the meeting, make sure you can see each other. Otherwise your outcome will be mediocre at best.
The 1-on-1 Formula
There are a couple simple steps to the 1-on-1 formula I use with my team, but they are both important and need to be followed to make each meeting successful.
Make it a Safe Space: Talk Things Through
First and foremost, make sure your team member knows that the meeting is a safe space.
If they have a problem or concern that they need to bring to the table, it can be done during the meeting. But this isn’t just a magic tool where if they bring an issue to the table it just disappears. Talk through their concern or problem, make sure you understand every angle you can on the issue, and then devise a solution. If their concern is something you can allay by simply having that conversation and explaining things from your perspective, then do that. If it is something that needs to change then devise a plan to make it happen. What’s important is that you are trying to understand their perspective & why this matters to them first before explaining or dismissing a situation.
Sometimes it is a concern, issue, or idea that isn’t necessarily practical for some reason. But the whole point of making the 1-on-1 a safe space is to talk through things and explain why or why not something can happen. To create a place where you can have dialogue on a topic or point of improvement, and where their thoughts and concerns about the company are made valid.
Give them a space where they can feel invested in the company.
Keep In Mind…
If you are not fully engaged at these 1-on-1s, they won’t work. You must actually make it a safe space and give your employees some credit for their thinking: they probably understand the situation better than you think they do, but they may not have all the pieces to the puzzle that you do. And in the process, they may have a brilliant idea that is the solution to a company issue you’ve been dealing with.
The whole point of having a team is being able to rely and lean on them. They are incredible people, that’s why you hired them. So work with them, give them credit where credit is due, and honestly invest in the 1-on-1s. If you do, you have the potential to see the 300% growth that Grow Disrupt has seen since implementing these 1-on-1s.
Once you establish that 1-on-1s are a safe space, use these four questions to give both of you a run-down of how things stand with them and the company now and moving forward.
1: What Went Well?
Start by going over what went well over the past period.
If this is your first meeting, ask them what they think they have done well in the company and tell them the things you appreciate about their recent work.
If this is a second or even later meeting, ask about what went well over the last month since your last meeting. What they think went great, or a project that went off exceedingly well.
This question is a two way street. It’s an opportunity for them to notice things that you’ve helped them on, an opportunity for them to notice things they have done well. And an opportunity for you to comment on what you think they’ve done well on, and what you think you’ve done well on.
If you’ve struggled with communication and you’ve really worked on communication for the last month, let them know how you feel if you think you’ve gotten better at it and ask them for one thing they appreciate about your efforts. If they’ve learned some new skill set, it’s also an opportunity for them to say “hey, I learned this new skill set I think could be a great addition to the team.”
This whole question is an opportunity to look at the positive and wonderful things going for y’all in the business relationship and for the company as a whole.
2: What Can Be Improved?
Check in about what challenges or issues have come up over the last 30 days.
Go over the missteps or issues that have arisen within the last 30 days, but not a time to nit-pick. List a few aspects of work that are a trend, and the ways that those aspects can be improved upon for the improvement of the business moving forward.
This question is also a two-way street. It’s a time for both of you to give feedback on the past month, so you can have a smoother time working together in the future.
One key I’ve found to be super powerful here, is to ask team members to provide feedback on themselves.
Most of the time, I’ve discovered that they’re already working on correcting the items I was planning to bring up. And if it’s something they know is a problem but don’t have a solution for, we can move into brainstorming ways to fix it so they know that I’m in their corner and working to help them overcome the issue and not just pointing it out.
3: What Are We Working On Next?
Look at the next thirty days and determine what both of you are going to work on during that time, and give a brief look at the future.
Because we are finite beings, we can only do so much in a month. So this is the time to realistically sit down and look at what you want them to accomplish over the next month. Whether that’s a skill set to start developing or a long-term issue that needs correcting, these are things that you’re both going to work on over the next few days.
It’s also a great idea to give them the opportunity to look at where they want to be with the company in 5-10 years, and then decide on learning a skill set that will help them achieve that. Glancing at a future with the company and options for leveling up their current position helps employees see that they’re more than a number or a sales rep: they really are a part of a dynamic company that relies on them.
4: What Do You Need From Me?
If the previous question was about what they want to do moving forward in the company, this question is about what they might need from you to make it happen.
This question gives them space to realistically look at what they want to accomplish for the company, and then ask for your support if they need it.
E. G., if you have a team member who wants to take a Thursday evening accounting class so they can better understand your finances, they might need you to let them leave early on Thursdays.
Again, remember this is a safe space for them. If you need to say no to something, explain why you can’t help them with their request. One of the most frustrating things for employees is to be told no without a why behind it.
Your employees are smarter than you think. If they feel you care about them, they are more likely to put the good of the business first and care about that as well!
Employees are people just like you and I.
If they’re disengaged, they don’t feel any sort of connection to their job or the company. But if you start to implement these kinds of 1-on-1s once a month you’ll be amazed at how the different issues will begin to disappear. Your team will get excited about moving forward with you.
Your employees will become those incredible assets to the company that begin to increase profits, instead of making them disappear.
Just like your employees, you’re a human being too! Human beings need connection and inspiration. We need like-minded individuals around us to supercharge our batteries so we can feel energized to move forward, and that’s exactly the atmosphere we create at Grow2021. It’s a carefully screened room, with incredible business owners mingling with astounding speakers who are carefully negotiated with to be on-site as long as possible to give attendees the greatest possible bag of tricks for growing their businesses in the upcoming year. If this sounds like your kind of event, check out the Grow2021 website here and make sure to book your interview for the event!
About the Author:
Stephanie Scheller is a TED speaker, a two-time best-selling author and the founder of Grow Disrupt: a San Antonio based company dedicated to disrupting the way the world does business through training. In just under a decade, Stephanie has been behind the scenes with nearly 2500 small businesses. She has worked in groups and one-on-one to create total business transformation & help business owners live the life they got into business to create!