How Often Do You Sit Down To Talk To Employees?

Have you ever sat down with employees to discuss how their work is going, or what support they need to help with issues they encounter?  Have you ever discussed career development plans with employees?  How about seeking the input or involving employees in decision making?  If you have done any or all of these, that’s great!  If not, it might be something you want to do on a regular basis.

Some supervisors and managers use meeting time as an informal performance review process.  The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) suggests employee meetings can be used to learn about employee retention.  The meetings can also help to create those great quality jobs we’ve blogged about recently.  It’s a time to get acquainted and reacquainted.  As long as they are done as a serious intent to help the employee succeed on a particular project or on the overall job, informal employee meetings can create a positive working relationship which benefits not just the employee but the supervisor, manager and organization.  The meetings encourage such things like loyalty, trust, respect and good communication.

While it may seem like an additional burden for supervisors and managers, it’s not because those meetings enable a much more productive atmosphere as the work area performs on its own with employees knowing what they need to do and what’s expected of them.  On the other hand, if meetings are conducted based on ulterior motives, or as punishment, or just to rush project completion, the outcome will be different.  Employees are smart and know when something is disingenuous.

These meetings don’t have to be long but they do need to be frequent because follow-thru is probably the most important part of having these meetings.  The length will be determined by the content but the purpose is to help with many things and assist employees accomplish their work and succeed.  That’s why frequency is important.  Without meeting often, we may not know if employees need additional support or are succeeding on their objectives.  It also won’t build a relationship if meetings are only held once or twice a year.

These meetings are more like coaching sessions. They provide opportunity for feedback whether it be positive or constructive so individuals know where they stand and how they are doing.  For instance, is an employee achieving or exceeding expectations, or, does something need to be done differently?  Frequency of meetings allows for that feedback and follow-up to let employees know how to proceed.  Maybe it’s a difficult assignment and they need some encouragement to complete it or maybe there’s some mistakes being made and attention needs to be brought to the employee to correct them before completion of a project.   It also could be  a specific timeline for project completion and meeting periodically to review progression is necessary.  Managers and supervisors can share their expertise and provide support along the way to create a positive result for both the employee and management.

Feedback, of course, also helps to clarify things so misunderstandings can be avoided.  That is another reason for frequency and follow-up to find out if there are any misunderstandings.  It’s a check-up of sorts to make sure both management and employee are on the same page.  The old saying of “no two people are exactly alike” applies here because everybody can interpret things differently.  It doesn’t mean they’re wrong.  It just means they have a different way of interpreting things.  That’s good because when it comes to problem solving or project management you want those to look at the issue in many different ways as possible so there won’t be discrepancies.

Managers and supervisors also need to understand there are other skills they may need to have to provide additional benefit.  One of those skills is to LISTEN to what the employee is saying.  This can be really hard for some people because listening takes more attention and concentration.  Some people, too, think the role of the manager and supervisor is to TELL people what to do.  That’s not true.  It’s important to let employees come up with the ideas.  If they need help, the manager or supervisor can offer or provide that assistance.  Managers and supervisors don’t have to know EVERYTHING.  They can learn, too, and what better way to learn than from others including employees!   In addition, when people know they’ve been listened to, they feel good and that helps with relationship building.

Another skill is patience.  Let employees come up with ideas on what needs to happen.  Let them identify the problems and solutions.  Some people want things done immediately.  They want that response or problem solved instantaneously.  Unfortunately, that’s not how good problem solving works. With traditional problem solving we normally identify a problem and immediately come up with a knee jerk reaction of how we’re going to solve it.  When that happens we lose  good problem exploration and we probably have not identified the real problem and lost or not identified a lot of valuable information which creates a lot of re-work or never resolving a problem.

Involving employees to get that information and identify possible solutions can actually reduce the amount of time re-work is needed.   Involving employees also helps to build their confidence and abilities.  It also helps them to realize their managers and supervisors trust them enough to work on the problem.  It’s a learning moment and a valuable experience for the future.  Mistakes may happen but it can be a way of reinforcing the learning and there isn’t a person on earth who hasn’t made a mistake.  By meeting regularly, listening, providing feedback, guidance, support and working with individuals, there are fewer mistakes and an overall better working environment is created.

And finally, empathy is needed.  Putting themselves in the employees’ shoes is something managers and supervisors must do.  Professionalism is important but it also must be mixed with a dose of understanding and recognizing some people are capable of doing more than others and that’s okay.  Believing in others and showing them lets employees know someone is there when they need it.  It also sets an example of the type of behavior for others which helps create that good job.

All of these things are what leaders do and that’s the expectation we have for supervisors and managers.  We want them to be leaders to inspire and encourage workers.  Psychology Today identifies many of the traits above but also say leaders know how to work with people.  Leadership isn’t  just about being promoted into a different position.  Some use  the word “leader” interchangeably with  supervisor or manager but just because we would like supervisors and managers to be leaders it doesn’t mean they are, and, not all leaders are supervisors or managers.

It’s true not all employees may embrace a meeting process but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be tried and it doesn’t mean supervisors and managers shouldn’t interact with employees and develop a  working relationship that helps workers succeed and allows their input into everyday decisions.

About CALMC Blog

Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to involving employers and employees to preserve jobs, resolve workplace issues, and promote labor-management cooperation. Visit our website at
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