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I recently shared with you an article on how one-on-one meetings can increase employee retention and engagement. There’s another thing that one-on-one meetings can do – improve employee knowledge and skills. Learning opportunities can happen anywhere, including during one-on-one meetings.
However, for learning to be effective, it must be delivered properly. This is where learning often gets a bad rap. Simply telling someone something isn’t learning. At best, it’s a conversation. At worst, it’s a directive.
Organizations can give managers a learning model that allows them to deliver learning anytime to any size audience. Whether it’s via a one-on-one, pre-shift briefing, or department meeting, managers are empowered to transfer knowledge and skills. Here’s a 5-step model that anyone can use to conduct a learning conversation.
STEP 1: Introduction
The principles of adult learning tell us that adults respond to learning when they understand why the topic is important to them. The key word being “them”. Sometimes sharing the reason why the topic is important to the company will matter. But if you really want to get someone’s attention, tell them the WIIFM (What’s in it for me?)
This is also a good time to gain some understanding of how much the employee already knows about the learning topic. It’s possible they already have some basic information. Or maybe they know an outdated skill that will need some “unlearning” before the learning session can take place. Either way, it helps the manager to know what the employee does and doesn’t know before moving to the next step.
STEP 2: Discussion / Demonstration
During this step, the manager will explain the information that needs to be learned or they will show the other person how to do the task. Which one you do is determined by the content. And it’s important to know if the topic is knowledge or skill.
Knowledge topics are theoretical or practical understandings of a subject. For example, if we worked in a restaurant, knowledge topics would be the menu items. In a bank, it might be the different types of checking accounts that a customer can open.
Skill topics are proficiencies developed through experience. Using the same examples above, a skill topic would be the ability to cook the menu items or the processing of a new customer account.
STEP 3: Testing / Practice
It might be tempting, as soon as the information or demonstration is over to say, “Okay then, get to work!” It’s essential to give employees a chance to practice and get comfortable with the learning.
When conducting a knowledge learning session, the manager will want to ask questions of the employee to confirm they understand the information. It could be done verbally. For example, the manager might say, “Tell me how you would describe a patty melt to a guest.” Or “I’m a small business owner. What are my bank account options?”
For a skills learning session, the best way to confirm understanding is to have the other person demonstrate the task. The manager might ask the employee to make a patty melt or do a role play with a banking employee to set up a new account.
STEP 4: Feedback / Debrief
Again, once the practice is over, resist the urge to push an employee off to work. Take a moment to conduct a short debrief. According to Dr. Scott Tannenbaum, president of The Group for Organizational Effectiveness, teams that conduct debriefs perform an average of 20 percent better. Debriefs don’t have to be long or complex. I’m a fan of a two-question debrief, which can be very effective. Allow the employee to answer two questions:
· What did you do well?
· What would you do differently next time?
Emphasize to the employee that they need to answer the questions in this order. People might want to gravitate toward all the things that went wrong. Make them focus on what they did well. Then talk about what they would do differently. Once the employee has offered their own feedback, the manager can add any additional comments.
STEP 5: Wrap-up / Closing the Conversation
At this point, the manager has told the employee what’s in it for them, the information they need to learn, allowed them to practice, and provided feedback. They’ve conducted a complete learning activity. The only thing left is to answer any questions and set expectations for future performance.
Once the employee leaves the meeting, they should understand what is expected from a performance standpoint and what will happen if they do not implement the learning they received. They should also know where they can go if they encounter any questions or need additional information.
Managers Can Improve Employee Performance Through One-on-one Learning Meetings
Effective learning conversations do not always have to involve charismatic platform skills and a bunch of fancy props. It does involve teaching managers how to structure and deliver one-on-one learning conversations.
This is a perfect activity to include in the company’s management development or manager onboarding program. Managers can learn the 5-steps early in their careers, use them regularly, and refine their comfort level with learning delivery.
Image courtesy of Aggretsuko on Netflix27