Better still, while making time savings in your own busy working week, this trick has the added benefit of getting you closer to your workers.
As management and leadership trainer Guy Williams of The Training Guys explains, it involves actively putting your employees into your diary.
“In the day-to-day, week-by-week life of my wife and I, if we don't make time to go to a movie, or to go to the beach, or go for a walk, or go and do this, the weeks go by, it just goes by. It's not that we don't want to, but we just get caught up in the business and the school term,” explains Guy.
“Surely you shouldn't have to schedule family time? No, you possibly shouldn't have to, but I think if you don't, it's not going to happen.”
Guy says it is exactly the same in the workplace, where meetings or even informal “catch-ups” simply get overlooked unless time is blocked out in your schedule.
At face value, it’s fairly simple to understand how one-on-one meetings allow you to focus your attention on each employee, to understand what drives them, where they need help and what can be done to help make them more efficient or productive. But how exactly does putting more meetings in your calendar reduce the amount of time spent in managing people?
According to Guy, by having these meetings actively scheduled on a regular basis, employees will be less likely to interrupt you with non-urgent questions, and instead save them for the meeting.
“I've got a client and she has only a small team – she only has five in her team – but she schedules 30 minutes with each of them every week. Now, of course the way she works it out it's one a day, there's five of them, so it's 30 minutes, one of them each [day], and they're in the diary, they go in the diary, so therefore the rest of her week is scheduled around these meetings that are already locked in, in the diary. They can move, but they're locked in,” he says.
“I remember saying to her, ‘Look, how on earth do you find the time to catch up one-on-one, you've only got five, but everyday?’ She gave me some very simple maths.
“[She said] ‘Let's call it a 50-hour week. I'm sitting down with them one-on-one, for 30 minutes; 30 minutes as a percentage of a 50-hour week is 1 per cent… so if you're sitting down with your people one-on-one for 1 per cent of their week, there's not an awful lot of micromanaging going on there. In other words, 99 per cent of their week I'm not interacting with them’.”
Guy says that his client has found this a tremendously useful exercise as each employee gets her undivided attention for 30 minutes each week, and she benefits from not having at least 30 minutes worth of interruptions each day, allowing her to focus solely on her business and her own tasks for the remainder of every day.
Another benefit of actively scheduled catch-ups with employees, says Guy, is a more levelling of the power balance, allowing employees to feel more able to open up about concerns or problems they face, or requests they may have.
“For some people, the only time they ever sit down with their manager is when they're being given more work to do, or they're in trouble,” he says.
“When the manager comes to you and says, ‘Oh have you got a moment?’… you don't default to, ‘Oh I'm about to be praised’. You default to either ‘I'm in trouble’ or ‘I'm being given more work to do’.