Webinar on demand: How to transform your 1:1 with actionable data

Our mission of better engineering effectiveness always leads us to data, so we’ve studied how these insights can unlock empowering 1:1s.
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Your calendar likely has weekly 1:1 meetings scheduled, but it’s less likely that those 1:1s actually happen regularly, with productive conversation and actionable takeaways. We’ve all attended lackluster 1:1s — or gotten that “sorry, can we postpone?” Slack message just three minutes before you’re supposed to meet.

Our superstar CTO Ravs Kaur shared her wisdom in a recent webinar, How to Transform your 1:1 with Actionable Data. Whether you attended and want to share with your team, or missed the event and need the recap, we’re reviewing the highlights here.

To watch the recording on demand, register here and you can watch instantly. Or take a look through the slides here. For our re-cap and key takeaways, keep on reading below.

1. Why are 1:1s important?

With our busy days and remote work, one-on-one facetime is critical. Data supports this notion:

  • Employees with regular 1:1s are 3x more likely to be engaged. (Gallup, 2016)
  • 43% of highly engaged employees receive feedback weekly, at least — vs. only 18% of disengaged employees. (Forbes, 2017)
  • When Adobe and GE replaced formal reviews with more regular 1:1s, Adobe saw 30% less turnover and GE saw 5x more productivity. (Lighthouse, 2016)

2. What should managers review during 1:1s?

We’ll consider an example of Ravs and her team member, Dave. With so much going on, how does he communicate “I’m overwhelmed”? On the other hand, how does Ravs communicate, “You seem overwhelmed”? A combination of soft and hard data can uncover:

  • Recent reflections and long-term trends. Ravs notices that Dave has had less Deep Work time than other team members in the past two weeks. It could be an issue, or just a sign that it’s been a tough week. Looking further back, she notices that this is not just a current status, but a long-term trend. This tells her to follow up on Deep Work.
  • Work amount and distribution. Next, she considers Dave’s workload. Jira indicates that he has a significant amount of work that is not tied to any epic, so Ravs deduces that he’s getting thrown into somewhat random work. While Dave can be an engineering superhero, most people appreciate a more coherent narrative in their role. This tells her to follow up about project assignments.
  • Broad questions and specific answers. Ultimately, Ravs has two questions to understand Dave’s experience: (1) How do you feel about the amount of time you have to work? (2) How do you feel about the types of work you have?

3. How can managers collect helpful data?

Uplevel compiles recent and long-term data into visual dashboards. However, not all teams have access to Uplevel. Managers and engineers can instead turn to the many data sources they use on a daily basis.

  • Pull from Jira activity. Jira provides helpful information about workload and distribution. This is the most direct source of information for many managers.
  • Build it into your sprint retro. Request data from the team by sending post-sprint questions about bandwidth, roadblocks, and focus time. Use the results at your 1:1s and for the team as a whole.
  • Don’t miss subjective data from your team. It might not be quantifiable, but general feedback from your team tells a story that even the most finite data can’t replace. For example, many engineers feel burned out, but lack a way to quantify it. That’s still insightful and can be supported with information like frequent late-night Slack messages or Jira tickets.

4. How can managers support their individual contributors during 1:1s?

  • Remove the surprise factor. On this, Ravs was clear: “Don’t ambush them during meetings!” Instead of presenting new information during the 1:1, make a point of raising questions or sharing an agenda ahead of time — then use your time to discuss thoughts.
  • Let data be conversation-starters. Numbers only tell part of the story. Rather than raising accusations or shining a harsh spotlight on specific numbers, use data as a launchpad into a meaningful conversation.
  • Take ownership. Ultimately, it’s important for the manager to take ownership over the situation. That creates space for the individual contributor to think about it and find a solution. Try saying, “I notice you’re low on focus time. What can I do to support you?” 

5. What are effective next steps after 1:1s?

  • Try something new. To make space for Deep Work, Dave set up a no-meeting day for the team, and no-Slack timeblocks in the day. (Urgent messages could be sent via text, but “you’d be surprised how many things are not urgent!”) The team soon learned that shared Deep Work time worked really well as a group.
  • Customize, don’t generalize. “It’s never one size fits all,” said Ravs. Data for one person has different meaning than similar data for another person. There are so many potential action items and there’s never one concrete path forward. The important thing is to set something in motion.

Managers

DODON’T
Let the employee leadFirmly stick to agenda
Focus on personal connection, career growthStatus check-ins, things that “could be an email”
Ask questionsAssume the data is the full story
Focus on trends, patterns, and embrace unique contextDrill on specifics
Be consistent! Show up on time and be presentMultitask or cancel last minute
Send ahead of timeSurprise

Individual Contributors

DODON’T
Show up and own the timeDefer to your manager
Be honestHide feelings
Be curiousCompare yourself to others or specific numbers
Set goals, use your manager for accountabilityMiss chances to remove roadblocks, using data as support
Come prepared with your own data, with questions to dig intoSpend too much time finding data. See what you can gather in 10-15 minutes
Brainstorm how the data could help youStress how the data could hurt you

Additional support

One-on-one time has always been valuable, but this past year of remote work has made 1:1s even more important. Empathetic managers have added a new focus on burnout prevention, coping with isolation, and an overall compassion for mental health. No matter the focus of your next 1:1, data can support your story and Uplevel users can take advantage of personalized 1:1 reports. Now, go schedule yourself a more effective 1:1!