We – people communicate mostly verbally. Talking is as natural for us as breathing. Is it possible that such a common thing can become an effective key tool at work?
I’ve been working for Macopedia for almost a year and I deal with soft HR here – internal communication and recruitment processes- and in this article I’ll try to address the above question.Macopedia is a software house form Poznań founded 10 years ago. With time passing the company has grown from a small software house into a team of over 60 people providing services for customers from all over Europe within complex web solutions (TYPO3), e-commerce (Magento, Sylius and Akeneo PIM) and ERP (Odoo). A considerable company growth brought some difficulties which we to face, they resulted mostly from lack of well prepared communication process. The atmosphere of a small, cooperating well team, based on common trust became just a dim recollection because of an increasing numer of daily tasks which made it difficult to find enough time to talk about something more than just project related issues.
Like in the code we might come across technical debt, analogically what I found here could be reffered to as communication debt or even relations debt.
Looking for some solutions to the problematic situation I conducted a few complex series of interveiws with the team based on the Q12 questionnaire Of Gallupa Institute. In-depth result analysis indicated two feasible resolutions. The first one was based on reducing the number of people in the company to come back to the moment when the company consisted of people who know one another really well and are close – that was , however, unacceptable. The second solution, which was the chosen one, was about creating the environment where you can establish relationships based on partnership, where everyone can discuss their failures and successes in the atmosphere of trust. It was neccessary to create the conditions which will enhance the feeling of recognition of all the staff. As a result, the company needed leaders who could indicate the direction of development and improve company functioning on an organizational level. All this was supposed to facilitate creating deeper relationships than just the business ones coming from realizing tasks together. Does it sound possible?
Despite the fears and worries that it is „too soft”, „not effective enough and too demanding” or that „it does not fit to a technical team”, we decided to implement the proces of 1:1 conversations. The meetings last 30 minutes and take place in cycles every second week. This is the form in which Macopedia team has been cummonicating for half a year and a few things have been discovered:
We have a lot to say to each other
„30 minutes every second week” There won’t be as much to talk about!” – I heard when I suggested implementing 1:1 meetings for the firs time. Despite these initial worries the team has already talked away almost 400 hours, and there are more and more topics arising. It was the time of a lot of feedback, praising, problem solving, creating ideas and development tips. Both the feedback from leaders and the rest of the team still makes a to do list of improvements longer and longer.
While leading 1:1 meetings I was mostly suprised by the number of problems we were able to resolve and which we did not know about before or they did not have a proper escalation path. There were a lot of cases which arose during informal corridor chats but there nobody to pass them on. Both me and other leaders are constantly learning to talk with our teams effectively but at the same time everyone can confirm that the meetings bring results not only for single employees but also for the team and the company. – says Adam, Lead Frontend Developer.
Important 30 minutes
1:1 meetings have become a permanent part of Macopedia schedule of work. Their regularity ensures each employee that there will be the time devoted only to them to discuss significant issues and it won’t be necessary to catch a leader while making coffee in the kitchen. Owing to this perspective the participants of the meeting are as engaged as the leaders are – they can suggest topics for discussion in order to use these 30minutes as productively as possible.
I was suprised to see that my team come to the meetings prepared – every person has a list of topics to be discussed. What was a bit shocking to me was that this time has a specific structure and every minute is filled in productively. I can observe that cyclical character of these meetings gives the team security and the sense of not sweeping crucial issues under the carpet. – says Natalia, Lead Project Manager.
How to measure the unmeasurable?
Engagement and contentment of the team is meassured on the platform Officevibe. The general team satisfaction has increased by almost 50% since the leaders were nominated and 1:1 meetings were held regularly! Similarly other indicators rocketed: relationships with supervisors, satisfaction, feedback, personal develpment, recognition and support, and what is significant they have remained on the same level since then. These numbers prove that the process we created affects well-being of the team. What really matters in Macopedia is not only employee performance but most of all the feeling that collective aspiration builds up relationships between people not between a subordinate and a supervisor
Better to prevent than to put out fires!
Realizing the proces of 1:1 meetings on all the organizational levels and later consulting them by leaders enabled identifying or anticipating problematic situations much faster. Thanks to that we can prevent rather than put out fires! – noticed Thomas, Macopedia CEO.
It turned out that numerous individual difficulties of team members are repetitive and can be solved not only individually but also globally. The awareness of every person’s feelings which is given by 1:1 meetings confronted with the perspective of the organization as a whole provides ideal conditions to scale the team maintaining a very individual, human approach.
Support does not mean doing things for somebody
Independence and responsibility are key features for a devepolers team to work agilely. Therefore, the main idea of 1:1 meetings is the assumption: support does not mean doing things for somebody.
There are people who are becoming more and more independent thanks to 1:1 meetings and they ask for help less and less – it is enough to show them ways to solve problems, a different way of thinking and they are proceeding better with the next topics, dealing with them themselves. – adds Adam.
Building up relationships and rapport not only can you react to problems ad hoc, but you can support the abovementioned competences as well. 1:1 meetings are constantly suprising us positively and I am sure that all of Macopedia team learn a lot from them.
Personally I’m happy that the company ran the risk of implementing 1:1 meetings as a regular part of team life so that they can contribute to creating more friendly and open relationships among employees.