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Establish a Regular Time and Place for One-on-Ones

Remember that Millennials have grown up hyperscheduled. They thrive on that kind of structure, and they thrive on one-on-one attention. One of the most effective ways to help your young employees learn to be managed by you is to schedule regular discussions with each of them about their work.
At first, err on the side of meeting more often with each person—every day, every other day, or once a week. Start by evaluating what time will best work for you: What time will fit your regular schedule and needs? Also consider what time will work best for each of your employees. Then communicate with each Millennial the expectation that you will meet regularly one-on-one at a regular time.

Whenever possible, try to choose a regular time, and stick with it as long as you can. If you have to make a change, try to set a new regular time, and try to stick with the new time as long as you can. Regularity makes a big different to Millennials. In-person meetings are always preferable to meetings by telephone, but if your only option is telephone, don’t let the phone call slip. Keep those telephone appointments the way you make sure to attend your own child’s birthday party. And make sure to support these telephone conversations with clear point-by-point e-mails before and after your calls. Follow-up e-mails are key, especially following telephone one-on-ones.

Whenever you can meet in person, try to conduct your meetings in the same place. Choose a good venue, whether it is your office, a conference room, or the stairwell. You want these meetings to become familiar and comfortable. The routine of meeting in the same place every time is an important part of the structure these one-on-one meetings provide.

Making a plan with your young employee to meet one-on-one at a regular time and place is a huge commitment for both of you. It is a powerful statement that you care enough to spend time setting this person up for success. When you follow through and spend that time, you are creating a constant feedback loop for ongoing short-term goal setting, performance evaluation, coaching, troubleshooting, and regular course correction.

It’s also a lot of pressure on both of you. But it’s good pressure.

For the employee, the pressure is that of constant accountability. Quite literally, the employee will be expected to give an account of her performance in every one-on-one meeting. Has she met her short-term goals? Has she accomplished everything on her to-do list? Has she met all the guidelines and specifications? Has her performance been timely and swift? Have her results been high quality? Has her demeanor been cheerful and energetic? She will hope to score points—actually or metaphorically—in every meeting. Meanwhile, she will also expect feedback from you, including regular fine-tuning, revising, adjusting, and suggestions for improvement.

Like everything else, this dynamic process will change over time, and your approach will have to change with each young employee you meet with regularly. For each of your employees, you’ll have to figure out how often to meet, how much time to spend at each meeting, what format to use, and what topics to cover. And remember: you’ll have to make adjustments over time. If things are not going well with a particular Millennial, maybe you’ll have to meet longer and more often, going over his to-do list twice a day with a fine-tooth comb. And if things are going really well with a Millennial, maybe you only need to meet twice a week—just long enough to check progress and troubleshoot any issues that come up with her current tasks, responsibilities, and projects. No matter how well things seem to be going, you still need to verify that things are indeed going as well as you think. If they are, make sure that Millennial knows just how many points she is scoring today.

Never forget that your one-on-ones are your primary method for keeping the lines of communication open. Keep your expectations on the table, and make sure you are showing them exactly how to meet and exceed your expectations. And keep asking, “What do you need from me?”

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