A guideline for effective 1:1 conversations in the retail sector

How are retailers using manager/employee conversation to motivate, manage and inspire performance in their teams? OpenBlend shares their data and insight.

A guideline for effective 1:1 conversations in the retail sector

Can there ever be a blueprint for how to run a one-to-one in a high-performing retail team? After all, every retailer, every team, every manager and every employee are so different… how can you apply the same approach to them all?  

The truth is, there is no ‘one size fits all’ for performance management in retail – or any sector, for that matter. To drive high performance, you need to see every employee as an individual, each with their own unique motivations, drivers, challenges and priorities. Managers need to talk with those employees to overcome obstacles, enable motivations and unlock better performance – which is why traditional ‘tick box’ performance appraisals just won’t cut it.  

Yet performance appraisals continue to be the status quo. Employees are rated on their past performance and set new objectives, with little understanding of the human behind that performance. It’s like entering a car into a race without checking to see if it has petrol in the tank or a steering wheel at the helm: by focussing on the outcomes, and not what’s going in, you’re not setting up your employees for success. And it is holding back retail growth. 

Employee experience, as we have said before, is the number one driver of customer experience. Focus on your employees’ wellbeing and motivation, and they will in turn deliver excellence to your customers. Why? Well, because happy employees work harder, care more, are more engaged with the business and deliver better results 

So, if performance appraisals aren’t the best way to enhance performance, and there’s no neat and tidy blueprint you can apply to every team, then what’s the answer?  

It’s conversation.   


Using effective one-to-one conversations to run a team in the retail sector

Regular, holistic, conversations improve manager/employee relationships and help every employee to deliver their best. But these conversations are not a friendly, coffee-room chat – nor are they a rigid, box-ticking appraisal. They are a collaboration between employees and managers, where employees can identify what motivates them, set an agenda, and get support to break down the barriers that are holding back their performance.  

The key is to establish regular one-to-ones that can support the breadth of conversations needed to engage with a disparate retail workforce. Allow employees to discuss what motivates them: from homelife priorities to workplace progression and fulfilment. Not only does it bring dialogue and transparency to the manager/employee relationship, but it gives ownership and accountability to the actions that these conversations create. Unlike a performance appraisal, which checks in on performance once or twice a year, these conversations should contribute to continuous progress, working incrementally towards long- and short-term goals.   

How OpenBlend’s users are driving employee performance with one-on-ones

OpenBlend is currently used by many high-profile brands in the retail and eCommerce sector, including GymShark, Dr Martens, and Superdry. In the first two months of 2022, we analysed the aggregated data of over 1,000 users across the retail sector to see how employees and managers structure their conversations to drive broader and more effective conversations. There may not be a blueprint for retail performance management, but this data does provide a guideline and benchmark for retailers to use to compare and evaluate their own 1:1 conversations.

Here are 5 ways retailers are using OpenBlend one-to-ones to drive individual performance that act as a guideline to follow for better, more effective 1:1 conversations across your retail teams:

Set regular 1:1 sessions 

One-to-ones are more regular by their nature, so it’s no surprise to see that retail workers are frequently using the platform to schedule in regular 1:1 sessions. One-to-one conversations take place every 33 days, on average, suggesting that employees and managers are dipping into the platform roughly once a month.   

Lesson learnt: Employees want and need to have regular one-to-ones to stay engaged. Make sure you have a framework to support your managers with this. 

Let employees set the agenda

Thirty percent of one-to-one time on average is spent discussing the employee's agenda items and updating their action points. In fact, data showed that 85% of actions are actually owned by the employee. This demonstrates that employees using OpenBlend are not only driving their own performance through regular 1:1 catch-ups with their manager but also taking accountability for their actions, results, progress and development. 

Lesson learnt: Provide employees with the scope to set their own agenda and actions, to increase ownership and accountability. 

Broaden the scope of one-to-ones to include motivation and wellbeing

Retail employees want to talk about what’s important to them, and managers are increasingly recognising how much this impacts performance levels. The Blend Drivers section of the OpenBlend platform (a unique tool for understanding and harnessing individual employee motivation) allows employees to select what motivates them from a choice of 28 different drivers and effectively include their own motivations in the meeting agenda. Interestingly, a significant 19% of overall one-to-one time is spent discussing employee motivation.  

Lesson learnt: Employees are more motivated by their individual drivers than generic rewards and recognition. Ensure that managers go beyond Objectives during their performance management conversations and include each employee’s personal drivers within 1:1s. 

Set, track and measure objectives 

23% of one-to-one discussion time is dedicated to objectives. SMART goal frameworks enable a manager to support employees to create clear objectives so they know what’s expected of them. This indicates that conversation is crucial to measure and monitor progress and explain how their contributions have an impact on business growth.   

Lesson learnt: During one-to-ones, set clear objectives to cultivate a shared purpose across your business and show the employees how shared objectives (e.g. customer satisfaction targets) really contribute to business success. 

Address wellbeing

Wellbeing discussions took up 16% of retail workers' one-to-one time, with managers and employees making a direct effort to assess wellbeing levels and create actions to improve them. Rather than treating wellbeing as an abstract, the OpenBlend Platform allows retail managers to check in with three simple questions to measure happiness, confidence and stress.  

Lesson learnt: Wellbeing is key to performance, so you need to be able to measure it and help managers and employees to drive real change to support it. 

Interestingly, while bespoke appraisals and evaluations are available to all retail OpenBlend users, they formed just 4% of time spent on the platform – perhaps suggesting that regular one-to-ones have shifted HR processes from the traditional appraisal approach to a more holistic, conversational method of performance management. 

OpenBlend provides a framework to enable managers to step away from a tick box approach to performance, with tools to help managers and employees to set, achieve and measure performance drivers. 

To find out more about what is motivating retail employees in 2022 and discover why holistic one-to-ones are the key to driving better employee performance across the retail industry, download the OpenBlend guide to one-to-ones in the retail sector today.   

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