Effective One on One Meeting with Employee: The Full Guide for Managers


If you need to conduct a 1 to 1 meeting but don’t know where to start, you’re in the right place. This article will break down everything you need to know about what one on one meetings are, how to conduct them and what kind of questions to ask.
The 1-1 meeting might become simply another meeting in your day if you don’t have the right framework, agenda, and mindset in place. Here’s how we’re going to make the one-on-one meeting your most essential meeting.

What Are One-on-One Meetings?

A 1:1 meeting is a frequent check-in between two people in a company, usually a manager and an employee. It’s used to provide feedback, keep each other informed, manage problems, and assist employees advance in their professions. These types of meetings urge managers and their direct reports to have frequent performance check-ins and conversations.
Unlike status meetings, for example, 1-on-1 meetings provide employees with the opportunity to ask for help, get advice and speak openly about their concerns and potential issues.

Purpose of One on One Meetings

While it can feel time-consuming at times, the payoff of 1 to 1 meetings is enormous. Managers can build trust with individuals and within their teams by having regular conversations. As a result, workplace trust strengthens teams, allowing employees to work in new and collaborative ways in a comfortable setting.
1-on-1 meetings also benefit managers by improving their coaching skills. As a leader, you are applying and practicing a coaching approach by learning to actively listen to your team members and providing direction and feedback along the process. Managers may better support employee performance and boost overall team success by becoming better coaches.
Additionally, 1 to 1’s are great for making employees feel valued. It is not often that they get to speak openly and honestly about their thoughts, feelings and concerns so having these types of meetings makes them feel like their thoughts matter, which builds confidence.
Finally, one to one meetings encourage a problem-solving mindset. Having your weaknesses or struggles highlighted in a group setting is never pleasant, so 1 on 1’s provide a sense of safety where problems can be discussed in a transparent way, allowing them to be fixed a lot faster.

What to Discuss in a 1 on 1 meeting?

Later on in this article we will give you a list of some specific questions you can ask but here is an overview of topics that can come up:

  • Work habits
  • Employee performance
  • Team collaboration
  • Levels of engagement
  • Short- and long-term goals
  • Professional development plan
  • Manager improvement

Keep reading to get an idea of some questions from these topic clusters!
Overall, one on one meetings should be tailored to each individual but there is a general structure you should be following to make sure every 1 to 1 runs smoothly.
1. Set a meeting goal
Decide what you want to achieve with this meeting and let your direct report know so you can work together to achieve this goal.
Some typical goals include:
– Identifying and removing roadblocks

– Checking the direct report’s mood (are they content or upset?)

– Update on the situation (I.e. How projects are coming along)

– Professional development goals

Break the ice
Start the meeting off with some lighthearted chatting to help your direct report feel at ease. Don’t talk about the weather. Ask them a personal question as a warm up to the relatively personal conversation you’ll be having in a moment’s time.
3. Don’t treat it as a status update
While this may seem like the perfect opportunity to catch up on how projects are going and how your team member is feeling about their workload this week, don’t treat the meeting as a status update. This meeting is intended to strengthen your relationship and for the employee to feel listened to, and heard.
4. Use the Balance Framework
The Balance Framework involves talking about 4 topics equally. They are Growth and Development, Work, Motivation and Communication.
Growth and Development
Managers can use this time to provide guidance, coaching, and assistance in developing the skill sets of their individual team members.
Work
In your one-on-ones, talk about work last. You may quickly set up a follow-up conversation about work-related issues. Breaking a topic about growth or motivation into a separate meeting is more difficult.
Motivation
Use this time to get information on how to improve employee motivation. What makes them excited to work? What projects excite and which ones demotivate?
Communication
A breakdown in communication often leads to a breakdown in collaboration and productivity. Take this time to ask your direct report if there is anything they’re stressed about that they would like to share, or how you as a manager can improve communication within the team.

How Often Should You Run 1-on-1 Meetings?

There is no specific rule that dictates how often you should have one to one meetings. Some people choose to have them weekly, others have them every 6 months. We do recommend, however, staying in touch with your direct reports and conducting these meetings relatively often. This will allow you to keep track of their progress and how they’re feeling and they will feel more secure, knowing they don’t have to wait another 3 months, for example, to have a transparent conversation with you. We suggest aiming for a meeting once every two weeks, for around 30 minutes. This leaves enough time for situations to develop and change and is also not so infrequent that you lose track of employees’ progress.

Preparing for One-on-Ones

In one on one meetings, you should encourage your direct reports to talk about anything they want. Common topics are likely to include things like current goals and their progress, recent feedback, accomplishments, mid- and end-of-year performance assessment reports, career aspirations, and so on.
Here at Notiv, we often talk about how preparation before a meeting is absolutely crucial to having an effective meeting. Here are some tips on what you can do to properly prepare for a one on one meeting.
1. Explain the Meeting’s Purpose
If your team members are unsure of what a 1 on 1 is or why you’ve organized one, explain to them what you aim to achieve with it. Alternatively, you can send them this article! Bear in mind that if an employee checks their calendar and sees a 1:1 meeting scheduled with no explanation, they might assume the worst. Along with the calendar invite, send them an email or message explaining the context behind the meeting, what you aim to achieve and what they should prepare in advance.
2. Set a Recurring Schedule
Decide on a time, place and frequency of your recurring 1 on 1 meetings with your team members. This will of course depend on individual schedules so make sure to co-ordinate and select a time that suits everyone.
3. Outline Meeting Goals
As mentioned in the first point, you should explain to your team what you hope to get out of the one on one. The goals and expectations that you set out will influence the conversations you’re going to have in the meeting. This could be anything from eliminating roadblocks to seeing how your direct report is feeling about their work.
4. Share the Agenda
As always, we recommend creating an agenda and sending it out in advance. This will give your team members time to prepare and think of any topics or questions that they would like to bring up. We have a great blog post on how to write a meeting agenda that you will actually stick to. To check it out, click here.
5. Prepare Backup Questions
This is unlikely to happen but in the rare case that you run out of things to discuss but still want to make the most of your meeting, prepare some backup questions in advance.
6. Keep it Flexible
Unlike most other meetings that we write about, 1-on-1 meetings should be treated like an organic conversation with a structure. This is not the kind of meeting where you have to take minutes or note down decisions made, though you may choose to do so anyway.

Record the Meeting
You or your direct report may want to keep a record of this meeting and remember what was said, especially if the 1 on 1 includes something important, like a performance review.

The best way to do this is by using a tool like Notiv. Notiv is an AI powered notetaker that will record, transcribe and summarise your meeting notes so that you can be fully present and focus on the conversation. Notiv creates action plans and to do lists based on the conversation, in real time. If some time has passed since the meeting and you need to remember a small detail, you can search for a specific word or phrase in the transcript, saving you time in the long run.
So, how does Notiv work?
First, you schedule your meeting as normal, using your Google or Office calendar. Select which meetings you want Notiv to attend. When your meeting begins, Notiv will automatically join. This can be on Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams or WebEx. During the meeting, Notiv will take notes and create action points based on what is being said, as it is being said.
After your meeting ends, Notiv will send you an email with the recording, transcript and summary of your call which you can share with meeting participants or those who need to be aware of what happened during the meeting.
In one on one meetings, you should encourage your direct reports to talk about anything they want. Common topics are likely to include things like current goals and their progress, recent feedback, accomplishments, mid- and end-of-year performance assessment reports, career aspirations, and so on.

How to Conduct First One on One with New Employee

The 1 on 1 meeting you have with a new employee will be drastically different to the one you have with a tenured team member. Your focus will be on laying the groundwork for a comfortable and pleasant work relationship. This one-on-one meeting with your new employee is an opportunity to set expectations and present the company and its culture. Here are are some questions you could ask to get to know them better:

  • “Tell me about yourself”
  • “What attracted you to this role?”
  • “What are you hoping to accomplish, professionally and personally?”
  • “How can we best work together?”
  • “Where have you been most successful in the past?”

The goal of this meeting is to open up the lines of communication and get to know the employee better. People enjoy talking about themselves and the new team member will feel more comfortable and at ease once you show interest in them and their professional history and abilities.

Questions to Ask Employees on One-on-One Meeting

We spoke about which questions to ask a new employee above, but when it comes to team members who you’re worked with for some time already, the relationship is already built and the nature of the conversation will be different.
1 on 1 meetings should not be used as status meetings, so avoid asking specific questions relating to projects and updates. There is no specific list you should be following when it comes to questions but here are some questions we think are useful to ask:

  • “How do you feel when you come into work everyday?”
  • “What are you proud of when it comes to your job?”
  • “How do you view yourself in your role?”
  • “Do you need any support? Can I help you with anything?”
  • “Do you feel comfortable asking for support when you need it?”
  • “Are there any skills you would like to develop further?”
  • “What next steps could you take to work on developing these skills?”
  • “Which parts of your job do you enjoy the most and the least?”
  • “Where do you see yourself in 3 years?”

These are just some examples of things you could talk about. However, you will want to ask questions that relate to the context of your specific conversation. If you let the dialogue flow naturally, and the questions will come organically.

How to Make 1-on-1 More Effective?

There’s no specific guide that is set in stone on how to conduct 1 to 1 meetings. The most crucial aspect of a successful one-on-one is creating a safe environment for people to address the difficulties and concerns that are on their minds. These sessions are primarily for the benefit of the employees, and their active participation is essential but it is important that both parties take ownership of the meeting to make it effective.
Create a shared agenda to not only establish context for the meeting, but also to encourage both of you to add topics to it that you will want to discuss.
Here are some things you should do before the meeting to make sure it goes smoothly. As a manager, you should have a goal in mind for what you want to achieve out of the meeting. Set goals and expectations and communicate them to your direct report. Give yourself 15 minutes before the meeting to collect your thoughts. You don’t want your 1 on 1 to be ineffective because you were thinking about a stressful call that you just had.

During the meeting, spend more than half of the time listening. It’s tempting to fill pauses in the conversation but try to stop yourself. Silence makes people speak. To get your direct to be open and honest about how they’re feeling, don’t try to fill the dead air. Instead, let them speak.

You should also pay attention to body language. Body language often speaks louder than words do so pay close attention. One way to make someone feel more comfortable is by mirroring their movements.
Start and end on a positive note. This will automatically make the person feel more at ease and willing to participate. End the conversation with words of encouragement, it will allow you to leave the meeting feeling inspired and motivated, rather than stressed and exhausted.

One on One Employee Meeting Template

If you’re unsure of where to start, here’s a useful template you can use for your next 1 on 1.

 One on One Meeting

Conclusion

Managers’ most powerful tool for influencing the performance and productivity of their teams is one-on-one meetings. One-on-one conversations can be intimidating, but with the right tools and the right questions, you can strike the right note every time. Feel free to use the tips outlined in this article to plan your next 1 on 1 meeting!
To read more of our past articles, click here. To try Notiv out for yourself in your next 1 on 1 meeting, click here.