Improving Your One-on-One Meetings

How to Improve Your One-on-One Employee Meetings

How do you successfully conduct one-one meetings with your employees? Keep reading. In this guide, we’ll give you top, time-tested strategies for improving your individual employee check-ins.

When you regularly meet with your team members, you will reap major benefits. First, you’ll create a stronger team, and second, you’ll develop a better relationship with your individual team members.

But there is a wrong way and a right way to meet with your team members. The wrong way will lead to distrust and frustration for both you and your employee. But the right way will produce positive, long-lasting results, such as increased productivity and employee loyalty.

Why You Need to Meet With Your Employees Individually

Before we dive into top tips for conducting effective employee meetings, let’s first discuss why one-on-one meetings are important.

One-on-one meetings benefit the employee, the manager, the team, and the organization.

From an individual employee perspective, meeting one-on-one with one’s manager allows the employee to get feedback on their performance. It also provides much-needed guidance for the employee’s short term and long term future. Employees have career goals and aspirations, and by meeting with them regularly, you can help them reach those goals. You can contribute to their success at your organization and in general.

Regular feedback provides your employee with clarity and a sense of security. By meeting with you regularly, your employee will know if they’re meeting your organization’s standards or not.

Here's how one-on-one meetings benefit the employee, the manager, the team, and the organization. Share on X

On the flip side, you will also know if you and your organization are living up to your employee’s expectations. When you meet regularly, you can spot the telltale signs of employee dissatisfaction, such as a change in attitude, a drop in productivity, and an increased number of complaints coming from customers, team members, or the employee themselves.

If you spot these symptoms early enough, you can reverse negative sentiment and prevent your employees from leaving. And by reducing employee turnover, you’ll boost team morale, decrease hiring costs, and create a stronger organization.

From a manager’s perspective, you’ll get the opportunity to address potential issues and work together with your employee to create an action plan moving forward. You’ll also become a partner with your employee, helping them develop in your organization and as a person.

Managers play an essential role in employee retention. Studies show that one of the top three reasons why employees leave a job is because of management. Either they don’t feel heard, supported, or properly managed, but the outcome is deep dissatisfaction that prompts them to seek out new job opportunities. One way to prevent this from happening is by conducting regular meetings where you aim to truly communicate with your employee. (Also note that your employee can help you to become a better manager.)

Finally, you get a chance to improve your one-on-one relationship with the team member. This is the secret sauce to improving employee performance. Sure, employees need to be internally motivated, but they also need the support and external motivation from their team leader.

As a manager, you’re not just managing company projects and goals, but you’re also managing personalities so that they can provide you with the best output possible. In meeting one-on-one, you can properly identify areas where you can support your team members.

From a team perspective, one-on-one meetings will help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of individual team members. This way, you can use your resources effectively to achieve your team goals, and know what to look for when hiring.

From an organization perspective, one-on-one meetings will lead to a better overall culture for your company. Your team will feel supported and have a sense of direction for their immediate future, which will lead to better results.

Overall, by conducting one-on-one meetings, you’ll improve your team one member at a time.

What Exactly are One-on-One Meetings?

Instead of project-focused, one-on-one meetings are person-focused. In a one-on-one setting, a manager meets individually with a team member to discuss their performance and makes a plan for reaching shared goals. One-on-one meetings shouldn’t be scary or ominous. The goal with these meetings is to produce positive outcomes.

Tips for Improving Your One-on-One Meeting

Improving Your One-on-One Meetings

Let’s discuss how to make employee performance meetings a success.

Meet Regularly

One-on-one meetings are most effective when you can follow up with your employees. This way you can ensure that your employee is still on the right path to meeting their goals.

We’re all busy and it can be difficult to carve out time, but here’s why you must: Keeping a regular one-on-one meeting shows that you care about your employees. It shows that you’re invested in how they’re doing within your organization, and that you’re available if they need help.

Employees who meet regularly with their managers are more engaged at work and have a more positive outlook about their job and the organization that they work for.

Decide on the Frequency of Your One-on-One Meetings

As we discussed in the above point, you should meet with your individual team members frequently.

But just how frequently? How often you can meet will depend on several factors.

Consider your schedule with all of your team members. It’s important that you choose a frequency that can be repeated indefinitely, not just during the slow times at work.

Meeting weekly is doable for smaller teams, but it can be overwhelming if you’re managing a larger staff. Meeting weekly is also not necessary if you’re pretty hands-on with your team throughout the week and have a chance to engage with them regularly.

Meeting monthly is good for most teams because you’ll get a chance to check in personally every 30 days. In this period of time, you can set achievable goals for the month and then circle back to see if you’ve met those goals.

Meeting quarterly is not as effective as weekly or monthly. When you meet quarterly, you’re less likely to keep a steady momentum between meetings. However, it’s better than not meeting at all.

The bottom line?

Commit to meeting with your employees regularly, whether that’s every week, every month, or every quarter. The frequency of your meetings isn’t as important as the consistency of them. Both you and your employees should have a specific time for when they’ll meet with you again.

Time Your Meetings

How long you meet with your employees is important. If your meeting is too short, neither you or your employee will have the chance to explore the topics that you care about in any meaningful way. But if your meeting goes on for too long, they will actually become counter-productive and your employee’s attention may wane.

Ideally, ​​one-on-one meetings are 30 minutes.

Put On Your Listening Ears

Your role as manager in a one-on-one meeting is to ask questions and listen to the answers. But don’t just passively listen, waiting for your next chance to talk. Instead, actively listen to what your employee shares. Ask open-ended questions that prompt them to respond thoughtfully, instead of with a basic “yes” or “no.”

Prepare a list of questions that will truly engage your employee. Generic questions like “How are things?” don’t break the ice and can be intimidating to your employee.

Take Notes During Your Meeting

In the span of a 30-minute meeting with your employee, you won’t be able to remember everything you’ve discussed. So take notes instead. Make a list of goals, tasks, and feedback that you want to follow up on in the future meetings. Encourage your employee to do the same. At the start of the meeting, grab two notebooks and pens and take notes on points discussed.

Meet Face-to-Face

Meeting over phone or text is nowhere near as effective as meeting face-to-face. Body language plays a huge role in communication. If you can’t see each other in person, then definitely meet over video. This way, you can both benefit from the unspoken cues that we all share.

Be All-In

When meeting with your employee, mute your phone, close your email, and focus on your conversation. By glancing at your phone or computer, you can make your employee feel less valuable and like you don’t care.

Provide a Meeting Agenda

Ahead of your meeting, share a list of topics with your employee that you’ll discuss. This way, your employee can prepare themselves with talking points of their own. This also reduces pre-meeting jitters.

How to Structure Your One-On-One Meeting

Improving Your One-on-One Meetings

How should you structure your one-on-one meeting? Here are a few tips to consider:

Start With “No Pressure” Updates

Ask them how they’re doing, but be prepared for a quick, one-word answer. At this point, you’ll need to follow up with additional, open-ended questions like, “Can you tell me how your week/ month/ etc. has been since we last met?”

Give Feedback

In every meeting, share feedback that will help your employee improve.

But don’t start off with opportunities for improvements (i.e. constructive criticism). Instead, lead with the positives. This shows your employee that you see the good things that they have to offer.

After the positive feedback, share tips on how the employee can develop. But don’t keep it in the nebulous theory zone. Work together to create an action plan for hitting those goals.

Also, don’t shy away from conversations about their future career goals, even if it’s potentially not with your organization. You can provide feedback to help your employee hit that goal.

Ask for Feedback

Encourage your employee to share feedback about your organization and you as a manager. Sure, it’s a vulnerable position to be in, but your employee is also in that same vulnerable position. The exchange of feedback can build a foundation of mutual trust and respect, which will no doubt improve your relationship with your team members.

Final Thoughts

Use the above tips to improve your one-on-one meetings, and be sure to check out these related posts:

How to Reduce Employee Turnover
Why (and How) to Treat Employees More Like Visitors

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