One To One Meetings

First published on Friday, May 26, 2023

Last updated on Monday, Feb 05, 2024

Your employees are the foundation of your business. Their happiness, engagement and productivity all affect your company's efficiency. Which is why you should create an environment where they feel comfortable sharing concerns.

Having frequent one to one meetings with individual team members is one way to achieve this. These conversations should discuss wellbeing, employee development, and any challenges staff may be facing.

Without one to ones, your team members may feel less likely to open up about any issues they have. Subsequently, staff wellbeing may decline, which could lead to low employee engagement and employee retention.

In this guide, we'll discuss one on ones, how to conduct them, and what to include in your one to one meeting agenda.

Two people shacking hands during a one to one meeting

What is a one on one meeting?

A one to one meeting is a face to face conversation between a manager and their direct report - an employee that reports to them.

One to ones’ typically cover a range of topics. But talking points mostly include:

  • Personal development: For example, a plan on how an employee may wish to progress within a company.
  • Employee performance This may include discussing a team member's recent performance. For example, what their strengths are and ways they could improve.
  • Day to day work: For instance, a manager may run through a team member's responsibilities to ensure they have no issues performing them.

Put simply, one on one meetings provide a dedicated time for staff to voice any issues they may have. Whilst offering managers the chance to listen actively to employee concerns.

The importance of one on one meetings

Not only can one on one meetings help many managers and employees build a rapport - it also ensures they’re on the same page about workplace issues.

One to ones also provide the opportunity for both parties to:

  • Discuss challenges.
  • Highlight key priorities.
  • Engage in more productive conversations.

There are several reasons why a manager may host a one on one. For example, if a new team member joins the company - their line manager will likely want to sit down with them privately. And get to know them on a personal level.

How often should you have one on one meetings?

It's good practice to have weekly meetings - or at least bi-weekly meetings - with direct reports. But this is dependent on the size of your business. For example, weekly meetings with each team member may not be possible if you have over 25 employees.

Meeting regularly encourages both managers and team members to get to know each other personally. Which can create a more comfortable atmosphere for both to raise any issues they may have.

How to prepare for a one on one meeting

You must adequately prepare for a one on one meeting. Otherwise, you may lose focus and forget to address challenges concerning your direct report.

Let's explore ways in which you can ensure you're prepared for a one to one.

Communicate the one to ones to your direct reports

If you're introducing regular one to ones in your business for the first time - you should communicate this to your team members. For example, you may wish to bring it up in a team meeting. This will ensure no one feels singled out by the idea.

Set a recurring meeting schedule

You should aim to have one to ones with your direct reports on the same day every week. This should be a time that you'll both likely be free to avoid cancellation or rearranging.

It's best to set a recurring calendar event for your meetings. This will ensure both parties are aware of the meeting - and provide frequent reminders about when it's happening. It may also help to establish the meetings as routine for you and your team members.

Set a location

Your one to ones should be held in a quiet space that offers focused collaboration time. And in a neutral place such as a meeting room - rather than your or your direct report's office.

Once you develop a routine, it may be nice to leave the office every now and then for your meetings. For example, you could go on a walk together or grab a coffee.

Create a meeting agenda

Creating a meeting agenda is an important step in preparing for your one on one meetings. An agenda helps you stay on track and focus on the relevant discussion points.

It's also a good idea to consult your direct reports to produce a shared agenda. This will encourage them to raise any concerns they may have ahead of the meeting. As well as making them feel that you value their feedback.

Get feedback from other team members

Before your one on one meeting with a direct report you should talk to any employees they work with directly. This could be senior managers or any team members your direct report is overseeing.

Getting feedback from those working closely with your direct report can give you an insight into how their colleagues perceive them. And help you better understand their strengths and weaknesses.

People stood  at a till having one to one training

What to discuss in your one on one meetings

You should ensure you've set a number of generic talking points when meeting with direct reports. Setting generic topics to focus on will provide a structure to the meeting. You can then make notes under these topics - specific to the employee you're meeting with.

Examples of these discussion points include:

Job performance

If you're meeting with your team members weekly, you shouldn't need to discuss their performance at length. But you should still touch on how their workload has been over the past week. And whether they have had any issues completing tasks.

You may wish to ask the following questions:

  • How has the past week been?
  • Have there been any problems with your workload?
  • Do you need any support?

Job satisfaction

Job satisfaction is an important topic to cover in your one on ones. This will give you an indication of how your employee is feeling about their role. And if they have negative feedback, you can work to resolve it.

Questions you could ask include:

  • What makes you happy in this position?
  • Is there anything that makes you unhappy?
  • What would make you happier in your role currently?

Work relationships

It's a good idea to ensure your direct reports are getting the most out of their working relationships. And that there are no conflicts that you need to be aware of. There are several questions you can ask to gain a better understanding of this.

These include:

  • Who is doing a great job on the team? What have they done?
  • Who’s someone in the company that you’d like to learn more from?
  • Have you experienced conflict in the workplace? If so, has it since been resolved? If not, what can the company do to help resolve this?

Career development

One to ones also provides the opportunity for you to discuss your direct report's professional goals - short-term and long-term.

Questions you could ask include:

  • What projects would you like to work on or be more involved in?
  • What other roles in the business do you find interesting? What skills do those roles require that you would like to work on?
  • What else can the company be doing to help progress your career?

After your conversation, ensure you follow up with your employee with a plan for their progression.

Someone making notes during a one to one meeting

How to conduct one on one meetings

Once you've prepared for your meeting - you must ensure you know how to conduct one properly. And there are several things you should consider doing.

These include:

Break the ice

Once your employee joins you for a one to one, it's important to make them feel comfortable. One way to do this is by using conversation starters.

These can help break the ice with employees and improve your rapport. This is because it helps you check in with your staff on a personal level.

Examples of conversation starters include:

  • How is your day going?
  • What's been your highlight of the day?
  • Have you done anything exciting lately?

Create psychological safety

If you want your employee to open up to you - you must create a safe environment. This will put them at ease and make it easier to address more difficult topics. For example, their wellbeing or any conflict they may be having.

You can create a safe environment by:

  • Ensuring you host the one to one in a quiet space, where there are no chances of you being heard.
  • Ensuring the employee is aware that the conversation is confidential.
  • Asking the employee if they need any food or drink.
  • Asking the employee if there's anything they wish to focus on or discuss as a priority.

Stick to your talking points

It's important you stick to the talking points you've noted in your one to one agenda. Occasionally your conversation may veer off track. But you should aim to stay on topic and ask the questions you need to.

You should also ensure that your employee is given the time to speak their mind. And if they do want to speak about something you hadn't planned to - you should let them talk and listen.

Take meeting notes

Both you and your employee should take meeting notes when having a one to one. This ensures that everything you discuss is kept track of. And both parties are aware of what actions they need to take before the next meeting.

Set an action plan

Once you've had your meeting, you should create an action plan with tasks for both you and your employee. You should then follow up on these actions in the next meeting. And check that you both have made progress.

Person sharing meeting notes on a laptop

The benefits of one on one meetings

As employees are always changing, regular meetings are the best way to monitor their progress. Unlike performance reviews, regular one on one meetings provide continuous feedback.

There are several other benefits one to ones can bring to your business. These are:

Improves communication

Frequent conversations with your employees will improve your communication with them. This is because in a one to one, employees lead the conversation. And as a result, they grow more confident in sharing their thoughts.

This streamlines communication as employees become more comfortable speaking about their problems. And means you don't have to spend lots of time trying to get to the root of an issue. Or encouraging an employee to share their feelings.

Improves employee productivity

Frequent one to ones create a space where managers can address issues affecting an employee's job performance. This makes it easier to resolve any concerns and remove barriers affecting staff.

For example, an employee may be reluctant to ask for help with a task they have trouble with. But, they're comfortable raising the issue in your one to one - enabling you to help them much quicker.

Consequently, they're now able to perform the task properly. Rather than wasting time struggling further, and making mistakes that cost your business's efficiency.

Higher employee retention

You may find that staff retention increases when using frequent one to ones. This is because it reinforces that their thoughts and feelings matter. As well as letting them know that if they are unhappy about something - their managers can help resolve it.

Employees feel valued when their managers listen and address their concerns. And when they feel their employer values them, they are more likely to remain with them for longer.

Improves trust

Regular meetings with staff can also improve their trust in you as an employer. This is because it establishes a better rapport with your employees. And makes them feel more comfortable sharing personal problems with you.

How to make one on one meetings more effective

One on one meetings need consistency to be most effective. So if and when you implement them, you must ensure you consider the following:

Stop skipping meetings

Missing a meeting can't be helped from time to time. But regularly skipping meetings with your employee may make them feel like you don't value their feedback or time. Which is why you should ensure you don't miss one to ones.

If you do need to miss a one to one meeting with an employee, make sure you give them enough notice. And that you reschedule as soon as possible.

Don't talk over your direct report

It's important you let your employee lead the one to one meeting. If you act uninterested in your meeting - or talk over your direct reports - it may result in them withdrawing. Which can then lead to low employee engagement and trust.

Ensure you actively listen to what they have to say. And make a note of which actions are high priority.

Ensure feedback is constructive

You should provide your direct reports with constructive, useful feedback. This means providing them with examples of how they can improve their performance - whilst highlighting the strengths they already have.

It's important feedback doesn't become personal or directly attack your employee. And that it doesn't mention the names of other colleagues. Otherwise, they may feel victimised and lose trust in you as an employer.

Group of 4 people sat at a desk having a team meeting

Get help with one on one meetings from Bright HR

You should ensure you host regular one on one meetings with direct reports. This gives employees the opportunity to voice any issues they may have whilst you actively listen. As well as enabling you to feedback on their performance. Not hosting regular meetings could make it difficult to build a relationship with your staff members. This could lead to employee mistrust, poor wellbeing and decreased productivity. If you need help conducting one on one meetings, we're here to help. Call our BrightAdvice helpline and speak to our helpful HR professionals today on 0800 470 2432.

Jenny Marsden

Associate Director of Service

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