The 1-on-1 meetings are a vital component of successful management. These meetings provide managers and employees a delegated time to talk through ongoing projects and review performance. Plus, 1-on-1 meetings are a great way for managers to get to know their employees’ interests on a deeper level.

1-on-1 meetings are meant to be an informal check-in between manager and employee. This means many 1-on-1 meetings may not have a formal agenda. One week, a 1-on-1 conversation may be focused on a block in a project, and the next, it may be focused on the employee’s career aspirations.

1-on-1 meetings should address what is important to the employee at that time. Typically, 1-on-1 meetings will be held weekly for a 30-minute timeframe. Although a component of a 1-on-1 is informality, because these meetings are brief, it’s important to have some structure.

Overall, 1-on-1 meetings can improve employee retention, while helping managers better understand their staff.

The Advantages of 1-on-1 Meetings

1-on-1 meetings might look different from company to company. However, the central goal of 1-on-1 meetings should be the same everywhere. The goal is to keep open communication between manager and employee. However, 1-on-1 meetings provide benefits far beyond keeping communication open.

Some benefits of 1-on-1 meetings include:

  • Build trust. A 1-on-1 allows managers and direct reports to get to know each other on a personal level. Trust is a key component of a functional manager-subordinate relationship.
  • Monitor performance. Performance reviews only come once or twice per year. 1-on-1 meetings allow managers to assess employee performance in real time.
  • Facilitate professional development. A big benefit of 1-on-1 meetings is they give employees private face time with their boss. This is the perfect environment to discuss future career paths.
  • Increase productivity. 1-on-1 meetings give employees a chance to address blockers, concerns, or questions with their manager. It also presents the opportunity to discuss pivots if a certain project isn’t going to plan. 

1-on-1 meetings are mutually beneficial for each party. They keep the lines of communication open and allow for timely feedback. They also increase employee retention as 1-on-1 meetings show the employee their individual contributions are valued.

However, the freeform nature of 1-on-1 meetings can lead to a lot of subpar practices. In order to get the most out of a 1-on-1 meeting, you want to make sure you’re prepared.

Common Drawbacks of 1-on-1 Meetings

When 1-on-1 meetings are conducted with intention and preparation, there aren’t any downfalls. However, the reality is that many 1-on-1 are not properly conducted.

Some common drawbacks of 1-on-1 meetings are:

  • Rushing the meeting. Since 1-on-1 meetings are short, managers may rush through feedback. This can cause employees to feel like they are less important than the other commitments on their manager’s schedule. It also negatively impacts how effective the feedback given is.
  • Skipping 1-on-1 meetings. Schedule changes happen and managers may need to skip a 1-on-1 occasionally. However, if a manager consistently misses their 1-on-1 meetings, it will negatively affect the efficiency of the meetings. It can cause resentment from employees. Employees may feel their time is not valuable to their manager.
  • Not listening actively. Managers should allow their direct reports to steer the conversation in 1-on-1 meetings. This way, employees can bring up projects or concerns that are relevant to them. However, managers need to use active listening skills with their employees. When managers don’t listen to what their employees are saying, it’s unlikely productive changes will result from the meeting.

It’s easy to get caught in these common 1-on-1 pitfalls. The stress of day-to-day work can take its toll, and sometimes, 1-on-1 meetings suffer from that.

Managers should actively prioritize their 1-on-1 meetings. In addition, employees should come to their 1-on-1 with relevant topics they want to talk about, to avoid wasting time.

How to Conduct a Great 1-on-1 Meeting

It’s both the manager and subordinate’s job to make sure their 1-on-1 meeting is productive. A 1-on-1 will be as successful as you make it. So, keep reading to learn the key components of any successful 1-on-1 meeting.

Preparing Before the Meeting

Ideally, the manager and employee will hold their 1-on-1 on the same day each week. A good idea for the manager to set up a reoccurring calendar block, that will be sent to the employee, to ensure both parties’ schedules will remain clear.

You’ll also want to establish where you will meet. If it’s virtual, agree on which video chat platform you will be using. It’s in person, locate a conference room or other private setting prior.

If it’s a new employee, or if the company recently implemented a 1-on-1 program, it’s important to explain the purpose. The manager should prepare to explain the benefits of a 1-on-1 and what topics are most appropriate for the meeting.

The day beforehand, managers should encourage their employees to give them a heads up on what topics they want to address in the upcoming 1-on-1. This can give managers a chance to prepare themselves with the right information for the conversation.

Before the meeting, managers should assess if there are any accomplishments or praise the employee has received recently. If so, it’s great to bring that up in the 1-on-1, to show personalized appreciation for their work.

During the Meeting

During a 1-on-1, the manager should let the employee steer the conversation. The manager should keep a warm and informal tone. A 1-on-1 meeting should not feel like being called to the principal’s office.

Start by asking the employee how they are. You can engage in friendly small talk and get an overview of the employee’s week.

Allow the employee to explain the topics they’d like to talk about. Then, let them get into their desired talking points. Managers should be actively listening throughout. When necessary, managers should seek clarity and ask helpful questions.

Both parties should remain present. This means shutting off cell phones and pausing work notifications. It is important that the employee gets their manager’s full attention.

After the employee has gone over their topics, managers can use the rest of the time to check in on the employee’s wellbeing. Are they enjoying their job? Stressed about any ongoing responsibilities? Managers should aim to uncover any hidden pain points that could cause burnout.

Managers can also use this time to share praise for a job well done. Or they may choose to engage the employee in a conversation about career aspirations.

It’s also important for managers to periodically ask their employees for candid feedback. Assuming there is a foundation of trust, this can be a great way for managers to improve.

Wrapping Up the Meeting

The wrap-up is one of the most crucial parts of a 1 on 1 meeting. In the final five minutes of the 1-on-1 you should recap the topics you went over. This shows you were listening and engaged. It also gives both parties an opportunity to agree on what needs follow-up actions.

Additionally, you should reflect on how the meeting went. You should discuss any key takeaways. At the very end a plan for the following week should be glued down. Any insights that came out of the 1-on-1 should be given a plan for how they will be followed up on.

Additional Tips to Improve your 1-on-1 Meetings

Even well-orchestrated 1-on-1 meetings can always be improved. Below are some tips to strengthen the effectiveness of your 1-on-1 meetings.

  • Ask about morale. Morale is often overlooked in a 1 on 1. However, getting a pulse on how your employees view the team morale can provide valuable insights.
  • Take notes. Taking notes during 1-on-1 meetings about challenges faced or conversations had can be helpful. It can provide context during a yearly performance review. It can also be helpful for employees to read them to understand their progress.
  • Don’t shy away from difficult conversations. Sometimes, things will not be going well for an employee when their 1-on-1 comes around. This doesn’t mean a manager should ignore the performance concerns at hand. The 1-on-1 is a great time for the manager to address their employee’s performance. A manager can use this time to informally chat about the issue and ask genuine questions to see where they can help.
  • Get personal (in an appropriate manner). Sometimes, learning more about your employees as people can help you understand them better. It’s great to get to know your employees on a personal level and what matters to them.

Bottom Line

When performed correctly, 1 on 1 meetings have lots of benefits for managers and employees. They allow employees to form genuine relationships with their managers. Plus, they help improve productivity and consistency in employee performance.

If you don’t already have a 1-on-1 regimen at your company, it’s never too late to start. Employees appreciate the opportunity to have personalized time with their managers. Plus, managers can grow tremendously from performing 1 on 1 meetings with employees. If you want to invest in employee satisfaction, implementing 1 on 1 meetings is a great step.

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