How much of an impact do you think 1:1 meetings have on employee engagement?
The answer is 67% - making 1:1 meetings one of the best ways to boost productivity and employee retention.
And yet, even in companies where the importance of 1:1’s is recognized - the meetings themselves never seem to get results.
Let’s look at why 1:1’s matter, how to run them, and what we can do to get the best out of every meeting.
What are 1:1 meetings?
1:1 meetings are exactly what they sound like - a meeting between two people (usually a manager, HR rep, or employee) where they speak privately about specifically relevant things.
Unlike team meetings, 1:1s are more likely to look at the career and personal development of the person rather than overall business goals or company changes. What’s great about this format is not having to cater to many people. This could mean meetings are more relevant, specific, and more productive.
Why are 1:1 meetings important?
1:1 meetings give managers and employees a chance to get feedback, share ideas, and voice problems or concerns.
They let management check-in with their team and get better at leading and support. And then give employees a chance to raise concerns or problems, discuss their development at the company, and be better matched with [projects and tasks.
1:1 meetings are also more likely to produce honest feedback than team meetings because employees are more likely to feel comfortable asking for support or giving feedback in a 1:1 meeting. In addition, having 1:1 check-ins makes it easier to get help and improve the company.
So - we know 1:1 meetings are essential, both for managers and employees to grow.
But putting that into practice and running a productive meeting isn’t as easy.
In this post, we’ll break down everything you need to know to run more effective meetings - including which tools to use, what to ask, what to prepare and how to follow up.
During 1:1 Meetings - What to Do
To get the best results during 1:1’s, it’s a good idea to lay some groundwork. Preparation doesn’t need to be complicated, but having a system will save you time and keep things efficient.
Here’s what you should get ready before the meetings:
Set a Regular Schedule
There’s no specific rule as to how often you should have 1:1 meetings - for some, once a month is fine, or for others, once a week works best.
However, people generally agree that having regular, scheduled meetings leads to better results.
For many employees, 1:1 meetings can be stressful, especially if they don’t know when or why they’re happening. In addition, random meetings can cause much anxiety, and they also don’t give employees the chance to prepare their own feedback, talking points, or questions.
If you can, let your employee know the purpose for the meeting (general check-in, project debrief, etc.) - but if not, just keeping them at the same time, on the same day, will do wonders for productivity and get you better results.
Set an Objective
Successful 1:1 meetings should be flexible in conversation - but you should have a reasonable idea of why you’re having the meeting and what you want to get out of it.
If you can share this with the employee ahead of time - that’s great. But if not, make sure that you have some talking points and questions prepared so that you don’t waste time and keep meetings valuable.
Do Some Research
You don’t want to have a rigid outline for the meeting - after all, it’s more about the employee than you.
However, you do want to make sure that you refresh your memory of the last meeting with your employee and their current performance and goals.
1:1 meetings should create a safe environment and improve connection - so it’s important to show employees that you are aware and interested in their current situation.
During 1:1 Meetings What to Do During 1:1 Meetings
How you approach meetings and what you talk about will depend on the situation - but in general, there are a few things you can do to make meetings run smoother:
Focus on Listening
You might feel pressure when leading a meeting to try and control the conversation.
But, a good rule of thumb to follow is that the employee should run the meeting, not the other way round.
Of course, this is your chance to give feedback - but it’s a chance for your employee to talk about what’s working for them, what they need help with, and what they need right now to perform better.
To run an effective meeting, keep your mind open and stay empathetic and receptive to whatever your employee has to say. Your goal should be to make them feel supported and safe enough to bring concerns to you or ask for support.
But don’t let the focus stay solely on work and performance.
1:1 meetings should be about supporting employees in their personal development, mental health, and making them feel valued in the company.
Make sure that you take the opportunity to check in with how they feel in the company, in their roles, and how you can support them and make it easier for them to grow.
Ask the Right Questions
Asking excellent and open-ended questions will keep the conversation flowing and help get the most value out of the meeting.
There’s a good chance that your employees will be nervous or unsure of what to talk about - so by having questions prepared, you make the most out of the time you have and make them feel at ease.
Again, what you ask will be contextual - but here are some good questions to inspire you:
- How has the last month been for you?
- Is there anything you feel is blocking you right now?
- What ideas do you have for the company?
- Let’s discuss your personal development goals.
- How can I best support you right now?
After 1:1 Meetings - Follow Up
Once you’ve finished the meeting, you can still take some steps to make them more effective.
Following up the right way will make it easier for you during the next meeting, help avoid miscommunication and keep goals actionable.
Keep a Record
Whether you want to take notes during the meeting, keep a recording or summarize after through email - it’s a good idea to have a record of what you discussed.
Keeping a record will make it easier for you to check in on progress during the next 1:1 - and make sure that you accurately understood everything your employee said. The goal of a 1:1 is better clarity and connection - so anything you can do to support that is great.
Ensure everyone has a copy of the meeting notes, and store them somewhere accessible between meetings.
Set Follow Up Goals
A big part of 1:1 meetings is trust.
By taking steps after the meeting to act on what your employee has said, you show them that you value their opinion, time, and work.
There’s a chance that you’ll have some clear, actionable feedback from your employee, like assigning someone to help them with their workflow or ordering a better office chair.
However, even if they’re not as clear about how you can support them, you can still get creative with your follow-up and let them know you care.
Even a quick email, saying ‘Hey, thanks for your time today! I loved your idea about a feedback box - I’ll forward the suggestion to reception and see what we can do!’ shows them that feedback if not falling on deaf ears.
Use Tools to Run Better 1:1 Meetings
Another way that you can make your meeting more effective and less of a time drain are by leveraging tools.
There’s loads of great software that can help you automate and streamline the process and have better conversations and get more value out of the meetings.
Here are some ideas for tools you might want to try:
There’s plenty of easy scheduling software to create recurring meetings and invite attendees through a calendar.
Tools like this can be pretty sophisticated, with some designed explicitly for 1:1 meetings and including spaces to share docs, private notes, and goals.
Some of the most popular ones include Grow, Nailed, and Fellow.
Use Virtual Meeting Software
It’s not always efficient (or possible) to have in-person meetings. Sometimes things get rescheduled, or employees work remotely.
But - the non-verbal aspect of 1:1’s is essential, so if you can move meetings online and still take the time to check in weekly, you can boost productivity while still making employees feel valued and supported.
There’s a host of excellent video meeting software, the most popular being Zoom, Google Meet, and Skype.
Asking the right questions is the best way to get value out of 1:1 meetings - but getting creative or knowing what to ask isn’t easy.
Using templates or pre-planned questions can help you feel more confident going into the meeting and keep the conversation flowing.
Grow, Miro, and Small Improvements are some of the most popular places to get 1:1 meeting question templates.
1:1 meetings are essential for growth, like performance reviews, continuous feedback, and employee recognition.
At Grow, we focus on putting people in the right roles and putting achievements in the spotlight. Ready to connect, retain, celebrate, and invest in your team? Get started with Grow today.