One of the best ways to improve communication with your staff and to ensure that your employees are happy, productive and feel supported is to conduct an individual, one-on-one meeting with each of your employees.
These meetings are generally informal, and happen on a regular basis to provide performance feedback, to give employees an opportunity to voice their needs, to track progress on projects and goals, and to determine if any additional support or resources are required.
The intention of a one-on-one meeting is for a manager to be fully available to the employee and to provide their undivided attention, ready to discuss and resolve performance concerns and to talk about work-related issues.
While many managers think a quick thumbs up or down on an app is sufficient feedback to provide to an employee, we strongly believe that having regular, face-to-face, one-on-one meetings is an important part of effectively managing and communicating with employees. If done well, it will make any annual performance reviews you conduct much more effective, or may even eliminate the need for them at all.
Here are 7 tips to assist you in conducting effective one-on-one employee meetings:
1. Determine who should conduct the one-on-one meeting
- Typically, one-on-one meetings occur between an employee and his/her direct manager.
- The direct manager is the one with the most knowledge about the employee’s goals and targets, as well as the projects and tasks assigned.
2. Determine the frequency of individual meetings with employees
- One-on-one meetings should occur as frequently as are necessary to ensure employees are on-track with their projects, goals and day-to-day responsibilities.
- Factors which can influence the frequency of one-on-one meetings include:
- Number of direct reports – the more employees who report to you, the less likely you will be able to have frequent one-on-one meetings. Meeting with 3 direct reports once per week for 30 minutes is much more realistic than meeting with 20 direct reports on a weekly basis.
- Location of employees – employees who work remotely or off-site may require more frequent contact and follow-up than those a manager sees on a daily basis.
- Workload – employee workload is a factor in determining how frequently meetings should occur.
- Time involvement – the more frequently the meetings occur, the shorter the meetings can be. If meetings occur weekly, a brief, 15-minute check-in may be all that is required. If meetings only occur on a monthly basis, you may need to devote 1 or 2 hours to cover all the issues.
- Once the frequency is determined, you need to commit to having the meetings occur on a consistent and regular basis. Cancelling and re-scheduling meetings should be avoided to ensure that your employees feel valued and important. Constant cancelling, showing up late or being unprepared for the meeting will have a demoralizing effect.
3. Prepare an agenda ahead of time
- Prepare an agenda for your one-on-one meetings in advance. A standing meeting agenda would be appropriate since the purpose of the meeting typically remains the same.
- A typical agenda will include the following topics:
- Get an employee update on the status of projects and goals;
- Provide performance feedback;
- Get an employee update on the status of projects and goals;
- Determine if the employee needs additional support and assistance; and
- Gather feedback from the employee to improve the work situation.
- Obtain feedback from your employees on the agenda. The individual meeting time is one-on-one time devoted to the employee. They should definitely have input into what this time should be used for and what should be covered.
- An agenda will ensure that you and your staff stay focused during the meeting and make the best use of the time allotted.
4. Create a one-on-one meeting schedule
- Once you’ve determined the frequency of the meetings and the agenda, you will be able to schedule your meetings in advance.
- It is easiest to pre-arrange a standing meeting time (e.g. every Wednesday morning from 9 to 10 am) so that both you and the employee get into the habit of having the meeting.
- Book the dates into your calendars for 3 to 6 months out so that the time is blocked off and to avoid other priorities from taking over.
5. Conduct the meeting
- Stick to the agenda as close as possible so that you stay on-track during the meeting.
- Encourage dialogue – The one-on-one meeting is a two-way conversation, typically with the employee talking more than the manager. Encourage your staff to come prepared with a list of things they would like to get advice on or to discuss.
- Ask open-ended questions – An effective way to start a dialogue is to ask open ended questions that draw out a detailed answer. Avoid questions that elicit a “yes/no” answer or which will put the employee on the defensive.
- Start questions with:
- How (How’s the project going?)
- What (What is going well / not well? What roadblocks are there? What can I do to support you better?)
6. Provide performance feedback
- Use the one-on-one meeting as an opportunity to course correct. Performance concerns don’t typically happen all of a sudden – they grow over a period of time.
- Try to spot performance patterns early and give feedback to reverse performance issues.
- Document any performance feedback given and review progress in each meeting. The one-on-one meeting is a good opportunity to reset performance expectations and design a development plan to help the employee achieve greater success in their position.
7. End the meeting
- Agree on action items – If any decisions were made or action items determined in the meeting, be sure to note these. Agree with the employee on the specific action required and what your and their responsibilities are for carrying out the decision.
- An employee one-on-one meeting should be a positive experience where employees feel supported and listened to. You want the tone of the meeting to be relatively positive and you want to end positively as well in order to maintain employee morale. Communicate that you are looking forward to the next one-on-one and be genuine. Your staff will be able to sense that and this will set a positive tone for the next meeting.
The goal of any one-on-one meeting is to make sure that you and your staff develop trust and can successfully communicate through problems and challenges to help each other achieve job success. Create a comfortable environment during your meetings so that this trust can be built. Encourage your staff to be open and honest during the meeting, and respond in kind.
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