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12 Easy Ways to Improve One-on-One Meetings with Employees

/ 12.21.18

8-3-16-10-Ways_to-Improve-One-on-One-Meetings-with-Employees-A-Template.jpgAcknowledging that ongoing, one-on-one meetings with employees are a valuable piece of the engagement puzzle is the first step. What comes next is where most managers fall flat (though it's not entirely their fault).


Unfortunately, most managers don’t have the resources they need to conduct effective one-on-one meetings. That ends now.


Free Download: The Big Book of 350 One-on-One Meeting Questions


Here are 12 easy ways to improve one-on-one meetings with employees.


1. Give One-on-Ones Top Priority


The number one rule for conducting one-on-one meetings that engage employees is to make them a top priority. This meeting is another touchpoint for managers to learn about employees, invest in their career goals and development, and show they care about their concerns.


Don’t reschedule because you’ve got a busy week, don’t cut it short because you have another meeting to get to, and never, ever cancel. Show your employees that they're worth your time and attention.


2. Schedule for Consistency; Allow for Spontaneity


In order to be effective, one-on-one meetings need to happen on a regular and consistent basis. Set a reoccurring meeting for a period that works for you and your employee. Depending on the size of your team, how often you interact face-to-face, and the nature of your work, you might schedule one-on-one meetings monthly, every six weeks, or maybe even once a quarter.


Once your schedule is in place, let employees know they can schedule a one-on-one meeting with you anytime to discuss concerns or opportunities as they arise.


3. Share Topics Ahead of Time


Set expectations before the meeting begins. Let the employee know what you're going to discuss so both sides can prepare. This way the employee won't feel blindsided by, or unprepared for, any questions or topics. You won't have to rev the engine to get the meeting going, and you'll both be ready to hit the ground running from the outset.


4. Do Your Research


Do you really know what your employees have been up to? What progress have they made on goals? Have they received any positive or negative feedback on recent projects? Are their peers recognizing them for their great work?


Checking in on these smaller milestones can help you paint a more accurate picture of how your employees are really doing.


Free webinar!: How to Have Effective One-on-One Conversations with Employees   

5. Opt for a Change of Scenery


Manager-employee one-on-ones are too often held in the manager’s office. This creates the manager-talking-at-the-employee dynamic we hope to avoid. Head to a neutral location and conduct your meeting over lunch at the employee’s place of choice, a local café, or at the picnic tables outside your building.


6. Stay on Topic


As difficult as it can be to avoid, don’t get sucked into discussing updates on tasks and projects. Use your time together to discuss topics that don’t receive enough love in the office on a day-to-day basis, like team camaraderie, resources constraints or needs, work environment issues, professional development opportunities, and career path. Want to incorporate performance into these regular one-on-one meetings? Here are a few questions that yield actionable answers


7. Be Specific, Timely, and Acknowledge Ownership


The matters discussed in effective one-on-ones are specific, timely and relevant, and have clear ownership (basically, avoid vague generalizations). To ensure that each meeting meets these criteria, use specific language and examples when making points or expressing ideas, only discuss new (since your last meeting) or upcoming items, and be sure both you and the employee take ownership of your opinions. (Remember the “I feel” statements we had to practice in elementary school?) 


8. Take Detailed Notes


You should leave each and every one-on-one meeting with detailed notes. Be sure to track both what was discussed and the tone/mood/body language during the discussion. (Recording more than just the dialogue will better help you identify what your employees are most concerned or excited about.) Want help organizing your notes? Leverage our printable template or type your notes right into our one-on-one meeting tool to easily access and add to them over time.


Download the GOOD template here!


9. Don’t Make it About You


One-on-ones are about the employee, not the manager. Your time should be spent discussing their wants, needs, complaints, concerns, questions, goals, aspirations, etc. While effective one-on-one meetings need to be a two-way conversation with dialogue from both the manager and employee, keep the subject matter focused on them. If you do become the topic of conversation, your employee should be discussing what you can do to better manage them.


10. Be A Coach


While one-on-ones aren’t about the manager, you can’t forget to play your part in the meeting (that means taking off your boss hat and putting on your coaching gloves). Ask the right questions that encourage employees to reflect on their past growth, analyze their current status, and envision their future success. Challenge them to explore ways they can become a more productive and efficient worker and a better teammate and leader. Push them to make commitments and set goals for progress.


11. Leave with Actionable Next Steps


Speaking of making commitments and setting goals for progress… be sure to leave your one-on-one meetings with a list of actionable next steps. Although you might have scribbled to-dos throughout your notebook, dedicate the last section of your one-on-one meeting notes for decisions/next steps.


What will you do when you get back to the office? Next week? Before your next meeting? Your action steps should directly relate to the items discussed, like finding/organizing new growth opportunities or alleviating employee concerns.


12. Streamline the Process with the Right Platform


Unproductive conversations, unorganized notes, and little impact should not be the phrases you think of when a one-on-one meeting comes to mind. Streamline the logistics of your one-on-one meetings with the right platform to make the process painless and effective for everyone!


Give managers and employees the ability to start a one-on-one and access past notes anytime, give HR the luxury of integrated one-on-one meeting software with the company’s HRIS, and let leaders view the outputs of conversations and send a friendly nudge to those who haven’t met in awhile.  



Want a few more ideas? Download your free copy of our Big Book on One-on-One Meeting Questions for inspiration that will lead to seamless, effective one-on-one meetings with employees.


The Big Book of 350 One-on-One Meeting Questions



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