14 One on One Meeting Topics You Should Be Discussing With Employees

In this article, explore 14 key topics for meaningful 1-on-1 discussions that can help you propel employee growth and performance. Want access to 350 of the best one-on-one questions?

one on one meetings topicsIn a world where texting is the primary form of communication, it’s not always easy to build an authentic relationship with your employees.

Enter the one on one meeting. While these conversations are often centered around employee performance, they can and should be about a lot more than this.


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Effective one on one meetings can involve sharing ideas, working through feedback and obstacles, and further discussion of performance, goals, and growth. In this blog you’ll discover 14 one on one meeting topics you should be discussing.


1. Ongoing performance conversations.


Purpose: To stay up to date with progress on goals, projects, and other responsibilities.

Discussing employee performance is second nature to most. But these conversations aren’t held as frequently as they could be. A lot can happen in a year, let alone a quarter, a month, or a week. Having regular conversations about employee performance allows managers to quickly see what is hindering or impacting performance and coach to make immediate adjustments.

Managers should conduct performance conversations at least quarterly after initial goals have been set. This provides an opportunity for managers and employees to discuss goal progress, obstacles, and any feedback they may have recently received.

Manager Prep: How would you respond to these questions?

  • Can I update you on my projects or tasks?
  • Which of my projects or tasks is the highest priority to our company?
  • How will my success be measured on this project?
  • What other projects or tasks can I work on?
  • How can you keep me accountable for achieving goals and results?
  • What metrics/milestones should I use to make sure I stay on track?


2. Year-end performance review.


Purpose: To explore past performance and help set goals for the future.

The annual employee performance review is a common conversation between managers and their direct reports. This topic is one that is most likely a regular part of your performance strategy. Nonetheless, it’s an important opportunity for managers and employees to look back at the year to discuss growth, areas of opportunity, and future fit within the organization.

Manager Prep: How would you respond to these questions?

  • What were my highlights from this year?
  • What did not go well this year?
  • What do you think is keeping me from hitting my goals?
  • How could I better achieve my goals?




3. Performance improvement.


Purpose: To discover behaviors or barriers that are hindering top performance and create an action plan.

Performance conversations aren’t always easy. But when employees aren’t able to perform their best, it’s important for managers to address it right away. This employee meeting topic is a good opportunity to see what may be missing in their experience and what gaps managers can help fill. These meetings should end with clear, agreed-upon action steps for performance improvement.

Manager Prep: How would you respond to these questions?

  • How could I improve as an employee?
  • How can I keep myself accountable for meeting goals, deadlines, and results?
  • How could I have handled a recent situation differently?
  • What behaviors do you think I need to improve to see growth?



4. Goal setting.


Purpose: To align on goals and find out where employees need support in goal achievement.

Setting and tracking goals shouldn’t be taken lightly. Goal-setting should be conducted at the beginning of the year and act as a roadmap or blueprint for the rest of the year. Employees and managers should collaborate on and finalize goals together. Setting aside a 1-on-1 meeting to work through goals leaves space for identifying barriers, pinpointing stretch goals, and assessing the resources needed to obtain success.

Manager Prep: How would you respond to these questions?

  • What were my highlights from last quarter?
  • What did not go well last quarter?
  • What do you think is keeping me from hitting my goals?
  • How could I better achieve my goals?



5. Feedback and recognition.

Purpose: To help employees grow and ensure they feel valued.

Every meeting is an opportunity to give and gather employee feedback. Gathering feedback helps employees feel valued, while giving feedback helps employees grow. Giving feedback helps employees grow, while gathering feedback helps employees feel valued and heard.

Giving feedback. Be honest, immediate, and specific when giving feedback. Make sure to pull positive and constructive feedback from sources other than yourself, such as from an employee’s peers or customers. This gives employees a 360 view of their performance, strengths, and opportunities, and gives them the chance to make meaningful adjustments.

Dealing with negative feedback. When reviewing negative feedback, an open discussion allows employees to share their point of view. Managers and employees can decide on a course of action together to avoid the problem in the future.

Gathering feedback. Every meeting is an opportunity to gather employee feedback. Make it clear that your relationships with employees aren’t one-sided. Show that you have a genuine interest in what they think and that you want to hear their opinions. Ask for their thoughts and ideas about their role, the workplace, and even your managing style.

Giving recognition. Recognition should be an integral part of your employee meetings. When hard work goes unnoticed, it’s incredibly disengaging for employees. Let them know you appreciate their hard work and congratulate them for wins—even the small ones.

Manager Prep: How would you respond to these questions?

  • What other areas of the team or the company could benefit from my strengths? How?
  • Can I share an idea on how our team/organization could better live out our mission or values?
  • What outputs are most valued by you? By team? By the organization?
  • Can I share with you the type of recognition I like to receive?
  • Why wasn’t I recognized for this project or task?



6. Career growth and development.

Purpose: To understand an employee’s goals and desires around career growth and development.

Career growth is a key driver of employee engagement and retention, so it makes sense that talking about career development should occur at least once a year. As much as employees may enjoy their current job, they likely have higher career aspirations. And this doesn’t necessarily mean outside of your organization—it could include earning a promotion, getting a raise, or developing new skills.

Talk to employees about their career motivations and goals, then brainstorm and suggest ways they can progress toward that goal. You’ll get a sense of what motivates the employee, who will feel grateful you’re taking a genuine interest in their future. Career conversations help managers ensure employees are driving their own development and can offer any support or guidance needed.

Manager Prep: How would you respond to these questions?

  • Where do you see my career advancing in five years?
  • What skills are needed to meet my career advancement goals?
  • What do you think is holding me back from career advancement?



7. Compensation and benefits.

Purpose: To better understand an employee's perceptions around benefits and compensation.

Benefits and pay can be touchy subjects for employees to talk about and managers to address. But having regular conversations about an employee’s compensation and their opportunities to earn additional income eliminates the potential for ongoing frustration and disappointment.

Asking employees about their expectations while also sharing your organization’s policies around compensation will help clear up any uncertainties and strengthen your bond. You can also use this opportunity to coach employees to help them achieve their career and compensation goals.

Manager Prep: How would you respond to these questions?

  • What compensation goals are reasonable for me to have for the next five years? Ten years?
  • How does our organization address compensation?
  • Can you help me understand our benefits and how I can better utilize them?



8. Onboarding.

Purpose: To help employees find their fit within the organization and align with company-wide goals.

Start scheduling regular one-on-one meetings with new employees from day one. Building a regular 1-on-1 meeting into onboarding can help you uncover what’s working and what could be improved through the lens of a brand-new perspective. Whether new to the organization or just to the team, discussing personal experiences during one-on-ones accelerates a relationship between employee and manager. It also ensures that the employee’s onboarding is going smoothly.

Manager Prep: How would you respond to these questions?

  • What can I do to make sure I stay at this organization over the next two years?
  • What should I be focusing on in the next 90 days?



9. Resources, work environment, and productivity.

Purpose: To help remove barriers and provide employees the information and resources they need to keep performing.

Helping an employee be successful is sometimes as simple as showing them you care. Make sure employees have what they need by asking them what materials, resources, or workspaces would help them be most successful. You may not have the funds or the capacity to help them with every request or need, but learning what makes employees tick can help you understand how to set them up for success.

This topic is also a great way to determine how you can remove obstacles in their way and coach to improve their process for increased productivity.

Manager Prep: How would you respond to these questions?

  • What has your process been for accomplishing a similar task or project?
  • Do you have suggestions for how to handle distractions and interruptions?
  • How can I better organize my work schedule to improve productivity? 
  • Are there resources and tools I’m not using that could help me perform my job better?
  • What changes can I make to my work environment to improve my productivity and quality of work?



10. Motivation and work styles.

Purpose: To discover what strengths, preferences, and communication styles to leverage to better motivate employees.

Every employee has their own way of achieving success at work. Each has their very own set of skills, strengths, communication styles, and preferences that help them accomplish tasks and goals. And managers are constantly searching for better ways to motivate employees. They develop incentive plans, create awards, spark friendly office competitions, and re-design work environments in an effort to drive productivity.

But when you actually ask your employees how they prefer to work, you’ll learn a lot more about their process and will be able to tap into their needs and motivations easily.

Manager Prep: How would you respond to these questions?

  • What tasks and projects are best aligned with my strengths?
  • What strengths do you think I have that help me do my job effectively?
  • What makes me the best fit for my position?
  • What skills do I have that you believe I could use more effectively?
  • What areas of work do you think I could use more of a challenge?
  • How could I get the information I need to do my job more effectively?



11. Building personal relationships.

Purpose: To get to know each other outside of work.

If the only topics of discussion are about business, employees are going to feel like faceless cogs in the machine. Get to know who your employees are outside of work and help them get to know you. Talk about families, passions, hobbies, and weekend activities when you get the chance.

The employee will get a sense that you care about their well-being as much as their productivity. You will also get a deeper understanding of their strengths, skillsets, and their purpose behind the work.

Manager Prep: How would you respond to these questions?

  • What are you passionate about outside of work?
  • Who are some leaders you admire?
  • What do you like to do in your free time?
  • Tell me about where you are from.



12. Changes in the organization.

Purpose: To increase transparency about decisions and gather employee feedback.

One on one meetings also offer a time to discuss organizational changes. While these may be discussed by the broader team or organization, having individual conversations provides employees the environment to bring up any concerns or reservations that they may have overlooked in a group setting. It also gives managers a chance to follow up on important organizational topics after employees have had some time to process the change.

Manager Prep: How would you respond to these questions?

  • Why are we making this change?
  • How will this change impact my role and our team?
  • How can I help us navigate through this transition?



13. Manager effectiveness.

Purpose: To help managers understand how they can be better for employees.

Managers are key to motivating employees, building successful teams, and creating a safe space for employees. But their ability to coach and motivate employees isn’t always aligned with employee perceptions. These conversations can involve sharing ideas for improving your working relationships, looking through feedback, and discussing how both employees prefer to be led. Discussing personal strengths and leadership styles can also shed light on how you could work better as a team.

Manager Prep: How would you respond to these questions?

  • Why am I getting more or less direction from you on my work?
  • Could you please stop doing X?
  • Could you please start doing Y?
  • How do you think we could improve our communication?



14. Work-life balance.

Purpose: To set understand and support an employee's work-life balance.

Check-ins about the life side of work-life balance are important. Scattering this topic throughout your one-on ones grants both the manager and the employee the ability to stay up to date on the things that are really driving employee engagement.

Manager Prep: How would you respond to these questions?

  • What advice do you have on improving my work-life balance?
  • What resources could help me better balance my personal and professional life?
  • When (if at all) do you think it’s necessary for me to address work responsibilities after hours?

Of course, one-on-one meetings aren’t limited to these topics. You can talk to your employees about almost anything. Discussing a variety of topics with your employees, in unique and personalized settings, helps you build trust, improve relationships, and keep your employees around for longer.



To learn more about making the most of your next one-on-one, download our The Big Book of 350 One-on-One Meeting Questions ebook.

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

Published September 16, 2021 | Written By Elise Paulsen