One-to-one meetings (or one-on-ones, 1:1s, regular check-ins – however you might like to call them) between a manager and employee are essential for high performance and employee engagement. They’re a manager's key tool to drive business success.

This will come as no surprise, but managers are busy people. And the week can often fly by without them having the opportunity to dedicate time to individual employees.

One-on-one meetings ensure that each individual in the team regularly has time carved out to spend alone with their manager. The benefits of this are wide-ranging – helping to build trust and communication, improve wellbeing and drive towards important goals and challenges.

Nevertheless, despite the importance of these meetings, if you don’t have a plan in mind, you can end up wasting time. And if these meetings get canceled without rescheduling, if they’re filled with silences, or you miss the important topics – your meetings will be ineffective and they can even damage relationships.

So to help make your meetings run smoothly and make sure you’re covering all the essentials, we’ve put together a helpful guide for what to do before, during and after your one-to-one meetings. 

Download our FREE one-to-one meeting template

You'll also get exclusive insights delivered straight to your inbox (you can unsubscribe at any time)

What are one-to-one meetings for?

If you’ve been lucky enough to have a great manager at some point in your career, you’ll know how well they can transform your working experience. You’ll probably even credit them for helping you develop into the person you are today.

That means it's vital that managers and employees work to build a strong relationship, while giving and receiving feedback. This relationship allows employees to have the support they need to grow and develop, as well as ensuring a high functioning business.

Benefits of one-on-ones:

  • Boost employee engagement
  • Increase productivity
  • Reduce staff turnover
  • Improve morale
  • Develop both managers and employees
  • Create more loyal and committed employees

Furthermore, by providing a template or guide for how to run one on ones to managers across your company, you can help all employees gain the support they need, no matter who their manager is or what department they’re in. This means your employee experience is consistent across the business, building happy and productive employees.

one to one meeting with manager and employee

In what situations do you need to hold regular 1 to 1 meetings?

In short: all situations! It could be tempting to think that one to ones are just there to be used when you need to improve performance. But they’re not. One to ones are a tool which should be utilised all the time. Although they can help if you need to improve performance – they also help to grow your top talent and keep them engaged.

Further, in a working world which is becoming increasingly remote – if your staff are working remotely, or working remotely more often, casual updates that you hear in the office are missed. By putting in the time to talk, you make sure that as a manager, you always know what’s going on in the lives of your direct reports and you’re aware of any challenges they may be facing.

How often should you have them?

All direct reports should have an opportunity to have a one on one with their manager – it’s important to set the time aside regularly.

When deciding how often to hold your one to ones, think about how many people you manage. If you have a lot of direct reports, you might find that it takes up too much time to hold these on a weekly basis. But remember, if you are meeting on a bi-weekly or monthly basis, there will be more to catch up on so you should allocate more time.

You may also want to allocate longer meetings for new hires or someone in a new role. These employees may need more guidance, have more questions or require further training – so make sure you have enough time to address all matters. Don’t rush through the meetings as this will be frustrating and ineffective. Important to remember that you can change the frequency of your meetings for different employees, just make sure you explain why it’s happening.

Your next question may be around how long these meetings should be. Decide the length based on how regularly you are going to hold them. Half an hour might be enough on a weekly basis, but if you are meeting any less regularly than this you may want to spend longer together to catch up on what has been happening since you last met.

manager listening carefully to employee

How to ensure your meetings are effective

Consistency is key

One to one meetings need to be held regularly to be effective, since this allows you to make real progress. Relationships are built over time and consistent feedback helps development and growth.

On that note, it’s important to never cancel these meetings – if something else comes up, you can always reschedule with a note to explain. But if you just cancel meetings, employees will feel undervalued and like they aren’t important.

Give these meetings some privacy

These are meetings for individuals to discuss any challenges they’re facing or talk about matters affecting them. This means that if you hold these meetings in a public area, they may not be as effective.

Try to host your meetings in a private meeting room or a quiet area so that employees feel they can talk freely. Make it clear to employees that these meetings are their time, so they can discuss anything that is important to them. 

Devote your full attention

When you feel you have a million things going on and a full inbox waiting for replies, it can be tempting to multitask during your meetings. But it's vital that you don’t.

Giving your employee your full attention and listening thoroughly is what makes these meetings work. Not only will your employee feel respected and be more likely to open up, you will also gain a better relationship as you fully listen and understand their thoughts.

Get the most out of your one-to-ones

We've put together a template for what to do before, during and after your one-on-one meetings. Our guide shows you how to ensure your meetings boost engagement, increase productivity and support employee wellbeing. 

Including tips: 

  • Prepare your meetings in advance
  • Focus on the positives
  • Be specific with your feedback
  • Give your full attention
  • Set goals with your employees
  • Follow up and take action

Download our FREE one-to-one meeting template

You'll also get exclusive insights delivered straight to your inbox (you can unsubscribe at any time)

Other resources you might like...

Blog

360 degree feedback template + what you need to know

Blog

Moving abroad, leaving cities and bigger homes: employees feel their lives might be set for big changes

Ebook

The business leader’s guide for returning to work: Vol. 1

Checklist

Reducing anxiety, burnout & loneliness at work: Your ultimate wellbeing guide