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Guide to Effective One on One Meetings

Blog posts | 08.06.2021

Steve Blackmore

Learning Platforms Solutions Consultant at Kineo US

Whether you’re a new manager or a more seasoned manager looking to refine your practices, establishing an effective method of conducting employee one on one meetings is one of the most important steps to take as a leader. These meetings serve a greater purpose than simple status checks, and provide excellent opportunities for building trusting relationships with the members of your team, and also allow you to provide timely feedback and coaching throughout the year. These frequent and informal check-ins are also great avenues for supporting your employees’ development. By reviewing their goals regularly, not only do you have the opportunity to write your annual review throughout the year, but accomplishing goals will become much more attainable when you meet routinely with your employees to review their progress, celebrate successes, and help remove any roadblocks.

Ready to uplevel your 1:1 routine? Follow these four simple but structured steps.

Set an agenda and cadence for your 1:1 employee discussions

Most managers meet with their employees either weekly or biweekly. Try not to go too long without speaking to them one-on-one (especially in remote settings) so you can stay connected to their work and needs. Try to establish a loose agenda in order to make the most of your time with each employee. 

For a 30-minute meeting, you may consider following this one on one employee meeting agenda:

  • 5 minutes: Greetings and “water cooler chat”
  • 10 minutes: Employee’s choice of topics
  • 10 minutes: Manager’s choice of topics
  • 5 minutes: Action items and next steps for both manager and employee

Try to focus on more strategic items than simple status updates. Consider asking your employee about any barriers they’re facing, or what you can do to help them overcome a challenge. If you’re scheduled to meet for an hour, you may find you also have time to discuss topics relating to the employee’s personal and professional development, in addition to discussing their day-to-day work-related tasks.

Empower your employee to lead the meeting

Try opening your next 1:1 meeting with the open-ended question, “What’s on your list for today?” or, “What would you like to discuss today?” This signals to your employee that this is their time, and encourages them to share their thoughts and ideas. This also ensures the conversation flows both ways, allowing each person to have dedicated time to speak. Giving the employee the space to open the conversation also allows them to bring up any issues or concerns that the manager might not yet be aware of, thus removing any of the manager’s “blind spots.”

Consider using a cloud-based collaboration tool where both parties (the manager and the employee) can post discussion topics in advance, as well as document conversation summaries and any action items or next steps. This helps everyone stay organised and prepared during the meeting and  serves as a documented record of the conversation.

Use 1:1 time to review the employee’s development plan 

We can’t say this enough; development conversations should be held frequently and informally, and not limited to just once per year! Use your time with each employee to celebrate their recent successes, document and measure progress towards their individual and organisational goals, and to provide any necessary feedback or discuss how you can help clear any barriers from their path. If your employee is struggling or stagnating, consider breaking their larger goals into smaller, measurable milestones they can achieve before your next meeting. This makes larger goals less daunting, as well as leads to more accountability from both you and the employee alike.


Use conversations throughout the year to shape the annual review 

Do you dread the time-consuming process of compiling annual reviews and reports? Consider writing your annual review throughout the year, based on your regular check-in meetings with employees. Taking a few moments to document notes throughout the year after regularly scheduled employee one on one meetings will save hours spent documenting (and struggling to recall specific incidents) when annual review time rolls around.

Using a performance management tool like Perform makes this a simple and easy process. Managers and employees alike gain the ability to track performance to identified goals, gain visibility into performance-related data from across the organisation, and can even make use of an integrated system for collecting 360-degree feedback from the employee’s colleagues including their peers, managers, and even the employee’s direct reports if they have them.

Like many other tasks, managing direct reports requires a strategy to be done effectively and to improve a team’s operations. Conducting weekly check-ins with employees allows you to build trusting relationships based on accountability to one another and the open exchange of ideas, as well as helps each of you monitor progress towards goals. Effective one-on-one meetings with direct reports doesn’t have to be a struggle or a mystery when attention is given to making the most of this valuable time together. 

Steve Blackmore

Learning Platforms Solutions Consultant at Kineo US

Steve Blackmore has over 20 years of experience in Information Technology, Learning & Development, project management and leadership roles. He has helped organizations reach their business goals by designing, developing and implementing learning solutions leveraging technology.