How to Improve One-on-One Meetings with Employees

Meeting one-on-one with employees is never easy. However, it’s necessary to solve problems, boost engagement, and put out fires before they ignite.

What’s the best way to conduct one-on-one meetings with employees and make the most of these key conversations? Here are tips from some of the best managers in the business.

Schedule for Success

How often should employee meetings occur, anyways? Every company is different, and today’s managers are more willing to rethink the old way of doing things.

“Quarterly reviews used to be the norm, but that’s no longer considered best practice for the fast-paced modern workplace. Schedule shorter meetings every few weeks to keep the communication flowing and avoid stagnation.” – Dylan Arthur Garber, Co-Founder of Audien Hearing

“I am all for scheduling more frequent one-on-one reviews, but I also advocate an open-door policy so that employees can keep the conversation ongoing at any time. Now that everyone is so seamlessly connected via technology, you can be more flexible.” – Aidan Cole, CEO of HIDE

“More managers are embracing an as-needed approach to employee meetings, which allows for more honesty and transparency in the workplace – always a good thing.” – Jeff Goodwin, Vice President of Direct to Consumer and Performance Marketing at Orgain

Be Ready

Without a plan in place, your employee one-on-ones will only waste time. Show up prepared and accomplish far more in a shorter time frame.

“Having regular one-on-one meetings with team members is incredibly important to not only an efficient workplace, but in building team morale. That said, no one likes to have meetings just for the sake of it, so it’s important to be prepared in advance. Send over a few talking points to your team members, and give them an opportunity to add their own. That way, you’re both prepared to deal with any questions or situations that need to be discussed. ” – Marc Atiyeh, CEO of Pawp

“If you aren’t ready for the meeting, what message does that send to the other person? The least you could do is take five minutes ahead of time and organize a little file with all the key points you need to address.” – Seb Evans, Co-Founder of Banquist

“Part of preparing for a one-on-one meeting is being transparent with the other person. Nothing should be a huge surprise or come out of left field. That’s anxiety-inducing for everyone. Great managers make these meetings feel like an everyday convo between friends.” – Lori Price, Co-Founder of PixieLane

“As the manager or supervisor, you’re the one leading the conversation from the start, so have an agenda in place to get things moving. Use real facts and figures to support your points. From there, you can open up the floor and allow the meeting to flow more organically.” – Tyler Hayden Read, Founder of PT Pioneer

“The structure of your meeting is important because you don’t have all day for meandering conversation. Discuss performance, offer constructive critique, ask for feedback, and leave a few minutes for extra dialogue. Don’t overcomplicate it.” – Lucas Nudel, Founder and CEO of Pride Palace

Courtesy is Key

Just the thought of a one-on-one meeting can cause employees to stress. Ease the tension by being cool, calm, and courteous.

“I like to keep meetings casual with open-ended questions like ‘tell me how things are going?’, or ‘how can I support you on this project?’. It’s less abrasive to ask something like ‘where are you struggling at the moment?’ instead of openly criticizing people.” – James Meincke, Senior Marketing Manager at CloserIQ 

“Trust allows you to give people direction, get everyone aligned, and energize them to go get the job done. Build trust in employee meetings first. Trust enables you to execute with confidence and produce extraordinary results.” – Douglas Conant, Former CEO of the Campbell Soup Company

“Be more accommodating when it comes to setting up employee reviews or meetings of any type. Allow them to have some input rather than demanding they show up at a certain place at a certain time. It makes things way more comfortable for everyone.” – Jeff Meeks, VP of Sales and Marketing at EnergyFit

“The toughest part of any one-on-one meeting is addressing issues with performance or production. Nobody wants to talk about it, but it’s a must. Don’t worry about looking like the bad guy. Be honest and speak the truth, then start talking about real solutions.” – Mike Pasley, Founder of Allegiant Goods

Look to the Future

Before the meeting concludes, be sure to set some “next steps” so everyone is on the same page moving forward.

“Setting clear goals and benchmarks for the future is one of the best ways to take your employee reviews to the next level. It gives them something to work towards and get excited about. Plus, the next time around, you know exactly what’s on the docket.” – Michael Jankie of Natural Patch

“A lot of employees are eager to advance within the company or get more involved, whether it’s to get a promotion or just expand their repertoire. If you think they’d be good in a specific role, why not bring it up during a meeting? It may spark their interest.” – Ryan Rockefeller, Co-Founder and CEO of Cleared

“A one-on-one is a great opportunity to reflect on the past in the short-term while looking towards the future. Employees love talking about their plans and aspirations, so be open to discussing all possibilities for advancement.” – Dylan Trussell, CMO of Culprit Underwear

When done correctly, one-on-one meetings can be productive, constructive, and even enjoyable. Take these tips to heart and make your next round of meetings a success for all involved.

How to Improve One-on-One Meetings with Employees was last updated August 19th, 2021 by Nikki Gabriel