According to former US President Gerald Ford, "Nothing in life is more important than the ability to communicate effectively."
In the workplace, where effective communication is necessary to accomplish just about anything, thoughtfully designed one-on-one meetings can inspire career development, build meaningful relationships, and ultimately help your various team members thrive as both individuals and as a unit.
Keep reading to better understand the basics of a one-on-one meeting, how you can utilize a full one-on-one meeting template and ways to make the most of every one-on-one you hold with a direct report.
One-on-one Meetings: The Basics
A one-on-one meeting is a key component of a company where growth is encouraged and communication is highly valued. Before designing a one-on-one meeting template, it's important to understand the purpose behind these meetings and what you can expect in regard to their frequency and participants.
Purpose and objectives
One-on-one meetings can serve a variety of purposes, but in every scenario, the main goal is to create a clear line of communication. When you're speaking to an individual team member-- without the pressure of other employees around-- there is more room for candid conversation on both ends.
A few common topics discussed that are better suited for one-on-ones instead of team meetings include:
- employee performance
- conflict resolution
- mental health check-in
- professional goal setting
- status updates on an individual project
Frequency and duration
There's no one magic number when it comes to how often you need to schedule a one-on-one meeting with your direct reports. The frequency of meetings typically depends on your specific organization, the nature of your role and work together, and the goals you have for your meetings.
Various time intervals may be suitable for different situations. You may find you need to utilize several different one-on-one meeting formats throughout the year.
For most scenarios, daily meetings aren't necessary and can hinder both workflow and strong relationships, leading some employees to feel like they're being micromanaged.
However, there may be periods where daily one-on-one meetings are beneficial, like when a new team member has just joined your company, when you need status updates on a high-stakes project with strict deadlines, or during busy seasons when the workload is higher than normal.
These meetings reviewing day-to-day work will typically be shorter and less formal than their more infrequent counterparts.
Weekly or biweekly
Meeting once every one to two weeks allows managers and their direct reports to participate in well-rounded discussions about the past weeks' work and performance. You can also take time to look at the week ahead and discern if there are any adjustments that need to be made to the workload.
Weekly meetings can also be helpful for a new employee who is still getting into the groove. 86% of new employees decide within the first six months if they want to remain at a job long-term.
Frequently checking in and offering support can make the difference between an individual who feels invested in your organization and one who's ready to move on just as they've gotten settled.
Monthly one-on-one meetings provide time for more extended conversations. You are typically able to carve out more time for strategic planning. The structured cadence of monthly one-on-one meetings also ensures issues are addressed in a timely manner.
Quarterly one-on-one team meetings are ideal for performance reviews and discussing your direct report's career goals.
During these conversations, you can provide feedback on your employee's work over the past few months and establish goals for the upcoming quarter. If you have concerns about performance, this is a good time to set expectations for any changes that need to be made.
Traditionally, a one-on-one meeting involves a manager and a team member they supervise. Occasionally, one-on-ones are skip-level meetings, where employees meet with their direct supervisor's manager or someone else higher up in leadership.
In these instances, the meetings are aimed at improving company performance rather than employee performance, giving people in top leadership a clearer idea of what day-to-day employees are experiencing.
Why Use a One-on-One Meeting Template?
As a manager, keeping your people on track is a critical component of your job-- so why not do it as efficiently as possible? A one-on-one meeting template allows you to improve the way you lead others by providing consistency and clear communication to your direct reports.
Efficiency and consistency
With a one-on-one meeting agenda template in your back pocket, you can devote more time and brainpower to other work-related tasks. You know what discussion points need to be covered during your meetings-- you simply need to fill in the specifics for each individual.
On the same note, meeting agenda templates also provide consistency for your direct reports who are attending the meeting. Even if you've previously had great conversations, a one-on-one can provoke a sense of fear and dread. Knowing what to expect based on their experience in past meetings prevents anxiety from building up.
Outlining your meeting from the start keeps the conversation focused and on track. Everyone involved knows what talking points will be addressed-- and in what order.
A clear structure also gives you a better idea of how long your meeting is going to take so that you budget your time appropriately. You can estimate how long to schedule the meeting in order to have a well-rounded discussion of each topic and outline how long you'll devote to each section of your agenda.
An editable one-on-one meeting template allows you to make notes about your conversation. You can document key points, write down what action items your employee has committed to, and remember how you need to follow up after the meeting.
This documentation is valuable for tracking progress and ensuring accountability. It can also be helpful when you have a number of people to manage and need to remember specifics about each individual.
3 Ways to Prepare For Your Meeting
Whether it's your first meeting with a new employee or your thirty-first meeting with one of the senior managers you supervise, a few preparation steps are key to facilitating an effective one-on-one.
1. Schedule and set reminders
If you're meeting in person, you may opt for a neutral meeting space, such as a conference room, instead of holding the meeting in your office. For virtual meetings, reserving space is as simple as including it on the calendar invite.
When you contact employees about scheduling, it can make things a little easier on both ends when you propose a few meeting times. Look at your calendar and suggest 3-4 days and times that you're available, letting them choose the final time.
Once you both have agreed on a meeting time, send an event invite so that both of your calendars are populated. Set a reminder on your end when you need it the most, whether that's a few days in advance so you can finalize the meeting agenda or 30 minutes before to remind you to wrap up your current work.
2. Create a meeting agenda
Use your one-on-one meeting template to outline an agenda. List all of the discussion points you want to cover during the one on one meeting here. If you know you may be short on time, highlight your top priorities so you can be sure to address them first and save other topics for your next meeting.
3. Set goals and objectives
Goal setting is a critical component of any meeting agenda template. What do you hope to have accomplished by the end of your one-on-one meeting? These goals will guide the conversation and prevent either of you from walking away from the meeting feeling like you wasted your time.
Essential Components of a One-on-one Meeting Template
This is simply a suggestion of components to include in a one-on-one meeting template. You know your employees and your organization best of all, so use this guidance to create your own templates for meetings with your direct reports.
We suggest the following format for your one-on-one meeting template.
- Agenda review
- Feedback and discussion
- status updates
- preparation for upcoming work
- Action items
- Wrapping up & next steps
Introduction (5 minutes)
A great manager knows that their direct reports are more than employees in an office and treats them accordingly. Every moment of a one-on-one meeting doesn't have to focus on career development. Schedule dedicated time during the first few minutes to discuss your personal life with one another.
87% of employees believe their employer should help them balance their work and personal commitments-- it can be almost impossible to do without this kind of conversation.
You may find there is a family situation you could be more mindful of or learn that the two of you have similar hobbies you enjoy in your free time. This initial back-and-forth is often crucial to helping employees feel valued and establishing a strong team culture within your organization.
Questions to ask:
- What are you looking forward to this week/weekend?
- Have you recently experienced work interfering with your personal life?
- What hobbies have you recently been able to enjoy?
Agenda review (1-2 minutes)
Before jumping into the more formal portion of your one-on-one, review the meeting agenda and determine if there are any additional topics the two of you want to discuss after addressing the top priorities.
Remember that while an agenda is designed to help guide the conversation and cover all of the necessary topics, it can also act as a jumping-off point for additional talking points that come up as you chat.
Feedback and discussion (15 minutes)
This main discussion time of the meeting should cover several topics.
Start out on a positive note by celebrating wins from the past week or past month. Point out how your employee implemented ideas from the last meeting one-on-one or share positive feedback they received from a client.
Refer back to the action items you determined at your most recent one-on-one. Check in on steps your employee needed to take and share anything you've done to better support them.
Encourage team members to lead this conversation as they recap their recent work and the wins they've achieved along the way. When people feel like their voice is being heard, they are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to do their very best work. One-on-ones are a key time to engage in personalized conversations.
Preparation for upcoming work
Look ahead at what projects and opportunities are coming up. Determine how you can best support your team members and help them succeed in their work.
Questions to ask:
- Tell me about a recent scenario where you feel you excelled.
- What skills are you currently developing?
- What's a recent situation you wish you handled differently? How would you change it looking back?
- Do you feel like you have a reasonable workload? If not, what needs to change?
Action items (5 minutes)
Work together to determine what steps your employee can take to take action on the feedback you provided and the career goals they've established, such as:
- professional development (seminars, book studies, conferences, etc).
- moving forward with projects or work you discussed.
- reaching out to someone to establish a mentor/mentee relationship.
- implementing strategies to improve their performance, like trying specific time management strategies.
Questions to ask:
- Do you feel like your short-term action items are contributing to your long-term career goals?
- What professional development opportunities are you most excited for?
Wrapping up and next steps (2-3 minutes)
Before ending the meeting, check in with your employee to ensure it's been a productive use of their time. Set a date for your next meeting and add it to both of your calendars.
Questions to ask:
- Do you feel like you received enough feedback?
- What topic from our conversation was most beneficial?
- Do you have a clear idea of what steps to take next to aid in your career development?
- Is there anything specific you want to cover in our next meeting?
The First One-on-one With a New Team Member
Your first individual meeting with a new team member sets the stage for future interactions. Balance the need to check-in with the opportunity to demonstrate what they can expect from future one-on-ones.
At the start of this first meeting, review the typical format for each meeting and what they can expect. During your discussion time, use questions that give you an idea of how they're settling in.
- What are you enjoying the most about your new role?
- What's been the biggest adjustment so far?
- Has there been anyone specific who has been helpful or encouraging?
- If you could change one thing about your current position what would it be?
- What important things should I know in order to be a great manager for you?
5 Tips For an Effective One-on-one
Here are a few tips to keep in mind in order to facilitate effective one-on-one meetings.
1. Practice active listening
Listening is the first tip for an effective one-on-one meeting because its merit is often overlooked. As a senior manager, you may believe that part of your role is to do most of the speaking as you offer guidance and feedback; however, listening is a powerful managerial tool.
Practicing active listening is a critical way to improve team culture, demonstrating that you value your employee's perspectives and ideas. You can see the work your employee does, but you don't always know the motivation behind their effort or the reason they make certain choices.
Active listening gives you insight into how their mind works so you can tailor the support you provide to each individual. When people feel heard, employee engagement increases, ultimately boosting team performance.
These benefits sound ideal, but how do you actually demonstrate that you're actively listening? Try these behaviors.
- Pay attention. Don't check your phone or scan your email during the meeting. This can be especially tempting during a virtual call, but by this point everyone can tell whether you're all-in or checked out during a Zoom meeting. When you let your mind wander you're also going to miss crucial information your direct report is sharing.
- Follow the basics. Good manners go a long way. Make eye contact and avoid interrupting, even when an idea jumps to mind.
- Paraphrase what your employee is sharing to be sure you have a clear understanding of what they've said. As a bonus, paraphrasing is a clear indicator that you're paying attention to what they have to say.
2. Build rapport and trust
Active listening goes a long way in helping to build rapport and trust during a one-on-one meeting. To further establish a relationship, use the beginning and end of your meetings to engage in nonwork-related conversations that show your human side and help you learn more about your direct reports. Find common interests, share about your family, and ask about what's happening in your employee's life.
Trust is essential in every relationship. Stephen Covey has spoken extensively on the value, and asserts that "contrary to what most people believe, trust is not some soft, illusive quality that you either have or you don’t; rather, trust is a pragmatic, tangible, actionable asset that you can create."
You can create a sense of trust between you and your direct reports by:
- respecting confidentiality. Don't share information about employees with their colleagues and don't gossip to direct reports about their coworkers-- or yours.
- following through. Keep the commitments you've made. If you struggle to remember what actions you need to take, set reminders on your calendar to share resources you promised to send or help your employee register for a conference they're interested in.
- creating a safe space. Employees should be able to share their thoughts without fear of retaliation.
- being supportive. Actively help your employees meet their professional goals by suggesting resources they can benefit from, introducing them to mentors, and providing constructive feedback that helps them develop necessary skills.
3. Coach instead of criticize
Only 26% of employees would agree that feedback they've received has helped them improve their performance at work. Traditional feedback is often one-sided, infrequent, and focused on past mistakes instead of potential growth.
Gallup shares that "telling employees how to succeed-- not how to stop failing-- is more effective."
Instead of expecting your direct report to receive feedback about their past performance and understand how to apply it to the future, think of yourself as a coach. More constructive feedback can be framed as specific changes the employee might consider in order to improve their performance, such as:
- implementing time management strategies.
- building relationships with key colleagues.
- improving their communication skills, such as being more direct or replying to emails within a certain amount of time.
- taking the initiative to participate in professional employee development opportunities.
- setting stronger boundaries between home and work to prevent burnout.
You may also consider including 360 feedback. This type of feedback provides a well-rounded assessment of an employee's performance by including feedback from their colleagues, peers, direct reports, and customers/clients.
With information from multiple sources, you have a better idea of which areas you can help an employee strengthen in order to support their career development.
4. Tailor to each individual direct report
Every individual in your organization brings their own strengths and areas of need, so following a cookie-cutter meeting template for every person isn't in anyone's best interest.
Instead, take some time to consider what each of your direct reports needs during their one-on-one meeting with you. Talk to them about their feedback preferences, if they feel they would benefit from more or less direction, and how you can work with them to help achieve their professional goals.
5. Keep a running document for each individual
A concise record of your previous one-on-ones can be helpful when it's time for performance reviews. You'll be able to look back and see whether employees are making progress in their efforts to grow and if they're following through on action items you discussed.
To maintain a running record like this, create a document for each team member with the title "Team member/manager: one on one."
At the top of the document, insert your standard meeting agenda template, which can be revised for each meeting. Below the template, make an entry for each meeting with a summary of what you discussed, action items, priorities for future meetings, and any other pertinent information.
Measuring the Impact of Your Meetings
Key metrics and other data can help you determine if your one-on-ones are making a positive difference in the workplace and discern what changes need to be made. Here are a few sources of data you can look at.
Key performance indicators
KPIs are powerful because they provide measurable, quantifiable data that can be harnessed to identify trends and compare performance over time.
You can use KPIs to determine:
- what percentage of employee goals are being met
- employee satisfaction and engagement
- individual performance metrics
- team performance metrics
This information helps you make data-driven decisions about what one-on-one meeting format is most effective.
For example, you may determine that employees typically meet their goals over a period of 2-3 months. Instead of meeting monthly, they may benefit from quarterly meetings. Conversely, engagement may increase when you schedule informal check-ins each week.
You may opt to utilize an employee survey tool to help streamline the process and provide anonymity when applicable.
Feedback is an incredibly powerful instrument of change. We believe so strongly in its merit that we designed the Be Heard platform, which allows you to collect employee feedback in several different formats.
Feedback from multiple sources can help you determine if your one-on-ones are driving change or just a drain of time. Talk to employees, managers, and clients/customers to hear more about their experiences.
The most important source of feedback is from direct reports who participate in these meetings.
- Do they feel like they get enough feedback during a one-on-one?
- How do they feel about the frequency of the meetings?
- What changes could improve the format of one-on-one meetings?
Those in management are key players in a one-on-one meeting, so their view on the meetings can have a huge impact on how effective meetings they are.
- Do they feel like they are afforded enough time to prepare for and facilitate meetings?
- Do they notice their employees implementing the feedback they receive?
- What challenges do managers face in regard to one-on-ones?
From clients and customers
Feedback from customers and clients can help you determine whether the guidance you offer your direct reports during one-on-one meetings is actually being heeded.
While this feedback is often collected informally, through off-handed comments during client meetings or while a customer is checking out, you may also consider providing surveys to collect feedback.
4 Ways to Leverage Technology for One-on-Ones
Technology is a must for one-on-one meetings with remote employees, but if you're only using it to videoconference with your direct reports, you're missing out on a number ways technology can help streamline and optimize your meetings. Here are just a few.
If you follow a specific schedule for your one-on-ones, you can use scheduling tools to create a recurring event. Your meeting will automatically populate your calendar at the specified time frame. Many scheduling software, like Google Calendar, will include recurring meetings if you plan to meet virtually.
The most effective meeting agendas are a collaborative effort: both you and your direct report should be able to identify talking points you want to address during the one-on-one meeting.
Share the agenda ahead of time to give your direct report time to review it and make sure you're on the same page about what you plan to discuss. You may even be able to attach it directly to your event invite, so all of the pertinent information is in one place.
Collaborative technology can also be used to take meeting notes so all involved parties can remember what was discussed and what next steps you decided on. With an editable one-on-one meeting notes template (we're looking at you, Google Docs) you can document discussion points in real-time and refer back to them as necessary in the weeks and months to come.
3. Employee recognition
You don't have to wait for bi-weekly meetings or the next annual review to celebrate your employee's accomplishments. The best feedback is timely feedback.
Use your employee recognition software to send a shout-out to individuals. You may message it to them, reward recognition points, or take advantage of any other celebratory features that your platform offers.
4. Survey tools
It sounds counterintuitive, but sometimes people need to provide constructive feedback on your feedback. Unfortunately, employees who need different guidance than what you're providing in your one-on-one meetings may not feel comfortable speaking up for fear it comes as a criticism of your leadership style.
With survey tools like our Be Heard platform, you can use pulse surveys to deploy real-time, quick-to-action, surveys on topical areas that drive data-backed decisions.
Whatever survey software you use, we suggest providing an option for anonymous feedback. In doing so you're more likely to receive authentic comments that reflect employees' genuine opinions and experience.
Celebrate Your People
Positive feedback during a one-on-one meeting is crucial, but it's just the first step to creating a culture of recognition in your organization.
Terryberry's Be Engaged platform is a comprehensive employee engagement tool. Use it to:
- create a tailored employee recognition experience.
- send announcements and reminders via an app.
- collect feedback that's turned into easy-to-interpret visual data.
Research has shown that engagement, productivity, and performance are 14% higher in businesses with recognition programs than those without one.
It's time to cultivate a company culture you're absolutely thrilled with. Terryberry is here to help.