What Are One-on-Ones and Why Are They Important? (With Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 20, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

One-on-ones can be a helpful management tool for team leaders. By holding one-on-one meetings, managers can boost productivity and workplace morale. If you are in a leadership position, you may want to implement one-on-ones with your team to build stronger relationships with employees and give feedback to help them improve their skills. In this article, we discuss what one-on-ones are, explain why you should use them and list tips for holding better meetings.

What are one-on-ones?

A one-on-one is a meeting between a manager or team leader and an employee they supervise. Many managers choose to hold these meetings monthly or quarterly with each of their staff members. One-on-ones are an investment that managers make in their teams. By holding one-on-one meetings, team leaders hope to boost productivity, improve morale, heighten the workplace atmosphere and find and solve problems before they become major issues.

Related: How To Conduct Meetings

Why should you hold one-on-one meetings in your workplace?

There are many reasons managers choose to hold one-on-ones with their employees, including:

Building relationships

Depending on the size of your team, it may be challenging to connect with all of your staff regularly. Holding one-on-ones ensures you have the time to get to know and understand each of the people on your team. An important part of management is understanding your assets and knowing your employees. Holding one-on-ones with your team members allows you to accomplish this. By asking appropriate personal questions during your one-on-ones, you can develop positive relationships with your team and open communication channels.

Related: 11 Meeting Etiquette Rules

Demonstrating dedication and consideration

One-on-ones can be very time-consuming for members of management, depending on the size of their team and how often they hold the meetings. Because a one-on-one can take as long as an hour, holding them with every member of your team communicates your dedication and consideration for your employees. Using your time to hold these meetings shows you value the members of your team as well as their time and insights.

Improving workplace atmosphere and morale

When employees feel as though you value their time and input, they're more likely to exhibit high levels of morale. By holding frequent one-on-ones with your staff, you can listen to their concerns and work together to solve problems before they affect the team or the success of a project. A one-on-one meeting is also an opportunity to offer positive feedback to your team members, showing them that you notice and appreciate their hard work.

Gaining feedback about a product or service

Depending on the industry you work in, your team likely interacts with your company's products or services daily. If you are in a management position, speaking with the employees who are working on product development can be a great opportunity to hear about how to improve or modify the product or service for success. Listening to your team members when they share their product concerns may also offer more fulfillment to employees by showing them that their work is meaningful.

Related: Planning Meetings: How To Manage and General Meeting Tips

Enhancing coaching and mentoring skills

As a manager or team leader, coaching and mentoring skills are invaluable. Because of this, one-on-one meetings are as beneficial for your employees as they are for you as a leader. By using the opportunity to develop as a leader and strengthen your management skills, you can advance the team as a whole.

Tips for better one-on-ones

Whether you've held one-on-ones before or you want to start now, consider the following tips to help you be successful in these meetings:

Schedule them as a repeating event

By planning your one-on-ones in advance, you can be more aware of how they fit into your schedule and predict how much time they're going to take. If you uphold a regular one-on-one schedule, you can also be more consistent with your staff. Your team members will know what to expect and may appreciate the stability a schedule offers. Especially if you are just beginning to implement one-on-ones in your workplace, scheduling them as a repeating event each month or quarter allows you to be accountable for those meetings.

Avoid being late or canceling

A one-on-one meeting is a chance for you to show your staff that you value their time and see them as a priority. To make them believe this, it's important to come to meetings on time and avoid canceling if possible. Prepare for the meeting beforehand, and only cancel if you have no other option. If you must cancel the meeting, try to let them know as far ahead as possible and reschedule it within the same week.

Create an agenda before the meeting

Consider creating an agenda before your meeting. It can include specific topics you'd like to address or a quick list of questions you plan to ask. Although having an agenda can help you structure your time, it's also good to maintain flexibility and consider your employee's needs during the meeting.

Read more: 9 Tips for Setting an Agenda for a Meeting

Ask open-ended questions

Ask open-ended questions to find a good pace for the conversation during your one-on-ones. By asking open-ended questions, you can prompt your staff to be honest with you about their experiences and respond with more than just yes or no. Sending these questions to your team member before the meeting is a great way to make sure they're ready to answer them during your time together. You can also use your knowledge about their hobbies and interests to create questions specific to each individual.

Here are some open-ended questions you might ask during your one-on-one meetings:

  • What individual do you admire in this company? Why do you admire them?

  • Are there any opportunities we may be missing?

  • How would you improve our product or service?

  • In the past month, what have you been happy about?

  • What are your feelings about this quarter's goals?

  • Is there anything I can do to improve your professional life?

  • In the past month, what have you been less happy about?

  • How do you feel about your team? Do you work well together?

  • What are you planning to do over the weekend?

  • How did you spend the holiday?

Keep a positive attitude

One way to make one-on-ones in your workplace successful is by encouraging staff members to look forward to them. You can do this by keeping a positive attitude during every meeting. Consider starting with positive feedback, mentioning constructive criticism in the middle and ending the meeting on a positive note. Even when problem-solving or discussing potential issues, it's important to keep an optimistic and upbeat outlook to focus on the employee's strengths and how they can improve their weaknesses.

Take notes during the meeting

If you have a large team, taking notes during your meeting can help you keep track of what you've discussed with each individual. The act of taking notes also communicates to your team member that you take their comments and concerns seriously. It is also good practice to review the previous session's notes before your next one-on-one so that you can prepare for any developments from the last meeting.

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