Organizational Wellness

How to Have Effective 1 on 1 Meetings with Your Employees

Apr 20, 2023
Last Updated May 24, 2024

There is a saying: “People join companies, but they quit managers.” According to a conversation on Gallup, we need to examine why this rings true for so many workers.

To increase retention, leaders and managers can take a proactive approach in the day-to-day life of their direct reports. The best managers know how to create an atmosphere of trust and camaraderie, set clear goals, provide guidance and feedback, and most importantly hold effective one on one meetings with their employees.

When done well, a great one on one meeting can be a powerful tool for both the employee and the manager. Let’s dive into how you can conduct meaningful and productive one on one sessions with your team.


Tap Into Mindful Leadership

Mindful leadership involves developing a deep understanding of your personal leadership values, including your approach to problem-solving. This mindset helps you prioritize psychological safety for your employees, and build a relationship based on mutual respect. It can also help elevate your performance management skills which are incredibly valuable one-on-one meetings.

Be purposeful yet flexible

It’s important to have a clear purpose for a one-on-one conversation, you can achieve that with a flexible meeting agenda. Having a clear objective in mind will help you focus the conversation and conduct a productive meeting. But a flexible agenda helps you maintain an open, empathic conversation. For example, your purpose might be to provide constructive feedback and guidance on a specific project. But the employee may bring up questions about related roadblocks. As a result, you might create an action plan that implements your feedback and addresses the related employee concern. 

Set a consistent schedule

A consistent meeting schedule helps both parties carve out time for important one-on-one discussions. Having them consistently, such as weekly or bi-weekly, can also help you get the most out of these conversations as they ensure you are in consistent communication. Regular meetings also provide the space and time needed to build strong work relationships and create an environment of transparency.

Build Trust Through Face-to-Face Conversation

Face-to-face meetings are a great way to build trust between a manager and their employee. They allow nonverbal cues like as eye contact, smiling, and attentive body posture to convey interest in the other person, whether they are in-person or video meetings. All of this shows your teammate that you care about their ideas, opinions, and concerns. Whether discussing performance review or career development opportunities, meeting face to face can help develop a trusting relationship and increase candor. 

Use active listening

To encourage meaningful conversation, it’s also crucial to actively listen to your employees when they speak. You can do this by being mindful of your words, not interrupting the speaker, restating what they said to show understanding, and asking questions that help them elaborate on their thoughts or suggestions. The idea is to listen more than you talk.

Throughout the meeting, consider taking notes to help you digest and refer back to key points as you go along. This is another way of showing that you actively listen to your employee. Plus, it can help keep you organized and on track during the discussion.

Consider the environment

When choosing a meeting location, select a space conducive to open dialogue and stress-free conversation. This usually means that the setting should be private, comfortable, and distraction-free. If you work in an open-plan office, for example, you may want to consider booking a breakout or  conference room.

Alternatively, you can change up the routine altogether. If you’re meeting in person, you can go for a walk or sit outside. If you’re meeting over a video call, you can encourage your employee to move to another room or find a new quiet space. A different setting can stimulate novel thinking.

Foster a Meaningful Exchange

Fostering meaningful exchange is key to unlocking the potential of one-on-one conversations. The meeting questions and talking points you bring to the table will impact the responses you get. This is true whether you ask your staff open-ended questions, give them constructive feedback, or request that they provide you with feedback about your company.

Address the basics

Help team members reflect on their work and goals by asking questions. These typically explore what’s going well, where improvements can be made, how improvements can be implemented, and where their work would benefit from additional support. Examples include:

  • How can I better support your growth in this role?
  • Are there any blockers preventing you from getting your work done?
  • Are there any skills or knowledge you would like to gain or develop further with my help?
  • What areas do you feel need improvement, and how can I help?
  • In what area of your job do you feel most effective?
  • When should I follow up with you about these action items?

Generate innovative discussion

Consider encouraging an employee to think outside the box to generate a more innovative discussion. For example, if you want the meeting to produce interesting new thoughts, try the following questions:

  • Do you think there is a project that, if you had the chance to tackle it, would significantly advance your career?
  • If budget was not a factor, what is a project you would want the company to take on, and why?
  • If you were tapped to advise our company, what changes would you suggest we make?
  • What project would most benefit if you and your team had more time to focus your resources and energy on it? How could we make that happen?

Ask for organizational feedback

You might also want to get feedback about the workplace and organizational culture during these meetings. Asking for honest feedback can help you stay informed about the corporate culture and what could improve it for everyone. Examples include:

  • What do you think is limiting employee engagement? How could we improve that?
  • What would make a typical workday more enjoyable?
  • Do you have any suggestions on how we could improve our workflow on the next project?
  • What important issue should we focus on in the next team meeting?
  • Are there any team dynamics that could be improved?
  • What organizational communication challenges do we face? Do you think there’s a system or tool we should implement to improve that?

If your meeting partner tends to give short answers lacking in detail or specific insight, consider pushing them to add more by asking: “What else?”, “How so?”, “Why?”, or “What do you think that means?” These simple questions can help employees dig a little deeper and produce more useful ideas.

Supporting Employee Development

One-on-one conversations are a great platform to dive deep into an employee’s needs, desires and plans. This sort of deep, personal interaction can help keep your staffers engaged in their role and satisfied with their company. 

And keeping your workforce happy is pretty important for your business’ overall success. Engaged employees produce up to a 23% higher profit than miserable workers, and corporate wellbeing programs have been shown to help companies exceed financial targets, reduce absenteeism, and lower the cost of providing healthcare. 

If you need help developing a strategy to improve your workforce satisfaction and engagement, speak to a Wellbeing Specialist today!

Company healthcare costs drop by up to 35% with Wellhub! (* Based on proprietary research comparing healthcare costs of active Wellhub users to non-users.) Talk to a Wellbeing Specialist to see how we can help reduce your healthcare spending!



Wellhub Editorial Team

The Wellhub Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


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