Conducting one-on-one meetings with your employees is a key part of building and maintaining rapport. These meetings can go a long way in helping your employees feel appreciated and improving the overall productivity levels of both individuals and your organization as a whole. While most managers are aware of the benefits of one-on-ones, not everyone knows how to make these meetings effective.

In a survey by the collaborative app company Hypercontext, approximately “72% of managers indicated that one-on-ones were the most, or one of the most important things they do to manage the performance of their teams” and “75% of managers felt that employees left their one-on-ones more motivated.” From the employee perspective, “58% of employees said they left one-on-ones more motivated than they were prior to the meetings.”

Although managers and employees are typically on the same page when it comes to the positive impacts of one-on-one meetings, they often differ in their views on the participation process and how these meetings should work.

The same Hypercontext survey cited that “managers as a whole were more bullish on the positive impact one-on-ones were having on their team” than the employees were. So, as a manager, even though you might feel confident that a one-on-one meeting was a success, your employees might not. This is a discrepancy worth addressing.

An inefficient one-on-one can arguably have just as negative of an impact as having no one-on-one at all. They can lead to unfavorable behaviors at work, including low productivity levels, increased absences, and higher turnover rates. To prevent these unwanted consequences and avoid one-on-one meeting woes, consider these tips:

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Plan Ahead

Harvard Business Review noted that “one-on-one meetings with direct reports often feel more hurried and disorganized than they need to be.” One key way to help prevent your one-on-ones from feeling rushed is to plan ahead.

Instead of just winging it and allowing the meeting to unfold spontaneously, try to adopt the following habits:

  • Schedule your one-on-ones in advance using an organizational tool or app of your choice. This will help make sure you’re aware of the upcoming need to plan and prepare for the meetings. Also, consider booking out time on your own calendar specifically to prepare for upcoming one-on-ones. A one-on-one scheduled and planned for in advance is almost guaranteed to be more productive than a last-minute invite.
  • Implement a regularly scheduled frequency. Set up recurring one-on-ones for 30 or 60 minutes at the same time and place each week or bi-weekly. This can help build consistency and keep projects and priorities on track.
  • Take notes on the key topics you plan to cover with your employees. This will help keep the conversation on topic and productive. You should also encourage your employees to jot down anything they’d like to address, as this will help them feel involved and empowered in the one-on-one discussions.
  • Ensure your employees are informed of any and all important details that relate to upcoming one-on-one meetings. Prior to meetings, provide them with an idea of what they can expect to discuss. As a courtesy, consider sending a reminder to your employees before the scheduled meeting date.
  • Avoid canceling any one-on-one meetings at the last minute. Last-minute cancellations can lead to negative impacts like decreased trust, demotivation, communication breakdown, increased stress, and more. Unfortunately, sometimes things are out of your control. In the rare case that you need to cancel at the last minute, be sure to reschedule as soon as possible.
  • Arrive on time. Your employees should feel as though their time is as valuable as yours. If you’re running behind schedule, let them know.

Successful vs. Unsuccessful One-on-One Meetings

The same Hypercontext survey quoted earlier showed that managers and employees both consider the following signs good indicators of a successful one-on-one meeting:

  • Two-way communication that enables both sides to actively listen and participate
  • An understanding that the work environment fosters open and honest communication
  • Achievement made by the end of the meeting, such as crafting a resolution to an issue
  • The development of an action plan that outlines solutions to current matters at hand
  • A conclusion the meeting that results in motivated and happy employees

Conversely, both managers and employees pointed out that these are indicative of poor or dissatisfactory one-on-one meetings:

  • Confrontational, defensive, or pessimistic attitudes
  • No clear purpose or objective for the meeting
  • No structured agenda or flow of conversation
  • Communication issues, such as lack of dialogue or imbalance in conversation roles
  • Little to no meaningful outcome
  • A meeting atmosphere of frustration, stress, or misunderstanding

One-on-one meetings are a powerful way to connect with your employees, boost productivity, and enhance performance. However, in order for one-on-ones to be effective, both you and your employees must put in effort and work as a team to maximize their benefits.

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