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1:1 Meetings - How to design one-on-ones to help with your team’s development

This brief guide will help you design 1:1 meetings that focus on helping your team members grow and handle any challenge

Employees spend as many as 31 unproductive hours in meetings every month. Among these, one of the biggest struggles managers have is making one-on-one meetings fit into everyone’s schedules.

Common mistakes managers make with their one-on-one meetings include not preparing for the meeting, doing all the talking so the employee doesn’t get to have their say, focusing too much on work updates, rushing meetings, and even skipping them altogether.

To turn your one-on-ones into productive and engaging meetings, we’ve put together this brief guide that helps you design one-on-ones that focus on helping your team members grow and handle any challenge.

Set goals for every one-on-one meeting

One of the biggest mistakes managers make when starting to hold their one-on-ones is to assume these are general meetings. 

In reality, you want to establish one core purpose for every single meeting you schedule. You can do this by creating an agenda to guide the meeting. This ensures you won’t be missing out on important aspects that are making your employee feel unhappy at work or are affecting their performance.

Long-term goals to take into account for your next one-on-one meeting include:

  • Retaining talent and improving loyalty
  • Improving team productivity and performance
  • Keeping individuals motivated and engaged
  • Maintaining a happy workforce
  • Building a culture of transparency and helping employees develop their soft skills
  • Creating an open feedback loop between the company and its employees

Break these into smaller goals for every weekly one-on-one meeting so you can spot any struggles or feelings that employees might be hesitant to share directly. For increased transparency, share the meeting’s purpose and expectations beforehand so the employee can also prepare any questions they might have. After all, one-on-ones are a bidirectional conversation.

Yobs helps you reach these business goals through a people-first approach. This psychology-led platform helps you understand what an individual's strengths and areas of improvement are. You can then use one-on-ones to discuss any behavior changes, progress or setbacks, and give them feedback so they can improve in the future.

You can use this information to check on your team’s wellbeing and prevent burnout before it sets in. This allows you to bring employee experience to the forefront, reduce churn, and get back managers’ time. We recommend doing this type of assessment every 2-3 months to inform the quarterly performance review. Alternatively, you can hold them once a year as part of your annual employee performance and happiness review.

Schedule them by following a set of steps

As you create your agenda, divide your one-on-ones into manageable chunks. Five must-have stages of the meeting include:

  1. Having a closer look at the previous week and any challenges the employee had. Don’t forget to acknowledge any achievements and positive results as well to keep the focus away from only the negative parts.
  2. Discussing the main topic of the week. This stage revolves around the main purpose of the meeting. Many times the manager will already know what this topic is. However, if you’re unsure why an employee’s behavior has changed, you’ll need to get them to talk about this themselves.
  3. Touch upon learning and development opportunities. Note that these can be both work-related and personal courses or training paths an employee wants to take. At this point, you can help them establish their future success metrics and milestones.
  4. Analyze the current at-work relations. Ask the employee to describe their current relationship with colleagues and managers. Are there any misunderstandings? Do they get enough chances to bond? Would they overcome their own hurdles by working alongside a colleague?
  5. Conclude the meeting with extra feedback. This is the perfect time to go over anything else that could be bothering them or staying top of mind throughout the entire work day.

Tip: For each of these steps, dedicate no more than 10-12 minutes to avoid overextending the meeting or not having time to go over everything.

Pick the right time for your one-on-one meetings

There’s dozens of things that could go wrong with improper meeting timing — from rushing through meetings to holding them when an employee is too tired or distracted. 

To prevent this, talk to every individual to see which day and time they’d prefer. Some might opt for the end of a workday so they’re not distracted by work while others will prefer to hold them the first thing in the morning over a cup of coffee.

One-on-one scheduling is also important with remote workers from different time zones. Even if the majority of work is done asynchronously, employees should get 2-3 hours of daily time zone overlap with the rest of their teammates and managers. This time can be used both for one-on-ones and other meetings as well as for real-time feedback and task collaboration.

Regardless of your choice, do a double check to make sure your employee’s day won’t be overcrowded by meetings. You’re looking at no more than 3 meetings/day including the one-on-one you want to schedule.

Leave room for follow-ups and assessments

The challenges you discuss during a one-on-one meeting should always be checked upon and re-evaluated weeks and even months after the meeting. 

As a rule of thumb, you can end every one-on-one with an actionable small task either for you or the employee. For example, if a team member is struggling with loneliness while working from home, you could go over the solutions over the next few days and get back with a proposal.

Tip: Take and share the meeting notes so you won’t forget what you need to do by the time next week’s meeting comes around.

For a more continuous approach to your talent development process, record one-on-ones and use them as input for regular talent assessments. Yobs gives you a useful analysis of potential performance risks and employee engagement indicators by making use of the meeting’s video or audio recording. The final development reports give you more insights into how you can overcome performance risks, helping you maximize employee productivity and potential.

Nissan used the Yobs to streamline their entire talent development process and make hiring fairer. They managed to improve the retention rates for 1,000+ employees and save the company over $4M USD.

Key takeaways to help you design better one-on-one meetings

You can only make one-on-ones work towards the goals you’ve set by going through all of the steps above. 

Every now and then you’ll want to briefly go through everything that happened during past one-on-ones to see what needs to be improved. You can even record these meetings to get a more accurate look at potential mistakes you could be making, like talking too much or getting into work details when you should be looking for potential sources of disengagement.

Another option is to directly ask employees how they’d like their one-on-ones to look like. For accurate insights, consider sending a quick anonymous survey where employees are more likely to share their honest thoughts and wishes.