How to have the most effective one-on-ones

Pankaj / 27 Jan 2019

Every millennial must be familiar with the term one-on-ones. A lot of career changing conversations and decisions happen during these meetings and a lot us have taken it light. Highlighting in this article the weightage one-on-ones hold and how to make the best of these meetings.

One-on-one meetings - one of the most popular terms in the HR industry. The important part about one-on-ones is getting the employees to talk honestly about what they feel. Whoever is representing the management should also have an open conversation with the employee. What you are going to read below will help you have effective 1:1s.

Managers responsibility:

Managers need to understand how essential one-on-ones are and the value the employee feedback carries. Recognition is the first step.

There is a direct impact on an employee engagement score by the managers than that of the management; A study by Gallup stated this. And we are not new to hearing employees quit because of their managers!

Having a conversation with the employees, regularly, has been proved to increase the engagement of the employee. One-on-ones are one of the best opportunity for that and improving communication builds a better engagement inside your organization.

Why 1:1s are effective:

Who wouldn’t like to know their team better ? One-on-ones have a plethora of benefits which includes getting to the know your team better - personally and professionally. Every employee is unique in their way and conversations with them can help in bring that individuality out.


Strengthening of the relationship between the peers is a promised benefit from the one-on-ones. Discovering the likes and dislikes of the employees, motivating factor, energy booster, career goals and how the company can help them achieve it are some of the factors that will help take the understanding and the trust level with the employees to next level.

It is easy to have favorites among the employees, but one-on-ones can help in breaking that talk amongst them, especially in a large team. Everyone is treated equally and with importance during the one-on-ones and missing the opportunity to understand individually will strengthen the talk of playing favorites.

Identifying issues:

The talk with the employees can help in discovering issues inside the company. Some of the issues may not be easy to uncover unless the employee has an excellent understanding with the manager.

Some issues may seem small but can pave the way to more significant problems when left unattended. Timely discovery of these issues is crucial. If you have a continuous feedback system in your company, insights from the platform can set a starting point; and discussing the solution to those can improve the trust over management and help in voicing out their thoughts better on seeing that the management is paying attention and willing to take action on the same.

Growth and support:

Individually, the management should understand the career vision of the employee. Ask questions that will help in identifying the personal growth plans that the employee would like to achieve and showing support to help him/her achieve it will increase the tie with the company. Assisting the employee with the performance-related goals will boost their energy, and it is not necessary to wait until performance reviews to identify if they are facing any struggles when it comes to productivity.

Important points to remember on 1:1s

Informal conversation:

Have the one-on-one as informal as possible. They are private conversations to help in connecting on a personal and professional level. Create a relaxed atmosphere to get the employees into a comfort zone.

Take notes:

It is a conversation but remember to take notes of the important points discussed. How will you take action if there is no record of the issues addressed?


Follow up with the employee and give a brief of the discussed points. This adds credibility and holds both the parties accountable for the discussions.


During the one-on-ones, listen and acknowledge their talk. Make sure you give them your attention, if they get a feeling that you are distracted or taking the talk lightly, their interest will drop, and conversation will die!

Action taken:

As measures are taken following the points discussed, send an update to the employee and before the next one-on-one, enclose the completed actions from the previous one-on-one on the agenda. This will give a sense of promise and action.

Questions- much needed for the 1:1s:


  • Do you think we should update or modify any of the processes we follow currently?
  • Are you happy with your workplace? Do you want to add any personal touch to your desk?

Work and productivity:

  • Do you feel stressed? When and how can we fix it?
  • What is your worry at work?
  • Where do you think you waste a lot of time?
  • Is there any issue that you would like to highlight?


  • What will be the highlighting accomplishment that happened from last 1:1 to this 1: 1?
  • If you can name one accomplishment between this year and next what would it be?


  • What is your immediate goal?
  • Does your professional goal helping you achieve your personal goals?


  • Is there any struggle you face in terms of growth that we can help with?


  • How will you rate your growth in the company? Are you happy with it?


  • How is the feedback system? What is your take on it?
  • What feedback do you have for me?
  • What feedback do you have for the management?
  • Do you get enough feedback? Would like any additional feedback?

Management and peer relationship:

  • As a manager what can I do better? How can I improve?
  • How directive should I be? More or less direction?
  • How honest can you be during this 1:1? (At the start of the 1:1)
  • How is your relationship with your team?

Did we miss any question you use in your 1:1s or you think can be useful in 1:1? We have an interesting thread that has more insights on one-on-one questions where you can contribute to. Catch it here.

What one-on-ones shouldn’t be!

Avoid negativity:

Avoid negative feedback, criticism and negative comments. This will engulf the employee into a feeling that one-on-ones are negative and never will there be a productive one-on-one later. Even feedbacks can be given politely and positively. Practice on that. This is as crucial as giving an interview or doing a presentation and thinking about what to talk beforehand is a good practice.

Not a performance review:

One-on-ones are not a performance review meeting. Though I mentioned ‘ The performance of the employee can be evaluated; addressing the issues they face in terms of performance, without waiting for the performance is a good sign to good management. ‘ above, discussing how their performance is and addressing the issues to help them perform is different than talk work and their performance graph. It is better not to talk about their other performance metrics during one-on-ones, as this is more about understanding the employees.

Not a format:

One-on-ones are not a format and do not schedule 1:1s for duty sake. When taken as a duty, there will be less involvement and more formality in the conversation which will be a hurdle to getting the employee to open up about issues. If you have insights from the feedback platform and want to address it, don’t make it evident that you are discussing those to the face, instead subtly address the areas and concerns raised, in a way that doesn’t put the employee in an awkward state.