11 Topics for Effective Employee 1on1 Meetings

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"I'm not sure what to talk about in my 1 on 1s with employees."

"What are example topics and questions that I should build into my 1 on 1s?"

"How can I gauge if someone has concerns, or is feeling overwhelmed?"

"How often should I have 1 on 1s?"

These are common requests we've heard from our Clients over the years, i.e. hiring Managers. Many have expressed that they have felt awkward in their conversations with their subordinates, or simply aren't sure what the conversation/s should look like.


Don't know where to start? Below is a list of possible topics to include during your one-on-one conversations, along with sample questions to get the conversation started. Keep in mind that the expectation is not that you'll cover every one of these areas every time!

For new employees, for example, discussing goals, expectations, and training and development will likely be more important than some of the other areas. For your more tenured employees, maybe you'll shift the conversation to needs, obstacles, and ideas of improvement they have. There is no right or wrong, rather we encourage you to strategize your agenda in advance, and choose three to four topics at a time, using this list as your high-level outline for these extremely important conversations!

1 on 1 Topics for Employee Meetings

Following are a list of topics you can cover for 1 on 1 conversations.

1 - Goals and Expectations

This may seem obvious, but have you discussed your employee's short term and long term goals? Do they have clear expectations and understand their priorities and where they fit into the bigger picture?

Discussions around goals and expectations should not be a once-a-year thing (during performance reviews), rather something that is regularly visited and evaluated. I appreciate that my boss keeps track of our previous conversations and asks me follow-up questions as to how I'm doing, am I on track for XYZ, what help do I need to achieve a particular objective, what's holding me back from reaching a particular goal, etc. I too like to keep a running document where I add the date and topics I want to cover, as well as the topics my employee covers. It is great to have this documentation if I need to reference something, and also really helps come performance management time. At the end of your goals and expectations conversation, this is a great time to summarize important action items and ensure both parties are on the same page.

2 - Provide Feedback, Validation and Praise

1 on 1s are a great opportunity to provide feedback, whether that is constructive criticism or reinforcing a job well done. I've never met an employee that either doesn't appreciate honest feedback or doesn't require validation in some form. Most employees want to know if they're on track, if they're doing well, and reinforcing small and big wins goes a long way with retention and team culture. In the current professional world we live in, people also crave fulfillment. We encourage you to communicate feedback in a way that aligns back to how they are fulfilling their purpose and overall team/company goals.

3 - Solicit Feedback and Ideas

People want to feel heard, and that their opinion and voice matters! Do you ask for input on new processes, training, team buildings, and employee onboarding or mentorship programs? Especially after rolling out a new process, program, tool, etc., it's beneficial to ask for the feedback of your team members! Do you have any sort of virtual suggestion box or continuous feedback system? If you use a tool like Zoom, you could build in periodic poll questions to get anonymous feedback. One of our Managers does a quarterly survey to capture feedback around new programs, re-visiting past concerns, and an open-text for additional suggestions. Some of the best items my team has rolled out to the organization came from feedback sessions on what we can do to improve, add value, and be more efficient!

4 - Needs Assessment

Do your employees have what they need to be successful? What's holding them back? The answer is often so simple, but if we're not asking, we'll never know. As an employee, if there is something you are lacking that is essential to your success, please speak up! If you're not getting what you need or there's limited access to it, communicate as such. Simply stating to your manager that "Here is the #1 thing that I need to perform my job."

5 - Evaluate Workload

While this could fall under #4, i.e. needs assessment, we believe this area warrants its own section. One of the growing concerns is around burnout. Many employees are incredibly overwhelmed, and with remote working, it can be difficult to gauge which of your team members are really overwhelmed. My boss always makes it a point to ask on our 1 on 1s: "how is your workload?" and "are the demands you're getting reasonable?" If so, I let him know and we strategize a way to support anything I don't have the bandwidth to cover. Sometimes that means delegating to other team members, sometimes my boss will take extra work on, and sometimes it is a crazy week and we just need to get through it to finally breathe! Regardless, as a manager, you should know what's on your employee's plate and is that workload realistic and manageable.

6 - Identify Challenges and/or Stressors

Employees are stressed right now and a lot of individuals are struggling with mental health, both inside and outside of work. As a manager, what can you do to mitigate? I've found that simply asking if someone is doing ok, randomly checking in on them and asking about their personal life, goes a long way. I've had so many co-workers say "that you for simply checking in to see how I am doing. It really means a lot." The impact is enormous and it's one of the simplest things to do. What is causing them stress at work? What's keeping them up at night? What's the top challenge they're facing right now? What obstacles are in the way of them completing the task or project at hand? Is it something you could remove for them?

7 - Ideas

Give your employees the opportunity to be involved in important discussions, ask for their opinions, and always encourage idea generation and problem-solving. What else could the team be doing to be more successful? Have you identified any areas in need of efficiency improvements? Do you find team meetings productive? How are we doing at onboarding and mentoring employees?

8 - Training and Development

This ties in with a needs assessment but do your employees have what they need to be successful in their roles? Simply asking them "What topic(s) would like training on right now?" It means a lot to employees to know their managers are invested in their growth and development.

9 - Personal Connection

I'm a big proponent of getting to know your employees/coworkers beyond the constraints of work. The reason I feel so connected with my teammates, even though we sit across the United States, is because we've spent time getting to know each other, our outside interests, families, pets, hobbies, etc. When you know your employees better, it's easier to understand their motivators. And once you understand their motivators, it's easier to speak their language and encourage them to perform in a way that allows them to achieve their goals.

10 - Highlights/"Brag Board" Time

Do you give your employees the opportunity and encouragement to brag about what they're proud of? Many of the amazing things your people are doing are often not being brought to your attention. Couple that with the fact that most employees feel under-valued or not recognized, and it is easy to see why having a section of your 1 on 1 dedicated to having them vocalize their recent accomplishments can be helpful for many reasons! We encourage our employees to keep a personal ‘Brag Board' or ‘Brag Blog,' where they capture what they're most proud of on a weekly basis.

11 - Q&A

Always give your employees an opportunity to speak up. Ask them "What may I do differently to support you", "How can I improve how I lead the team", "What feedback do you have for me", or even "What questions/thoughts/concerns do you have that we haven't covered." My boss is always asking for feedback, and sometimes I have something to share, but often I don't. Regardless, the fact that he's open to feedback and regularly asks for it, makes me more comfortable sharing things when they do arise. I know he genuinely cares for the well-being of not only me, but for our team in general, and for that I'm forever grateful.

Next Steps

Having regular, effective 1 on 1s is especially important nowadays, given that many of us are virtual. If you and your team are remote, we highly recommend hosting your 1on1s via Zoom, Teams, Google Hangout, or whatever your preferred communication tool is. When we cannot see each other in person, we are more likely to miss the body language cues that indicate whether a person is really doing ok or if they're struggling. This is a time when people crave connection and feedback, so turn those cameras on! My boss switched from phone 1on1s to Teams meetings a few months back and it's been fantastic. Catching up with someone face to face goes a long way.

Use the 11 Topics above as a checklist for improving and optimizing your 1 on 1 meetings. You won't be able to tackle everything at once, so pick three to four topic areas to focus on and go from there! And remember, as with everything, consistency and prioritization are key.

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About the author
MSSQLTips author Cate Murray Cate Murray is responsible for managing the nationally-based talent acquisition strategies of the Apex Systems PMO and Business Analysis Practice and holds her PMP certification from PMI.

This author pledges the content of this article is based on professional experience and not AI generated.

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