1:1 Talks: The Key to Employee Engagement

1:1 talks

1:1 Talks: The Key to Employee Engagement

09 Sep, 2019

When executed correctly, a 1 to 1 talk can be the richest form of communication within your organization. In this article, we’ll help you learn how to conduct a one to one with an employee, how managers should talk to employees, and how to expand 1 to 1 meetings with staff.


What are 1-on-1 talks (meetings)?

A meeting between two people in a company, typically a manager and their direct report, is a 1 to 1 talk. However, a 1 to 1 meeting can also happen between teammates and other members of the company. 


These meetings help individuals stay more informed about what might be going on ‘behind the scenes’ that they’re not able to notice when they’re caught up in the day-to-day. These are more ‘free-form’ meetings that don’t always conform to a specific agenda. Overall, 1 to 1 talks are meant to address informal topics, for example, career development and growth and potential problems in the organization.


The value of 1:1 as part of an effective management

The biggest value of 1 to 1 talks is creating deeper trust in teams. These meetings are an important time for members of the company to explain their thoughts and feelings about their work and the company as a whole in a safe environment. Therefore, it’s crucial to implement 1 to 1 talks as part of the organization structure if you want better communication and harmony.


In addition to trust-building, 1 to 1 meetings are also a great way to get feedback about the organization and to encourage employees to take risks. The potential return on investment is huge—it just takes some proper planning and dedication of time.


What issues teams can fix in a 1:1 meeting


Here are some common issues in organizations that can be helped with regular 1 to 1 talks:

Poor engagement

One in-depth Gallup survey showed that when team members don’t feel they can trust people in their work environment, they’re rarely going to be engaged at work. Meetings like a 1 to 1 talk are a great (if not the best) way to develop your team and to help them feel more supported. This results in better productivity, a boosted morale, and a team that knows one another better—all of which lead to higher engagement in the company.

Early troubleshooting

A 1 to 1 talk helps managers foresee any potential roadblocks, whether that’s an employee experiencing burnout and leaving, an expensive project not getting completed by the deadline, problems with bottlenecks, or other potential workplace issues. Not only can these meetings improve retention, but they can help you resolve issues before they become larger problems.


Having routine, interpersonal conversations through a 1 to 1 talk helps both individuals know one another better. It encourages better communication, helps both sides get honest feedback, and gives way to more efficient collaboration. 

Create a supportive working environment

When you have trust within the company, employees feel more supported because they are regularly listened to and asked for feedback. This type of employee engagement is essential for facilitating a positive, supportive working environment.

Understanding individual and mutual objectives

For a company to succeed, the company-wide objectives need to match with team objectives. After that, individual objectives should not only fulfill the career paths of different employees but the greater goals of the organization. One to one meetings is one of the best ways to make sure all of these elements line up and show how to correct them if they don’t.



Common mistakes of a 1:1 meeting

Here are some traps you don’t want to fall into when it comes to 1 to 1 talks, and suggestions on how to avoid them:


Micro-managing the 1:1 talk

As supervisors, managers can often make the error of trying to drive and run the meetings when really, it would be beneficial to give employees more control. If you think introducing this strategy to employees might be difficult, you can always help them get started by sharing some parameters and talking points before the meeting. After a point, it will become second nature and will help both sides benefit greater.

Not being fully present

It may seem simple, but it’s so important. During 1 to 1 talks, you have to give the other party your full attention. Put the cell phone away, go to a quiet space, and leave any work distractions at the door so you can be ready to engage and listen. The meeting will never be effective if both sides are not fully present.

Not listening

This goes along with being fully present, but even if you are present, you have to practice active listening. Any manager, and employee, too for that matter should be listening carefully to the feedback they’re receiving. The whole purpose of a 1 to 1 talk is to build trust and for both parties to gain a more intimate understanding of their team.

Avoiding it because you’re remote

Just because you’re part of a remote team doesn’t mean you can’t still have an intimate conversation. When some or all of the team are remote, it’s important to emulate a real-life face-to-face meeting as much as possible. For example, rather than jumping on a phone call, it would be better to chat through video so you can better engage and monitor important nonverbal cues.


Best practices of a 1:1 meeting

Here are some tips for facilitating good 1 to 1 talks in your team or organization:

Come up with a list of questions beforehand


To make the most of your time, it could be helpful to come prepared with a list of open-ended questions. These can sound like:


  • What are some important items we should discuss today?
  • Are you currently experiencing any big roadblocks?
  • What do you feel excited about most right now and why?
  • Do you have suggestions for improvement on how we work together?
  • Do you have career goals you want to discuss?


Think of 1 to 1 talks as a relationship-building exercise. Both sides are there to be more open, and the conversation should flow in a way that feels natural to both people.


Develop a routine


While this style of meeting is supposed to be informal, the scheduling of it does not have to be. In fact, it would be better to have set times that managers can speak with each employee so team members can prepare and know when to expect it.


The time of day, length of the meeting, and frequency of your 1 to 1 talks with team members is completely up to you and the way your team functions. Any way you do it, be sure to keep it consistent across the board.


At first, prioritizing these meetings may be hard, but once managers and team members begin seeing the value, it will be easier to fall into a routine. Eventually, 1 to 1 talks will feel like a natural discussion on feedback and development.


Take notes


Once you have a routine down for 1 to 1 talks, you can add another element: taking notes. This will be a useful habit where you write down valuable points during the meeting (so you don’t forget them later). Keeping a record of things said is a good way to ensure nothing gets overlooked, and a good way to look back and see how much progress was made. 


A good extra practice you can try is summarizing the biggest takeaways at the end of a meeting and sharing them with the other party to make sure you’re both on the same page.


Ask for feedback


It can be daunting, but regularly asking for feedback is an essential part of a 1 to 1 talk. Many people may be tempted to avoid asking for feedback for fear it will be negative, but that means they also can’t receive any positive feedback. 


Try asking in the 1 to 1 talk how valuable the other person finds the meetings and what could be improved. It’s important to get to a certain level of comfort to make room for improvement and more trust. 

Keep it informal


This can mean different things to each group. Having the meeting in a separate room in the office may be just what is needed for the meeting to be effective, but there are also other ways to keep a 1 to 1 meeting informal. You could meet somewhere for breakfast, go for a walk, or even go get coffee together. 

Branch out


To get more value from 1 to 1 talks, encourage team members to have them with each other. This has the potential to bring openness and trust to a whole new level in the organization. It can help strengthen workplace relationships and create a naturally supportive environment.


If you feel inspired by this article and want to start implementing 1 to 1 talks as part of your organization, we have the tools you need to get started. We have available free templates and conversation helpers specifically for 1 to 1 talks that you can find here


If you want to start getting better feedback and assistance with performance management, our software can help revamp your current management system by automating the whole process (which means time saved for you!). See all the benefits you can get with our tool for the best 1:1 meetings.


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Build trust and develop your relations with 1:1 Talks

Keep your team motivated and engaged, give attention, encouragment and appreciation. 1-1 meeting is a good place for coaching, mentorship, giving context, or even venting.

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