Key Tips for Getting the Most Out of 1-on-1 Talks

1:1 talks

Key Tips for Getting the Most Out of 1-on-1 Talks

04 Mar, 2020

You’ve probably heard about the benefits of 1-on-1 talks and why they’re crucial to employee engagement and productivity. Indeed, we’ve covered this topic in the past but now we’re going to dig a little deeper into best practices for conducting effective 1-on-1 talks in your organization. 


If you’re still experiencing confusion in your company on how 1-on-1 talks should be conducted, if you’re looking for ways to improve the review process, or if the relationships between managers and reports in your company could improve, this article will be helpful. 

Why 1-on-1 talks are so important

As a review, we want to touch on why 1-on-1 talks are so important for productivity and the profitability of your organization. Some of the biggest benefits of 1-on-1 talks are:


  • Strengthening bonds between managers and team members
  • Helping identify small problems and solve them before they become big problems
  • Providing an informal, more frequent way to facilitate performance check-ins
  • Helping promote greater trust between team members in the workplace
  • Creating a safer environment where people feel comfortable sharing thoughts and collaborating
  • Allowing managers to develop better mentorship and coaching skills
  • Gathering important information and giving and receiving helpful feedback


Bear in mind that 1-on-1 talks can be conducted in many ways (they are supposed to be flexible, after all) but in short, it is an intimate meeting between a leader and each of their direct reports.

9 Tips/Best Practices for Success:

Now that you’ve been refreshed on why 1-on-1 talks are so beneficial, let’s explore some targeted tips for getting the most out of 1-on-1 talks in your company:


1. Change up the environment

Conference rooms and small meeting rooms can feel suffocating. To help both the manager and employee become more relaxed, try leaving the office environment, if not each time, at least once after a few 1-on-1 talks. 


Go grab lunch, have coffee, take a walk together outside (especially when the weather permits!) or another setting that helps the 1 to 1 talk feel more casual. 

2. Schedule 1-on-1 talks regularly

To produce any real results from 1-on-1 talks, they need to happen regularly. This is so that appropriate data and information can be gathered over time to see meaningful progress. When meetings are set sporadically, it doesn’t give you a reliable source of information to refer to for performance reviews (and looking at company output!). Whether the talks are scheduled once a week, bi-weekly, or once a month (though we personally recommend once a week), make sure to have regular times for having these discussions are established. Otherwise, employee check-ins may become less of a priority and could negatively impact the business in the long run.


Try adding 1-on-1 talks as a recurring meeting on both the manager and employee’s calendar to help ensure the talks are followed through each time.

3. Bypass status updates

Remember that 1-on-1 talks are about building trust and discussing larger, more objective issues rather than going down a laundry list of updates. For quick status checks on work items, those conversations need to take place elsewhere. This could be during a daily team update, via email, chat, or other types of communication. 


When small daily tasks start to usurp the 1-on-1 talk, it becomes harder to discuss long-term goals and the more human aspects of work. This is a precious time for growth and bonding, so make sure there are alternative ways to check in on work projects.

4. Always come prepared

While the structure of 1-on-1 talks is meant to be informal, they still require an organized approach. Both the manager and the employee should come prepared with items they want to talk about or follow up on from previous talks. It is helpful to keep lists of discussion topics. That way, nothing is forgotten or overlooked in the interview.


If you are unsure of what to discuss, try using one of our free templates which offers topics of discussion (and questions) in different areas. It helps you form questions in regard to employee health to salary review to engagement and more.

5. Set the agenda

Similar to coming to the 1-on-1 talk prepared, try establishing what the agenda will be before the talk takes place. This can be decided leading up to the next 1-on-1 talk, or during the previous 1-on-1 talk session. Some good items to consider setting for the “agenda” are:


  • Career & growth goals (personal development, training, etc.)
  • Personal topics (stress at home, family death, sickness, etc.)
  • Team management and improvement (issues with collaboration and/or coworkers, etc.)


The key is to keep agenda items quite general so that there’s still room for flexibility. Deciding on these topics before the 1-on-1 talk also helps both sides prepare more mindfully.

6. Keep it agile

Due to the nature of 1-on-1 talks, the plan should be to keep meetings collaborative and open. While there is certainly a preparation and agenda-setting element to these meetings, it’s important to not go overboard and try fitting too many discussion items in the meeting. Doing this can cause managers and employees to rush through—ticking off boxes instead of slowing down to have a meaningful conversation, which is the whole point of 1-on-1 talks. 

7. Listen and be open to feedback

During a 1-on-1 talk, managers should be doing more of the listening than the talking. As a manager, be sure to take into account the way employees respond to certain questions and the feedback they give. This shows you value an employee’s opinion and recognize their feedback as highly useful. Listening intently and not just saying “I understand” but taking direct action on top of listening makes the team better, helps the organization improve, and helps employees feel more open with managers and engaged overall in their jobs.

8. Keep records and take notes

Both the employee and manager should make efforts to take notes, and if possible, store key takeaways from the meeting in a safe place (the right software can make this process easy) so that information can be pulled up in later meetings when needed. 


With Heartpace, 1-on-1 talks are made even more effective because it allows managers to access 1-on-1 talk history, access saved summaries, and look at previous meeting agendas and templates used. 


Note-taking and record keeping are an essential part of 1 to 1 talks so that no information or mark of progress is forgotten. Having the right tool at the helm will make 1 to 1 talks much more impactful to the organization and the individual employees.

9. Positioning matters

Body positioning is so simple but has a tremendous impact on these talks. Where and how both individuals sit during a 1 to 1 talk matters. Try to avoid sitting across from one another interview-style, as this can heighten stress and pressure. Try sitting at a 45-degree angle from one another to make the atmosphere feel more informal and relaxed.


How Heartpace can help

If you want to create a new or build upon a more feedback-driven work culture, Heartpace can help. Our software has specific templates for 1 to 1 talks to make them more successful and our module dedicated to performance management will help keep a record of these discussions for better progress overview.


Inquire with us today and book a demo to test how our software could work for your organization.

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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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