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Feedback Culture

How to Get 1-on-1s Right to Cultivate Employee Engagement

November 8, 2021
5 minute
Emily Vo

Emily Vo

Growth Hacker
a guy pointing to a screenshot of his employee's personal development plan
January 2, 2022
Feedback Culture

How to Get 1-on-1s Right to Cultivate Employee Engagement

5 minute
Emily Vo

While one-on-one meetings between managers and employees are often overlooked due to time constraints, they are a crucial part of navigating a successful enterprise. Holding regular meetings with employees not only makes them feel valued and supported but also is a great opportunity for improving relationships. With this in mind, here are a few tips on how to structure one-on-ones and use them to improve team performance and morale.

How to Prepare for a 1-on-1?

Whether you are dealing with in-office or remote employees, 1ons1 meetings can be a game-changer. Nevertheless, it pays to do a little homework before each meeting to make the most of the allocated time.

1. Set a schedule

To be effective and build employee loyalty, one-on-ones need to be held on a regular basis. As such, it is best to set aside recurring meeting time slots in your calendar. Mostly, this is done by the employees, but as the manager, you can suggest a suitable time that fit for both. If your schedule happens to change, reschedule — rather than cancel the meeting to show the employee that you are invested in their development and well-being at the company. The frequency of one-on-one meetings should depend on the size of the company and the team, as well as the experience of the employee in question.

The best practice is booking a 1-on-1 meeting while setting the growth plan. In Talbit, we offer the users to add 1-on-1s at the last step of their growth plan creation. Hence, with the coaching feature, the users can invite a specific coach to support their growth and all memos are stored after the discussion for future reflection.

2. Prepare a list of talking point

Never arrive at a meeting unprepared. It's important to know what you will discuss in advance and to host effective one-on-ones, you need to show that you understand what your team is going through. As such, checking employees' 1-on-1 discussion note and creating a list of the most pressing talking points is a good start to promoting effective communication. Think about a plan for the employee you are about to meet — for example, what challenges are they facing and how these could be resolved?

If you're not sure what to cover, always check the memo from previous discussion to see if the employee makes any progress and if they have time to work on what they want to achieve. There are tools available in Talbit that can integrate to your employee performance review process, allowing you to roll out 1-on-1 discussion for employees to fill in before the meeting and serve as a note for your conversation. In addition, some other common agenda topics include:

  • How clear are company and team goals for you?
  • Work habit and development progress
  • Personal development goal and plan
  • Team collaboration
  • Level of engagement
  • Feedback for management

3. Cultivate a flexible mindset

Regardless of the situation and the employee’s performance, it is important to come to the table with an open mind. After all, great managers are there to support the employees rather than supervise their every move. While setting a meeting agenda, it is important to keep things flexible in case new issues emerge during the discussion. 

4. Set a collaborative space

Since one-on-ones should be a collaborative effort, it is important to set up a shared space where both the manager and the employee can raise topics for discussion. This will ensure that nothing important is missed during meeting and that all manager and employee concerns are aired. Hence, it is a great practice to build an openness workplace as well as showing that the company values their people and employees' voice does matter.

4 tips to run 1-on-1 effectively

Since time is priceless, it is in both the manager’s and employee’s best interest to make the most of one-on-one meetings. Luckily, there are certain steps manager scan take to ensure that their meetings with employees achieve the desired results. 

1. Start with a check-in

Open the meeting with a quick summary of your own progress before asking your employee how they are feeling about their achievements. This is a great way of building trust and cultivating feedback culture. At this point, you can also go over the objectives set at the last meeting. Do not forget to compliment the employee on a job well done if this is warranted — if possible, have a few examples of the times when the employee utilized their skills to excel at a task. Employees feel more satisfied and are likely to engage at work if their efforts, abilities and contributions are recognized and appreciated.

2. Listen actively

Being fully present during a one-on-one ensures that both parties make the most of their time with each other. It also shows the employee that they are valued and promotes a culture of respect. In addition, listening to employee feedback helps managers gain a better understanding of the issues at hand and formulate effective solutions. The best practice is applying the 90/10 leadership principle, talk 10% and listen 90%. Remember that effective communication is about more than just paying attention. It is also about maintaining eye contact and asking relevant questions. 

3. Get personal

While this is not always appropriate, sometimes sharing a personal anecdote with an employee can help them open up during a meeting. It can also be a great way of suggesting a solution to a problem without sounding condescending. For example, sharing your experience of a challenging situation can help an employee find an answer to a comparable problem.

4. Close on a positive note

Before ending the meeting reiterate action items and timelines to help the employee stay focused on common goals. Also, if appropriate, thank your employee for a job well done or express your confidence that they can reach the set goals. And since one-on-ones are most effective when they are consistent, do not forget to schedule the next meeting. After all, business success usually depends on building positive and mutually beneficial relationships with your employees.


There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to performance review process or 1-on-1 meetings. However, one thing we know for sure is 1-on-1s are great tool for enabling employees learning and development as well as enhancing relationship between managers and their team. These sessions help managers to understand their employee's development needs, check in on productivity and provide sufficient supports when needed. Once you learn how to conduct them properly, 1-on-1 will become more easier and your team will feel more engaged and valued than ever.

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