As we recreate our work lives via Zoom and Slack messages – and attempt to maintain a semblance of work-life balance – it’s easy to forget the importance of regular connections with our coworkers.
Enter the humble 1:1. If a company’s most valuable asset is its people, then one of the most important things a company can do is to support effective, productive 1:1s. Manager-employee 1:1s are particularly important in driving engagement, motivation and productivity — all the buzzwords that translate into high-performing teams. When 1:1s go badly, or are ignored, they can tank a team’s morale and effectiveness.
Yes, we all are overscheduled and fatigued by video calls, and yes, we should always ask ourselves if we truly need a meeting. But the benefits are real: employees who have regular 1:1s with their managers are almost 3x more engaged than those without them. It’s up to everyone – managers, HR leaders, and team members – to make the 1:1s count.
In Search of Better 1:1s
One of the most valuable functionalities for me in Reflektive’s 1:1 tool is our Conversation Starters. These pre-seeded questions support managers and employees in a variety of ways. They:
- Help drive meaningful dialogue on key priorities and projects
- Help employees take ownership of their development
- Help better support teams as we work remotely
With a couple clicks, I can browse meaningful topics such as “Career”, “Coaching”, and “Working Remotely” and find thought-provoking questions to add to my 1:1. My colleagues are notified via Slack when I add a new topic, giving them a head’s up so they have an opportunity to prep for the discussion.
What’s New: Reflektive 1:1s
That’s why I’m so excited about our new enhancements to Conversation Starters, designed to drive more personalization and better, targeted quality conversations.
Now, Reflektive admins can create, edit, manage, and target Conversation Starter templates for their workforce. HR teams can build templates for employees in certain locations, departments, and roles. They can even build options for managers or direct reports.
Creating a New Conversation Starter Template
Managers and employees are still empowered to select Conversation Starters for their 1:1s, but they’ll have more relevant options to choose from. Reflektive customers have built templates for everything from project status updates to check-ins to development conversations based on job level.
To help HR teams and leaders understand the conversations happening in their organization, we have also enhanced our reporting and analytics for one-on-one conversations. HR Admins can now more easily view breakdowns on:
- Conversation Starter categories (e.g., Career, Coaching, Remote Work)
- 1:1 Types (e.g., Manager-Direct Report, Peer-to-Peer)
- Recurring vs. Non-Recurring 1:1s
Exploring one-on-one data
HR teams can look at 1:1 and Conversation Starter data for their entire organization, as well as cut their data by department, location, and manager. One-on-one insights have been highly valuable for Reflektive customers such as technology company Alfresco. Per Brigid MacDonald, Chief People Officer at Alfresco, “We can now see that productive conversations are happening. Managers are accountable for providing feedback and recognition, and employees are empowered to drive their own development. With clarity and ownership, people are more likely to be happy and stay at Alfresco.”
The Top 6 Frequently Asked Questions about One-on-Ones
Thanks to our own research and partnerships with People teams around the world, we’ve gathered best practices to help managers and employees get more value out of their 1:1s.
We recommend a weekly or bi-weekly cadence for manager-employee 1:1 meetings. This frequency is especially beneficial for companies with remote workers, and supports continuous feedback and growth. Employees can ask questions, discuss working relationships with peers, and share concerns or opportunities. It’s great to break up status report-type meetings with more meaty strategic meeting topics.
A meeting length of at least 30 minutes helps ensure that employees can cover key agenda items. At Reflektive, we generally schedule 45-minute conversations so we can go deep on a topic or two as needed.
We believe employees should be empowered to drive their growth and development, so we recommend that they drive their 1:1 agendas. That said, our role as manager is to help guide, and I often add important agenda items, especially when I see good opportunities for coaching and feedback, or sparking development conversations if someone seems ‘stuck’. I’ll also add notes and follow-up to ensure that next steps are actionable.
If there aren’t many agenda items to cover, or if you have a team member who doesn’t feel comfortable initiating, you can take on a larger role in the conversation. For instance, if my direct report is not proactively discussing their development and growth, I’ll add or prompt them to choose conversation topics on careers (e.g., “What skills do you want to learn or develop in the next 3-6 months?”) or working remotely (e.g., “How can I best support you while we work remotely?”).
The below discussion topics can help drive a valuable conversation for your team member:
– Discussion of the employee’s career goals
– Feedback on the employee’s current performance and skills
– Joint brainstorming on how to develop their skills
– A discussion of career opportunities within the organization
Note: We recommend that your check-in or review conversations are standalone — that is, don’t try to cover status updates in these meetings. Performance and developmental conversations deserve the time and space for deep discussion.
I recommend that my team schedules syncs with project team members as needed (including cross-functional peers), and also encourage skip-levels periodically:
– Directors, VPs (e.g., skip level syncs): Based on the team structure and leader’s availability, encourage team members to meet with their director or VP once a quarter, or bi-monthly. This meeting provides an opportunity for the employee to share feedback on what’s going well, and areas of opportunity.
– Peers in the Same Department: Daily team stand-ups are a great way to bring people together while they’re working remotely. We can better coordinate projects, gather status updates, and also get to know each other! If your team is already doing this, peers probably don’t need frequent 1:1s; once per month should suffice. In the absence of team stand-ups, weekly or bi-weekly meetings will help colleagues better align.
– Cross-Functional Peers: There is no one-size-fits-all approach to the right cadence for cross-functional 1:1s. For large, demanding projects, weekly or bi-weekly syncs help employees stay better aligned. For less intensive workstreams, a monthly or quarterly 1:1 cadence is ideal.
Bonus tip: Be present. Nothing is more demoralizing than a meeting with someone who is not paying attention, is multitasking, or hasn’t prepared. The 1:1 is a perfect opportunity to connect, keep each other accountable, celebrate wins, and support each other’s growth.