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Many people associate workplace one-on-one meetings with criticism from managers and grievances from employees. This may be true in some organizations, but smart companies use regularly scheduled one-on-ones to build trust and rapport between management and employees. With workforce management systems automating many office operations, it’s more important than ever for managers to schedule time for individual check-in meetings with their direct reports.

Meeting in Real Life 

In today’s digital workplace, most communication takes place via email, text, and phone, while workforce management systems handle attendance, scheduling, and other routine tasks. This makes face-to-face contact between managers and their teams more important than ever. This is especially true if team members are in another location. According to a survey of 15,000 professionals conducted by Reclaim, about 85 percent of one-on-one meetings were remote in 2020 and 2021. That trend may continue as more organizations adopt a remote or hybrid work model.

One-on-one meetings are so valuable because they allow managers and team members to communicate frequently and openly, leading to increased transparency. They are a place for respectful mutual feedback that makes everyone feel more engaged at work. 

According to Elizabeth Grace Saunders, author of How to Invest Your Time Like Money, “One-on-ones are one of the most important productivity tools you have as a manager. They are where you can ask strategic questions such as, are we focused on the right things? And from a rapport point of view, they are how you show employees that you value them and care about them.”

Give One-on-Ones Your Full Attention

One-on-one meetings should be more than check-the-box exercises. Although managers and team members should prepare for one-on-one meetings, the primary responsibility for guiding the meeting is with the manager. Sending a short agenda beforehand will help the team member feel relaxed. During the meeting, avoid interruptions and distractions. Focus on the person you’re meeting with and try to get as much out of the meeting as possible.

The Structure of One-on-One Meetings

There is no standard way to conduct a one-on-one meeting between a manager and a direct report. These are some agenda items you might include:

  • Exchanging ideas and information
  • Rewarding good performance 
  • Providing constructive feedback
  • Addressing issues and obstructions
  • Planning career development
  • Discussing growth opportunities
  • Sharing personal information like hobbies and vacation destinations to build rapport

A one-on-one meeting should be more than an employee progress report. Workforce management software can gather that information for discussion in a team meeting. This leaves time in the one-on-one for discussions that strengthen the bond between manager and employee.

How Often to Schedule One-on-Ones

The size of a manager’s team and a team’s collective workload will often determine the frequency of one-on-one meetings. Weekly meetings are great but may not be possible with a large team or tight schedule. Bi-weekly or monthly meetings are a better choice for some teams. 

After agreeing on a meeting schedule, it’s important for both parties to make time for the one-on-one and give it a priority. Managers should avoid canceling since it can send the message that the meeting isn’t as important as daily tasks.

Benefits of One-on-One Meetings

Regular one-on-one meetings help build workplace relationships that are based on trust and shared goals. When a good relationship already exists between two people, it can be easier to give and receive constructive criticism. Managers who give challenging feedback for the first time during a performance should expect to be met with hostility or hurt feelings. With earlier feedback given in a less formal setting, there’s time for improvement before the review.

Two-way feedback means managers listen to complaints and suggestions with an open mind. Team members who feel they can discuss their concerns without fear of retribution are more likely to stay engaged and satisfied with their jobs, especially when they know they can trust their manager to follow through on promises made in one-on-one discussions.


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