The best managers have many tools on their belts for helping their team members succeed and thrive in the workplace. One of these tools is the one-to-one (1:1) meeting which, when done properly, can unlock deep insights into how employees are both performing and feeling. According to Gallup, 1:1 meetings and other performance management processes between employees and managers can help to triple employee engagement.
What should be a relatively straightforward occurrence, however, can seem daunting for individuals taking their first steps into the world of people management. One of the biggest challenges faced by new managers who are tasked with 1:1s is knowing which questions to ask and what the right ones are.
Indeed, most managers who are new to 1:1s might be asking themselves questions like: How frequently should I hold 1:1s? What should I ask them? Are personal questions off-limits? Should I set the full agenda or let my team members lead? How should I structure them?
If you feel like you resonate with what we’re saying, you want to ensure that you’re walking into your 1:1s with the right questions, and perhaps even the right template, to improve employee engagement and performance.
Structuring Your 1:1 Meetings
One issue that comes up time and time again with 1:1s is either too much or too little structure. Although it’s difficult to strike the perfect balance, managers should be mindful not to edge too close to either extreme.
For instance, if you’re finding that your 1:1s are touching on the same subjects and asking the same questions each time, they’re probably too structured. If on the other hand you’re struggling to make full use of the time, they’re probably not structured enough.
As for time between 1:1s, don’t leave it too long. Two-to-four weeks between meetings is a good rule of thumb for ‘checking in’, with more formal 1:1s scheduled for every month for new employees and every quarter for more tenured team members.
The Best Questions to Ask During 1:1s
If you’re ready to take your 1:1s to the next level, here are 20 strong questions that will help management measure and assess employee performance and help people feel supported both personally and professionally as they progress through their careers.
You can begin 1:1s with general check-in questions that give you an idea of how your employee is doing personally. These can be useful for providing context for how to proceed and are important to ask every time because they help you understand how people are doing in terms of work-life balance and well-being.
- How are things today?
- What’s on your mind this week?
- Last time we spoke you mentioned X, how is that going now?
- What are your main priorities this week?
These questions can be used to discuss an employee’s company confidence and how connected or aligned an individual feels to the organization.
- Do you have any questions about the recent change involving X?
- Do you feel the company is going in the right direction?
- How aligned do you feel with the company’s current goals?
- Do you have any concerns about the company on the whole?
It’s essential to know how your team members feel in terms of their growth and progression. This usually relates to what they’re doing on the job and whether they’re feeling a sense of belonging, achievement, and progress in their career.
- What has challenged you recently?
- What’s one thing that you learned this week?
- Do you feel confident in your own and your team’s progress?
- How do you feel you are progressing towards your goals?
Interpersonal interactions are often left off the agenda when it comes to 1:1s, but they can have a huge impact on someone’s experience on the job. Asking these questions gives managers a great opportunity to coach their team members when it comes to work-based relationships.
- How is everything going with the people on your team?
- Are there any interactions you want to talk about?
- Do you have any concerns for yourself or for your colleagues?
- Do you have any other feedback for me?
Ending your 1:1 on an actionable, open question helps to nurture the feedback loop and give you a launching point for next time.
- What goals do you want to achieve in the short term?
- What are you committing to between now and next time?
- Is there anything keeping you up at night that I can help with
- Is there anything that you’d like to discuss next time we meet?
Using 1:1 Meetings for Employee Performance Management
Managers that lead the most high-performing teams are the ones who spend the most time openly communicating, asking the right questions, and helping them produce their best work.
Since managers are the ones who are responsible for truly fostering engagement and trust among employees, it’s important that the performance management process that you’re following enables them to create positive connections as often as possible.
By taking inspiration from the above 1:1 questions and adding them to your regular check-in workflows alongside other key questions, you’ll find it easier to do just that.
When managers ask the right questions at the right time and show more of a commitment toward team development, they encourage honest and open two-way conversations around important topics such as personal and professional goals. As a result, employees will feel more supported and have higher levels of engagement, both during 1:1s and during their day-to-day.