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One-on-One Meeting Questions to Get the Most Out of Your Employees

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One-on-one meettings are one of the primary ways to evaluate the performance of your employees, make sure they feel good in your company, and help them grow along with it. How to get talks like these right, however? Here are some one-on-one meeting questions that will help you out.

Anyone who has ever worked as a manager knows how important it is to keep in touch with your employees. You need to know about the things they value and like, but also – or maybe even primarily – those that make them unhappy and harm their day-to-day performance. Every little thing matters, mainly if you function in an industry as competitive as, let’s say, IT.

Engaging in one-on-one talks is probably the best way to keep a finger on the proverbial pulse, but such conversations can be carried out in a myriad of different ways. What are the best one-on-one meeting questions to ask in such circumstances? How to properly manage the information about your staff, its skills, and projects? We’ll tell you all about it, but first, let’s go through some basics.

Content:

1. How do you conduct a 1-on-1 meeting? Preparation is the key

2. What do you talk about in a 1-on-1?

3. What are the best one on one meeting questions to ask?

4. Get to know your people at one on ones – it pays off!

How do you conduct a 1-on-1 meeting? Preparation is the key

Before you get to the actual meeting, there are a couple of things you can do to make sure it’ll go as smoothly as it can. 

  • Start with research and re-reading your notes from the previous conversation (assuming you keep notes – you should!).
  • Plan the meeting structure to make time for every important topic, but don’t go too far – remember to leave some leeway (it’s not supposed to be a monologue, after all). 
  • Be sure to share the meeting agenda with the other party, and ask them if there’s anything they’d like to add to it.

Find a good way to manage HR processes

Even the best preparation won’t help you if you can’t keep track of your employees’ goals or miss an important one-on-one conversation because you forgot to schedule it. That is why a good HR system can be so important, especially if your company grows fast, and there are many people you – and other managers – have to talk to.

One-on-one questions for employees Effy

Effy is a very helpful tool in a manager’s arsenal. Image source: Effy.ai.

A solution like Effy – can help you with all that and much more. You can automate many processes (like managing leaves and absences). Effy also helps simplify onboarding and feedback and generally reduce the number of things you and your people have to worry about. The software is highly customizable and integrated with many other popular technologies (like Slack and other messengers), making it a perfect fit for many different companies.

Below, you can find a summary of Effy’s most important features and functions – along with the business value they can bring.

Effy features Business value
Surveys An easy, fast, and automated way to check what your employees think, with additional tools that help you interpret the data and keep a finger on the pulse
Performance reviews
& feedback
Automated review cycles help you save time. Reminders ensure you – or your managers – will never miss an important feedback meeting. Many customization options ensure you can adapt the system to your company’s culture and your particular needs
Employee profiles All the critical employee information is in one place – entirely digitized, easy to access and manage
Goals Transparent way to set and track goals for your employees and teams
Integration with
communicators
Effy can be fully integrated with popular work communicators, such as Slack and Microsoft Teams, allowing the use of many functionalities (such as surveys, for example) through them
Security Sensitive information – like the salary files or personal details of employees – can only be accessed by people with the right clearance


If you want to give Effy a try, sign up by clicking here!

What do you talk about in a 1-on-1?

One-on-one meetings shouldn’t be treated as boring, run-of-the-mill “corporate” conversations that “you just have to get through.” Sure, several topics have to be brought up during such talks, but you should also find some time for small talk and personal matters. Balance is the key here. Here’s what you should talk about during a 1-on-1 meeting.

Small talk and general questions

Regarding one on one meeting questions, this is usually what the conversation starts – and sometimes ends – with. You should open it with a greeting and some general check-in questions. If there’s time, however, and all the essential things have been discussed, you can talk about pretty much anything (within reasonable bounds, of course): kids, animals, hobbies, movies, and so on.

While it may seem like a waste of time at first, talks like these will allow you to get to know the person a little bit better and can have a very positive impact on your relationship. This, in turn, affects their motivation to work. You know, “people leave their bosses, not their jobs” – as the saying goes – but more on that later.

Once the necessary parts are over, it may also be a good idea to allow the employee to direct the conversation a bit. Remember that, while you most probably have many conversations like this, they only have them with you. In a way, it’s their moment, their time – so let them speak their mind and see what’ll come up. Of course, if you regularly catch up during day-to-day work, it may not be that important, but still – keep it in mind.

Evaluation, feedback and challenges

This is, obviously, the “meat of the matter.” Evaluating a given employee’s work and progress is usually one of the most important reasons for the entire conversation. You should do what you can to keep things professional and friendly.

Start with the good things, then mention problems and flaws as you go on – but don’t just point them out. Instead, try to give the employee some guidance to point them in the direction of a solution (and if you’re unsure how to boost employee performance, check out our article on the subject). Explain your objections and tell them what they can do to deal with these problems.

In this part of the conversation (in all of them, really, but this one most of all), however, information needs to flow both ways. Questions that let you receive feedback – to check how you are perceived by people who work with/for you are equally important. This is also the moment where challenges should be brought up. Learn what your employee struggles with, encourage them to talk about roadblocks and problems.

Ideally, when the meeting is over, both sides should have a clear idea of what’s expected of them – what worked well, which areas still need improvement, and how to achieve a better result.

Career aspirations and possibilities

When it comes to professional life, no one likes to get stuck in one place for too long. We all desire a career that gives us room for growth and value companies that provide such an environment. On the other hand, the absence of development opportunities is one of the chief reasons for feeling dissatisfied with your job. This is why career aspirations and advancement opportunities will always be an important topic of discussion during one on one meetings.

The important thing here is to not only hear what the employee has to say but also relay to them – as honestly as possible – what professional development opportunities the company can offer in this regard at a given point in time (and, depending on the details, maybe also how the situation might change in the coming months or years).

It’s worth noting that growth doesn’t have to be synonymous with promotion. Some other avenues and options can be explored – such as courses, certificates, or even the possibility to build your own brand/name in the industry. These are topics that can be brought up during one on one. 

Communication and relationships with co-workers

Another critical topic is communication between the employee and other team members. If any problems need to be dealt with or misunderstandings that should be explained so that they don’t have a negative impact on the company, this is the moment to address them (of course, some issues are best dealt with during team meetings). If there isn’t anything like that, you can use this time to ask the employee if there’s anything that they’d change in the organization’s communication.

Well-being, motivation and possible ways to boost it

We all know that motivation is very important in the workplace. It can be the difference between a good company and a great one, and the lack of it can lead to stagnation, which is never a good scenario. This is why it’s good to keep track of how well your people are motivated to do their jobs the best they can, and maybe look for some ways to boost that motivation if it turns out there’s a problem. This part of the discussion can often lead to questions about a raise, but not always – money is usually a great motivator, but it’s not the only one for sure. There are other ways to improve motivation and engagement.

You should also take time to check how your employees feel at the place they’re at right now – and if they aren't alright, ask why that is and what you can do to change that.

Alignment with the company – or lack of it

Finally, you can also ask some questions concerning the alignment of a given employee’s values with those of the company – and whether they’ve changed in any capacity since the last conversation of this kind. If that’s the case, how (if at all) will it affect that person’s approach to the organization? 1-on-1 talks are a great way to judge how members of the team perceive your company.

What are the best one on one meeting questions to ask?

Now that we covered the most important topics, let’s go over some examples on one on one meeting questions you can ask your employee during such a meeting. We’ll divide them into several categories to easily fit them into corresponding stages of the conversation. Of course, these aren’t set in stone, so feel free to experiment!

General and small talk one on one meeting questions:

  1. How is everything going today?
  2. How’s the week?
  3. How’s the family?
  4. Remember that challenge we spoke about last time? Any progress?
  5. What are your plans for the weekend?
  6. What have you been up to lately, outside of work?
  7. Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?

Evaluation, feedback and work-related questions:

  1. What do you like about my management style? What do you dislike?
  2. What can I do to improve?
  3. Do you think I’m engaged in the day-to-day affairs of the team?
  4. Is there anything you need help with right now?
  5. What is the (work-related) thing you are proud of the most right now?
  6. What do you consider to be your biggest failure?
  7. What was the biggest challenge?
  8. Am I giving you enough feedback?
  9. Do you feel you're receiving constructive feedback?
  10. Is there anything team-related I should know about?
  11. Do you think your team should be bigger? 
  12. What kind of a person is needed the most right now?
  13. Is there anything that I promised you and haven’t delivered yet?
  14. Is there anything you consider a roadblock? What is it?
  15. Is there anything your past managers did better than me?

One on one meeting questions about career growth and aspirations:

  1. How do you envision yourself in a year? What about five years?
  2. Do you feel accomplished at our company? Do you feel proud of your work?
  3. What have you learned since we last spoke? Does it help you?
  4. What are the new skills you’d like to learn?
  5. Are you satisfied with the position you’re in right now?
  6. Do you think the company gives you room for career development?
  7. How are your long-term career goals progressing?

Communication-related questions:

  1. Are you aware of what your team members are working on right now?
  2. Are there any conflicts I should be aware of?
  3. Is there anything I can do to make communication smoother?
  4. Are you aware of the company’s strategy and goals for the next six months?
  5. Do you feel you have enough freedom and independence?
  6. What do you think we could do to improve in-team and cross-functional collaboration in the company?
  7. Is there anything you'd like to change during future meetings like this one?

One on one meeting questions about motivation and well-being:

  1. Is there anything that could change at work to improve your personal life?
  2. Are there any interactions you would like to speak about?
  3. Is there someone who deserves recognition but hasn’t received it?
  4. Is the work environment productive? Do you need something more that we can provide?
  5. One is the one thing you’d change at the company if you could?
  6. How do you feel about your current work-life balance?
  7. How would an ideal workday look like?
  8. What’s the part of your work that you dislike the most?
  9. What’s the best part of your work?

Questions about alignment with company values:

  1. Do you know what the company stands for?
  2. Do you agree with the company values? Do you feel we’re staying true to them?
  3. Are you sure you know where the company’s going?
  4. Is there something in the company values/policy you’d like to change?
  5. Do you understand why the recent changes (for example, firing a manager or a team member) were made?

Get to know your people at one on ones – it pays off!

One-on-one meetings are a great way to keep in touch with your team and build rapport and understanding between managers and employees, improving employee retention. You can learn of your team member's problems and joys, evaluate their performance (possibly also use this time to give them some guidance, if you find it is lacking), and get in front of any possible crises that may be coming your way. 

Most importantly, however, you can get to know them as real people and let them see you the same way – it’s something that can have tremendous value, though, of course, that’ll depend on your managerial style. 

A set of ready-to-go questions can certainly make things easier, but keeping everything tidy thanks to a well-functioning HR system is equally important. This is where Effy will come in handy. The more your company grows, the more a solution like this will seem like a necessity, and it’s best to integrate it into your organization sooner rather than later – the benefits far outweigh the costs – and HR is too important of an area to ignore. Give it a try!





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