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One on one meetings: Leverage this talent retention strategy and create a culture of communication


One-on-one meetings are a healthy addition to any company culture. They’re an opportunity to discuss career growth, positive and negative feedback, and status updates. 

These meetings show employees they’re valued, help address key concerns, and build strong working relationships. 

When you don’t have a regular cadence with your employees, small problems can go unsolved, workplace conflict can snowball, and toxic behavior can go unchecked.

Neglecting regular one-on-ones can lead to burnout, quiet quitting, and turnover.

Dedicating your company to one-on-one meetings has a noticeable effect on your management style. 

These meetings are a talent retention strategy that improves job satisfaction, wellbeing, and engagement. 

They also boost the leadership and communication skills of managers, giving them a better grasp of performance management.

This guide describes the benefits of building a culture of regular one-on-one meetings and the top strategies to conduct them well.

What is a one on one meeting?

One-on-one meetings are private meetings between two people in a company, typically a manager and an employee. 

They’re an opportunity to touch base with mentors, check the progress of projects, discuss professional development on a personal level, and resolve issues.

One to one meeting or one on one meeting? They’re both correct and refer to a private meeting between two people in an organization.

There are a variety of one-on-one meetings. There can be different cadences, including weekly or monthly, and there are also one-on-ones with a specific intention, such as stay interviews.

Stay interviews are one-on-one meetings that aim to discover the employee’s satisfaction, giving the organization crucial retention data. They also help you identify employee flight risk.

Although there are many variations, one-on-one meetings enable employers to have discussions at regular intervals, like weekly meetings, with their employees. 

The connection from these meetings helps you leverage certain talent retention trends, like offering flexible work and maintaining employee engagement.

What is the purpose of a one on one meeting?

One-on-one meetings help managers connect with their teams and deal with action items to improve their performance. 

These meetings enable managers and their direct reports to ask questions and give feedback, particularly for topics that they would rather discuss in private.

Another purpose of one-on-one meetings is to offer a space for employees to discuss roadblocks. 

Employees may not feel comfortable discussing these in a group setting – the challenges may even relate to the behavior of their colleagues.

A thorough one on one meeting agenda usually also includes opportunities for getting to know each other personally.

Here are the top reasons why HR managers conduct one-on-one meetings:

  1. 70.4% use them for understanding and eliminating roadblocks

  2. 60.7% use them for pulse checks (i.e., Are employees happy, engaged, or upset?)

  3. 53.6% used them for project status updates[1]

The main purpose of one-on-one meetings chart

The primary reason for one-on-one meetings is reducing employee roadblocks, but many address happiness and engagement.

Setting aside dedicated time for employee pulse checks is a great way to build a healthy, inclusive culture. It shows each team member that you accept, hear, and see them.

Why are one on one meetings important?

It's common practice for a manager to hold a one on one meeting with employees. One study found that 94% of managers have one-on-ones with their people, which means only 6% of managers don’t leverage these meetings.[1]

Regular 1 on 1 meetings are much more than quick project updates. These meetings enable managers to connect with their employees and nurture their growth.

In the modern working world, employee wellbeing is increasingly important. Employees want to speak their piece, give feedback, and receive guidance.

They also want an employer who shows a genuine interest in them, making them feel valued.

Showing employees they’re valued increases their satisfaction and engagement and helps increase your corporate reputation.

Let’s go a little further into the importance of 1 to 1 meetings for employers:

  • Help catch problems and workplace conflict: Personal meetings with team members help deal with workplace conflict before it’s a major issue.

  • Provide employees with guidance on their career growth: One-on-one meetings let you provide employees with regular constructive feedback to help them improve their performance.

  • Build meaningful relationships: Connecting personally and helping employees develop builds better working relationships.

  • Increase the managers’ communication and leadership skills: The more 1:2:1 meetings managers have, the more they hone their people skills, enabling them to spot issues and disarm conflict more easily.

Frequent one-on-one meetings build a strong workforce and nurture your managers’ continued growth and leadership skills.

A regular one on one meeting with managers also holds a lot of importance for employees because it provides them with essential guidance for career success. 

Employee coaching helps workers improve their performance, and when you give it regularly, you can reinforce or redirect their behavior when it’s still fresh in their minds.

These meetings also give employees a voice, improving mental health in the workplace.

The benefits of one on one meetings

Creating a culture of frequent one-on-one meetings is worth the investment.

They’re a simple but powerful tactic – implementing regular one-on-one meetings is a strategy that engages your workforce, increases retention, and improves performance.

Increase employee retention and satisfaction

One-on-one meetings help build better relationships between managers and employees. Touching base and discussing personal matters helps build a solid foundation of trust.

It shows employees that their managers care about them. Employees who believe their companies care about their wellbeing are:

  • 69% less likely to actively search for a new job

  • Five times more likely to strongly agree they trust the leadership of their organization

  • Five times more likely to strongly recommend their company as a place to work[2]

A genuine interest in your employees can reduce your employee turnover rate and increase referrals.

A separate study found that employees with partner relationships with their managers, instead of traditional top-down relationships, have greater life satisfaction. 

The study defines a “partner boss” as a leader who recognizes wins, respects their employees’ time, and openly displays empathy.

Boost employee engagement

Discussing career growth connects people to their work. It motivates them to do their best because they can connect their job with real meaning.

Front, a customer operations platform, and one of our examples below found that after regular one-on-one meetings, 93% of its team knows how their work contributes to the company’s overall success.

One-on-one meetings also boost engagement by facilitating a deep connection between employees and managers and improving the employee experience.

When employees believe a company cares about them, they are:

  1. 71% less likely to report experiencing a lot of burnout

  2. Three times more likely to be engaged at work[2]

One study found that only 15% of employees of managers who don’t regularly meet with them were engaged. On the other hand, engagement levels triple for managers who regularly meet with their employees.

Provide an opportunity for employee feedback and upward feedback

One-on-one meetings help nurture a culture of employee recognition and feedback, essential for a progressive workplace.

A study found that a culture of feedback helps spur employee growth. People need frequent recognition and review to properly develop. The study claimed that a “culture of feedback” includes:

  • Peer feedback

  • Employee feedback

  • Frequent check-ins

Another key component in a culture of feedback is upward feedback, the concept of employees giving feedback to their managers.

Enabling employees to give feedback to senior roles helps build your organization and boosts productivity. One study found that employees who feel like their voices are being heard are 4.6 times more likely to perform their best work.

Improve employee performance

One-on-one meetings tell employees they’re important. When managers take time to speak to their team, it tells workers that they aren’t just a cog in the machine.

A study found that 93% of employees who feel valued are motivated to produce their best work.

What leads to feeling “undervalued?” Here are a few points:

  1. Few involvements in decision-making

  2. No non-monetary rewards

  3. Lack of satisfaction with growth opportunities

You can address all of these points in one-on-one meetings. Private meetings enable managers to give employees recognition, ask for their opinions on important decisions, and help them identify upskilling opportunities.

9 best practices for leveraging 1:1 meetings to retain your best performers

Regular one-on-one meetings are impressive – impacting retention, skills development, and strong working relationships.

You can reap these benefits with the right strategies, so let’s look at them.

Strategies to encourage effective one-on-one meetings: A summary


What it accomplishes

1. Make regular one-on-one meetings a part of your company culture

Adopting one-on-one meetings into your regular practices makes them fluid and natural for managers and employees

2. Prepare before the meeting

Giving employees a chance to prepare makes meetings more constructive and helpful

3. Strike a combination of efficient and personalized

Personalizing a meeting helps target specific issues, but creating a template enables managers to streamline meetings and save time

4. Listen more than you talk

Spending the majority of the meeting listening shows employees that the meeting is about them

5. Choose the right location

Taking the time to choose a location where the employee feels comfortable creates a better environment to open up and talk

6. Leverage one-on-one meeting tools

Using a variety of tech makes it easier for managers to commit to regular one-on-one meetings

7. Consider a variety of topics

Covering a variety of topics helps uncover the right information, encourage growth, and promote great performance

8. Encourage a skills-based approach to one-on-one meetings

Looking beyond education and work history enables you to find hidden talent to fill open roles, helping satisfy employees at the same time

9. Be mindful of common pitfalls

Taking the time to consider common pitfalls helps you steer clear of mistakes and hone effective one-on-one meetings

1. Make regular one-on-one meetings a part of your company culture

Make this process second nature by encouraging regular one-on-one meetings across your company. 

Adopt one-on-one meetings, frequent communication, and an open-door policy as core company values to help employees collaborate, set career development goals, and thrive. 

Discuss this with leaders to get them behind you in this initiative.

It can strengthen your case if you have data to back it up, so gather information from your workforce. Issue employee surveys to discover data like disengagement, burnout, and a lack of trust between employees and managers.

One-on-one meetings are useful from the onboarding process to the full employee experience, so show your leaders the need for them and get them behind your efforts.

2. Prepare before the meeting

A one-on-one meeting is a deep conversation, so ensure both parties are ready before it begins.

First, determine a regular cadence. Ideally, this should be a 20- to 30-minute meeting that occurs weekly or bi-weekly to help employees prepare because they know that it happens reliably.[3]

Then, lay out a one on one meeting agenda.

Write out questions, considering if there are any follow-up questions. Managers can also ask if there are questions that employees would like to add.

This process shows employees their voices are valued and helps managers prepare answers to the questions in advance.

To make this process easier and more consistent, create a one to one meeting checklist. Here’s a sample one:

  1. Check in

  2. Share recognition and wins

  3. Talk about roadblocks and challenges

  4. Discuss fixes and feedback

  5. Go over professional goals and career objectives

  6. Offer resources and support

  7. Ask for feedback

  8. Summarize the meeting

It’s easy to skim through a process over time, but a one to one meeting checklist encourages consistent meetings that don’t grow weaker with time. 

3. Strike a combination of efficient and personalized

One-on-one meetings must address the needs of each individual, but this doesn’t mean you can’t build a one on one meeting agenda template.

Personalize each one-on-one meeting, but have a one-on-one meeting template to lay the groundwork.

Customizing meetings to suit different employees ensures you address the right issues. For example, managers should discuss the progress of working relationships with employees struggling with conflict.

However, managers must have general questions in a one-on-one template to improve efficiency, ease their workloads, and increase consistency between employees.

Here are a few meeting questions to ask in a one on one meeting:

  • How did the past week go?

  • Do you need any support from me?

  • Do you feel like anything is standing in your way?

  • What are you proud of lately?

  • How are your skills developing?

Take these questions as a starting point, but try to build templates for different types of meetings, such as check-ins or career growth.

4. Listen more than you talk

These meetings are, first and foremost, about an employee's performance and needs. Ask them open-ended questions, but then give them space to talk.

Managers in a one-on-one meeting should spend the majority of the time listening. To facilitate this, managers should plan how much time they intend to listen in advance. 

For example, add a question to the one-on-one template, then consider listening time and potential follow-up questions to stimulate discussion and give you time to take meeting notes.

Employees have few opportunities to give their perspectives, and one-on-one meetings are primarily about the worker and their takeaways.

Ensure workers have space to talk and meetings become a safe environment, helping employees open up.

5. Choose the right location

The location can determine how comfortable employees are in a one-on-one meeting, so choosing the right one is crucial.

Most employees prefer a quiet, private, face-to-face location, like an empty meeting room. Some workers also like getting out of the office by walking or grabbing a coffee.

Keep in mind that some workers do better with a virtual recurring meeting or video calls because they feel anxiety face-to-face. A study found that autistic people prefer video calls more than their neurotypical peers. 

To help, you can set time blockers in your workday for a real-time conversation on Slack or Zoom for meetings with an employee who struggles with face-to-face or team meetings. 

Keeping your meetings flexible is also a form of reasonable accommodation

The location determines how comfortable an employee is and is one of the factors that helps people open up about bullying or workplace conflict. For example, a worker may only feel like they can open up about harassment by getting out of the building.

6. Leverage one-on-one meeting tools

A variety of tech helps one-on-ones go smoothly. 

Some companies opt for all-in-one software, but many tools facilitate one-on-one meetings.

Here are a few one-on-one meeting tools:

  • A calendar app with auto-scheduling and reminders

  • Communication channels to discuss the agenda items

  • Video conferencing software

  • Google Docs to easily share agendas beforehand and summaries after

These tools are essential if you have flexible work and a distributed workforce. The right tech stack helps managers organize their schedules and make one-on-ones a less daunting task to tackle.

7. Consider a variety of topics

One-on-ones can touch on a variety of topics. Encourage managers to explore different topics to properly engage employees.

Here are a few topics to consider:

  • Work style

  • Engagement and satisfaction

  • Goals and objectives

  • Employee work life balance

  • Upward feedback

  • Career growth plans

  • Performance and feedback

Performance is an important topic in performance reviews, but you should also bring it up during your meetings. Properly coaching employees helps reduce voluntary and involuntary turnover, which reduces your employee attrition rate.

Try implementing a few different types of one-on-ones. 

For example, you could adopt a quick weekly check-in and a deep employee pulse check every month to assess engagement.

8. Encourage a skills-based approach to one-on-one meetings

Adopting a skills-based approach to career growth opens the door for more opportunities. You must consider the employee’s skills, not their background and work history.

A manager should keep an open mind if the employee wants to develop into a cross-departmental role. 

For example, suppose a worker expresses interest in moving from a graphic design role to a copywriting role. In that case, the manager should consider their potential skills instead of outright shooting them down.

You can help by empowering managers with talent assessments.

In our above scenario, the manager can evaluate the graphic designer’s copywriting skills with talent assessments to decide if pursuing the position would be a sound move. They can also check for transferable skills, such as attention to detail. 

A skills-based mindset facilitates varied internal mobility, enabling employees to pursue new, exciting career paths and giving employers access to hidden talent.

9. Be mindful of common pitfalls

Unfortunately, one-on-ones as a strategy may fail because of common mistakes.

These pitfalls are easy to fall into, but the results are damaging – employees can feel devalued and dread upcoming meetings.

Here are a few don’ts for one-on-one meetings:

  • Cancel it, unless something extremely important comes up. Then, ensure to reschedule it promptly.

  • Show up late or run out of time.

  • Get distracted by notifications. Put your phone on silent and commit your attention to employees.

  • Talk too much and don’t leave room for employees.

  • Make a feedback sandwich.

Let’s talk about the last point. The feedback sandwich is a common method, but it’s overstayed its welcome.

Many managers are tossing this practice out. 

Too many employees are aware of the feedback sandwich, so workers dread good feedback because they know something bad is coming afterward.

3 examples of companies succeeding with one on one meetings as a talent retention strategy

Frequent one-on-ones are an excellent practice that improves your whole company’s performance. 

Let’s look at a few real-life examples of this in action.

Companies using one-on-one meetings successfully: A summary


Why it’s successful


Commits to consistent, well-prepared meetings


Dedicates its culture to open communication


Leverages multiple types of one-on-one meetings

Assembly - successful 1:1 meetings graphic


Assembly, an AI-powered intranet software company, has a great culture of one-on-one meetings.

This company’s meetings always include two essential items:

  1. Emotional check-ins

  2. Career progression

These points increase retention by showing your team that you care about their personal lives and career growth.

Jonathan Fields, the chief executive of Assembly, says that he’s learned a lot about one-on-one meetings in his career, and the key elements stay the same whether it’s a large company, a small company, or even a startup.

He says the two top elements are consistency and preparation.

Jonathan recommends that managers run one-on-ones weekly and send people an advance agenda to consider possible follow-up questions and talking points to enhance the conversation. He says this preparation also shows employees that you care and want them to succeed.[4]

Groove - successful 1:1 meetings graphic


Groove, a helpdesk software, believes regular one-on-one meetings are one of the most important practices to get down.

Alex Turnbull, the chief executive of Groove, believes one-on-one meetings are crucial because issues are easy for employees to hide. He says things go unnoticed, from a bad day to a lack of job satisfaction.

This company believes that a lack of communication is scary and a company can develop an unhealthy, toxic environment without proper employee listening.

Alex blocks off eight hours every two weeks to have one-on-one meetings with his entire team. He asks:

  • How they’re feeling

  • Challenges they’re facing

  • Their experience on the team

  • About how he performs as their leader

He said that these one-on-one meetings deeply impact Groove, affecting culture, strategy, trust, and employee retention.[5]

Front - successful 1:1 meetings graphic


Front, a customer operations platform, leverages multiple types of one-on-ones.

It uses weekly one-on-one meetings – managers use these meetings to report project progress, uncover problems, and ask questions. They aim to motivate employees and help them understand how their work contributes to the organization.

This company also leverages stay interviews monthly. In these one-on-one meetings, workers discuss general happiness and satisfaction, probing into job satisfaction and inquiring about personal happiness and how the company can provide support.

Mathilde Collin, the chief executive of Front, attributes the company’s high engagement and employee retention rate to its culture of one-on-ones.[6]

Approach the one on one meeting the right way by focusing on skills

One-on-one meetings are a powerful tool for employee retention. They discover development opportunities, help managers build trust, and uncover issues before they worsen.

Leverage this strategy by trying a few of our best practices, such as creating a one on one meeting agenda and encouraging a skills-based approach to development.

If you’re looking for more ways to engage and motivate your workforce, read our full guide on employee engagement.

To check out more than 300 talent assessments, browse our test library.


  1. "State of One-on-ones Report". (2019). Hypercontext. Retrieved November 27, 2023. https://hypercontext.com/state-of-one-on-ones-report 

  2. "What Is Employee Wellbeing? And Why Does It Matter?". Gallup. Retrieved November 27, 2023. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/404105/importance-of-employee-wellbeing.aspx 

  3. Rogelberg, Steven G. (December 2022). “Make the Most of Your One-on-One Meetings”. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved on November 30, 2023.https://hbr.org/2022/11/make-the-most-of-your-one-on-one-meetings 

  4. Fields, Jonathan. (January 5, 2022). "How to Run a 1:1 in a Startup". Assembly. Retrieved November 27, 2023. https://www.joinassembly.com/blog/how-to-run-a-1-1-in-a-startup 

  5. Turnbull, Alex. "How Regular One-on-One Meetings Saved Our Company Culture". GrooveHQ. Retrieved November 27, 2023. https://www.groovehq.com/blog/one-on-one-meetings-for-company-culture 

  6. Colin, Mathilde. (May 3, 2019). "One-on-ones are my most valuable meetings; here’s how I run them". Medium. Retrieved November 27, 2023. https://medium.com/swlh/one-on-ones-are-my-most-valuable-meetings-heres-how-i-run-them-d9ae7c64dade


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