How to build and support a culture of 1:1 meetings

How to build and support a culture of 1:1 meetings
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What would you say if we told you that 1:1 meetings are critical to an employee’s success?

“That’s obvious…”

If that’s so, why are almost 30% of all 1 on 1 meetings canceled?[1]

Then, even if the meeting eventually does happen, it’s often a run-of-the-mill status update meeting that doesn’t discuss critical points like career growth and goals.

What’s happening here? Is it a poor understanding of their importance? Is it carelessness?

Perhaps, but more commonly, it’s a lack of a company culture that supports frequent, meaningful 1:1 meetings.

When a process is a part of an organization’s culture, it’s woven into the fabric of the business’s practices and becomes normal – even second nature.

In this article, we’ll give you a wealth of facts and data supporting the case to adopt regular 1:1 meetings in your company, plus nine solid strategies to get you started.

What are one to one meetings?

One to one meetings happen between leaders and their team members, as opposed to team meetings. These may be manager-to-employee, but they can also be coach-to-employee or peer-to-peer.

Managers use these meetings to gather valuable insights, give and receive feedback, and build relationships.

The purpose of one-on-one meetings varies depending on the situation, the company, and the employee. Here is a list of the most common reasons for one-on-one meetings:

Image showing list of common reasons for having 1-on-1 meetings
  • Improve development and performance: Provide constructive criticism where needed and encourage good performance wherever possible.

  • Support career growth: What are the employee’s roadblocks, what do they want, what do they need, and how do they get there.

  • Motivate and coaching: Encourage an employee, provide insights and advice, and help them reach new professional goals.

  • Build relationships and getting to know one another: A strong working relationship is essential for cooperation and teamwork.

  • Get an idea of job satisfaction and engagement: Assess how engaged and happy the employee is and where support is lacking.

  • Discuss challenges: Is the employee struggling to keep up or not being challenged enough?

  • Connecting an employee’s work to a greater mission or goal: A 1:1 meeting is an excellent time to remind workers of the impact of their work, which increases employee engagement and motivation.

  • Give and receive updates on current projects: Sending quick update messages is a daily occurrence for most companies and teams, but 1 on 1 meetings enable detailed discussions about ongoing projects.

Whether you choose to discuss five of these topics or all eight, one to one meetings are a great opportunity to improve overall employee performance and strengthen the bond between leaders and team members. 

Why are 1 on 1 meetings important?

Everyone involved, from employees to managers to the entire organization, benefits from recurring meetings.

Let’s look at the benefits of one-on-one meetings from the perspectives of the employee, the manager, and the company itself.

Employee benefits

Perhaps the most obvious beneficiary is the employee, so let’s look into the details. One-on-one meetings: 

  • Improve employees’ relationship with leaders: A Microsoft study found that employees who don’t receive regular 1:1 meetings are twice as likely to view leadership unfavorably.

  • Support internal growth: Regular one-on-one meetings give employees a chance to discuss their goals and create a solid path to reach them.

  • Enable employees to discuss important information when it’s hot and relevant: When you hold one to one meetings weekly or bi-weekly, you can discuss current work events while relevant.

Above all else, 1:1 meetings show employees that they aren’t just another number in a spreadsheet but that they’re a hardworking, valuable member of the company.

Manager benefits

It isn’t just about improving the employee experience. Here’s what managers can expect from regular 1:1 meetings:

  • Uncover strengths and support employees’ growth: Managers don’t always spend a ton of time with their teams and 1:1 meetings are great opportunities to dig in and uncover employees’ strengths they wouldn’t have seen through casual messages.

  • Encourage positive behaviors: If employees think a behavior isn’t important, they may stop doing it. One-on-one meetings with employees enable a manager to spot these skills and actions and help workers be even more successful in their roles.

  • Boost team engagement and happiness: Effective one-on-one meetings build a solid employee-leader relationship, both professionally and on a personal level. A study of 38,000 workers said that a close partnership with a leader instead of a traditional “boss” made for much higher job satisfaction.

  • Provide enough challenges to your employees to increase retention: Discover where your employees need more excitement. Employees who don’t believe their skills are being used to the fullest have a 10x higher chance of quitting.

  • Uncover difficulties and roadblocks: Find out where your team is struggling and provide guidance and insights.

  • Develop and hone better leadership skills: The more you do something, the better you get at it, so regular 1:1 meetings help managers build essential leadership skills.

Although leaders may have different management styles, at the end of the day, their core responsibilities are to:

  1. Uplift their team

  2. Challenge their skills

  3. Help them reach their professional/development goals

And 1:1 meetings are a great opportunity to target all three.

Company benefits

Leaders and teams engaging in regular one to one meetings can help the company as a whole. A culture that is built around regular one to one meetings:

Graphic showing 6 benefits for companies by having regular 1-on-1 meetings
  • Connects staff to the organization’s culture and mission: Detached, disengaged employees don’t see purpose in their work, but regular one to one meetings connect workers to the company’s culture and vision.

  • Boosts engagement: The same Microsoft study mentioned earlier found that employees who receive regular 1:1 meetings are 67% less likely to be disengaged, and employees who receive no 1:1 meetings are 4 times as likely to be disengaged.

  • Increases retention by catching problems early: Employees often have small issues, struggles, and grievances that won’t develop into a reason for quitting if they’re solved and discussed early on.

  • Facilitates coaching and continuous learning: You’ll see increased performance and satisfaction by weaving continuous improvement into your company culture.

  • Improves job satisfaction: Engagement is key to high-quality work, and 71% of employees who have weekly 1:1 meetings are highly engaged (but only 38% of surveyed employees have weekly 1:1s).

  • Develops key skills and improves performance: Regular check-ins and constructive feedback help employees do their best. Upon adopting 1:1 bi-weekly meetings, GE saw a fivefold boost in productivity.

Plus, weekly 1:1 meetings are what most employees want:

Pie chart showing the majority of people prefer to have  weekly performance conversations with their manager.

One to one meetings build a solid, three-way trust and respect bond between employees, managers, and the company. It makes for a stronger company, higher quality work, and a better future.

The 9 ways to build and support a culture of one to one meetings

You now have a strong case on why a business should adopt 1:1 meetings every one to two weeks, but what about the how?

Building and cultivating a culture of 1:1 meetings isn’t difficult with the right tools and a solid framework that HR professionals can use right now to encourage timely communication and frequent discussions.

Here’s a summary of our best practices:



Make it a top-down initiative

Lead by example by having managers have 1:1s with other managers

Invest in HR or performance management software

Upgrade your tech with performance management software to hold better 1:1s

Create a 1:1 meeting policy for staff

An official one to one meeting policy keeps things organized and helps employees have more control

Make sure your staff has the right space and tools

Ensure you have in-person space, like meeting rooms, and remote tools, like video conferencing software

Offer training sessions for your managers

Managing and coaching are two different skills – make sure your managers are ready

Encourage a skills-based approach to these meetings

Approach an employee’s career growth with solid skills tests

Build a supportive culture

Nurture a culture of positive feedback to encourage employees to embrace 1:1s

Ensure all one-to-one meetings are kept confidential

Keep all one to one meetings strictly confidential to maintain trust and security

Be inclusive

Ensure all employees have equal access to regular 1:1s

Now let’s discuss each practice.

Image showing the list of 9 ways to build and support a culture of 1-on-1 meetings

1. Make it a top-down initiative

There’s no better way to instill a practice than a boss leading by example.

You can normalize and encourage regular meetings by having your leaders have one to one meetings with other leaders, like middle and line managers.

Yes, managers should have 1:1 meetings with other managers.

This breeds a culture of improvement, communication, and feedback. It also instills powerful leadership skills in other managers.

These managers may even learn a few things subconsciously. For example, they may like how you approach a subject, so they take that knowledge and use it for their next meeting with a team member.

This also helps change how a middle manager views 1:1s as a whole. The more 1:1s they have, the more they’ll see the value in them, and they’ll begin to adjust their approach to 1:1s with their team members.

Advertise this practice across your company. Let it be known to all your workers that their superiors have these meetings, too. It instills a sense of coordination and equality.

A great manager leads the way, and as much as that might sound obvious, sometimes we forget that we can provide solid leadership to others in a leading role.

2. Invest in HR or performance management software

As with everything else in the 2020s, you can facilitate 1:1 meetings with an updated tech stack.

Performance management software, HR software, and specialized one to one meeting software can all help simplify and streamline the process of your meetings, making them more effective and efficient.

Look for software that:

  • Keeps a calendar of future meetings and a log of previous meetings

  • Keeps track of one-on-one meeting agenda items, priorities, and performance reviews

  • Integrates with other team software such as CRMs and project management tools

HR software helps your company:

  1. Use a data-driven approach to feedback and growth

  2. Stay consistent across the entire organization

  3. Keep track of which teams aren’t committing to regular 1:1 meetings

  4. Reduce recency bias or the tendency for human brains to consider only recent performance versus historical performance

Performance management software streamlines the entire meeting process and helps you make a strong case for adopting regular 1:1 meetings with the higher-ups.

3. Create a 1:1 meeting policy for staff

Building a solid, organized policy for 1:1 meetings simplifies the process for managers and employees alike.

This policy can include:

  1. A one-on-one meeting template (this can include a meeting agenda and action items)

  2. Example one-on-one meeting questions (open-ended questions are best)

  3. A recommended one-on-one meeting frequency

Let’s clear the air on that last point: While we recommend setting a dedicated time, you should always encourage flexibility. It’s a great idea to have a general cadence in your policy (like weekly or every two weeks), but always let the employee know they have a say in the matter.

This could look like employees choosing any available time in a manager’s calendar that suits them or booking the same time each week.

For example, Monica has her 1:1s every Wednesday at 12:00 PM – but if something pops up, she can reschedule.

You want your people to feel like they have control over their 1:1 meetings. This helps your employees feel like this meeting is for them, not their manager.

4. Make sure your staff has the right space and tools

Valuable 1:1 meetings are productive, clear, and efficient – and meetings can only be valuable in the right space.

A busy office or a spotty, laggy Zoom call are not a conducive environment for a solid 1:1 meeting, so it’s crucial to ensure your staff has the resources they need.

If you’re holding an in-person meeting, it’s best to do it in a small conference room, where the space is personal and quiet and lets you focus. But, if you have the option, a walking path or a quiet coffee shop are also good alternatives.

Use video calls rather than phone calls for remote 1:1 meetings. This offers the chance for face-to-face speech and non-verbal communication (e.g., body language), which help build rapport. This means you should invest in reliable video conferencing tools, a stable internet connection, and a good camera for all employees.

5. Offer training sessions for your managers

Managers won’t know how to execute perfect 1 on 1 meetings right off the bat – managing and coaching are different skill sets.

Some managers may be able to organize a project or recognize valuable skills, matching workers to roles with ease but don’t quite know how to motivate and coach.

That’s normal. These are simply different leadership styles.

You can help your managers build new coaching skills and provide excellent value to their 1:1 meetings by offering them skills training.

Upskilling is easy if you use online skills testing – simply build a manager coaching assessment that includes tests like our Leadership and People Management test and Communication test to identify weaknesses and individual needs and help everyone progress.

Your managers will feel much more comfortable holding regular 1:1 meetings when they’re well-prepared for it. After a little training, they won’t just be ready for 1:1s – they’ll have a brand new skill set.

6. Encourage a skills-based approach to these meetings

A common purpose of 1 on 1 meetings is career development and growth and discussing employee goals – and using a skills-based approach is the best way to do this.

Focus your 1:1 meetings on discussing the skills your staff needs to advance in their career, then use skills testing to check and prove they now have the necessary skills.

For example, a data entry professional tells you they’d like to move to the accounting department, or perhaps a business analyst is interested in moving to project management.

You can then check their capability by creating a personalized assessment that tests for specific skills. For example: 

Desired role

Potential tests


Accounting test

; Intermediate Math test

; Numerical Reasoning test

Project manager

Project Management test

; Verbal Reasoning test

; Problem-Solving test

Using skills tests, you can prepare an actionable professional development plan, which helps you and the employee.

A skills-based approach doesn’t just ensure an employee is ready for the role they’re seeking – it gives you confidence that they can handle the position, especially if it’s outside their experience.

But in the end, yes, a sales rep can make a great HR professional – it’s all about transferable skills. For more information, read our article on transferable skills checklists.

7. Build a supportive culture

“Ugh, I have a one on one on Tuesday…”

It’s difficult to encourage a culture of regular 1:1 meetings if your employees dread them.

One of the best ways to mitigate this issue is to create a supportive, uplifting culture. Encourage managers to recognize wins, appreciate their employees’ good work, and hand out kudos whenever possible.

Too often, we focus on negative feedback, which can leave many employees with a bad taste in their mouths when it comes to one-on-ones.

Of course, there’s always the issue of what some call “naysayers.” In other words, employees who focus on and spread negativity.

That negativity is easy to spread, and employees who never had a problem with 1:1s could end up resenting them purely because of this.

Our advice is to gather the facts, identify the negative employee, and have a meaningful conversation with them. Discuss what they dislike about 1:1s, ask what support they need, and talk about their workplace behavior.

Turning their negativity around is the best way to stop this attitude from spreading.

All in all, you want to foster the positive idea that one to one meetings are a time when a manager and an employee get together, discuss projects, give and receive feedback (both good and bad), and build a better relationship.

Once you build a culture of encouraging, healthy 1:1 meetings, scheduling them regularly becomes second nature.

8. Ensure all one-to-one meetings are kept confidential

Staff only feel comfortable speaking openly and discussing challenges when they’re 100% sure the conversation will stay exactly where it took place.

Confidential one to one meetings help build trust and a better working environment. They also open the door for employees to speak about sensitive matters such as personal struggles and trauma with candor.

Certain struggles could be causing challenges and poor performance. If an employee doesn’t feel comfortable or safe enough to share them, you won’t be able to coach and help them through it.

Confidentiality gives your employees a feeling of security, nurtures a sense of well-being, and creates a better bond between leaders and team members. Trust is a foundation on which the best business relationships are built.

9. Be inclusive

Inclusivity is key when it comes to adopting a 1:1 culture. What do we mean by that?

All teams and employees should have access to 1:1 meetings with their managers. 

This isn’t a privilege that only some employees are worthy of, and you simply can’t have a healthy work environment if you exclude some employees from regular one to one meetings with their coaches and leaders.

It’s essential that every member of your team gets the same level of attention, feedback, and motivation. Yes, even freelancers, contractors, and contingent workers – especially if they work on long-term projects with your company.

Regular 1:1 meetings benefit employees, managers, and the company alike

Adopting one to one meetings every one or two weeks helps a leader mentor their staff and provide valuable insights and advice. They also boost engagement, performance, and retention.

Build a culture of consistent 1:1 meetings in your company by nurturing a positive employee experience, training and encouraging your managers, documenting an official meeting policy, and implementing skills testing to help employees reach their goals.

To integrate coaching and feedback into your recruitment strategy, read our performance management guide for hiring managers.

Additionally, you can improve your one-on-ones from both sides by boosting your staff’s skills with our Communication test that can help you identify and address weaknesses and track progress with time.  Get started for free today.


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