No matter what role you have within an organization, it’s imperative that you make the time to connect with your manager or your direct reports to build a healthy working relationship for the long haul. And this only happens with recurring one-on-ones.
A one-on-one meeting is when a manager or supervisor connects individually with each person who reports to them. In these meetings, a manager and their direct reports can bring up any questions they may have, discuss team issues, work to solve roadblocks or challenges they’re experiencing, and check in on where the direct report is with their to-do list or priorities.
- Why are recurring 1:1 meetings important?
- How often should you have 1:1 meetings?
- How long should your one-on-one meetings be?
- Tips for choosing your 1:1 meeting frequency
Why are recurring one-on-one meetings important?
One-on-one meetings with direct reports should be recurring events in your calendar, not ad-hoc events that you decide to do when you have enough time!
By making one-on-ones a regular occurrence, you’re sending a signal to your direct reports that their contributions at work matter.
Think of one-on-one meetings as a habit (for instance, going to the gym). Through repetition and practice, you’ll become more confident at having one-on-ones with people on your team!
According to Alexandra Sunderland, Director of Engineering at Fellow and author of Remote Engineering Management:
Building trust with your team members and helping them grow is a fundamental part of being a manager, and so a lot of importance should be placed in making sure that one-on-ones happen often and happen well, since they’re the easy path to getting there.”
Common frequencies for one-on-ones
- Bi-Weekly (every other week)
- Monthly or Quarterly (as in the case of skip-level one-on-ones)
Common durations for one-on-ones
- 30 minutes
- 1 hour
Here are 7 more reasons why recurring one-on-one meetings are so crucial:
- Foster trust between managers and their reports
- Create alignment
- Enable open communication
- Provide an opportunity to privately voice questions or concerns
- Encourage a culture of continuous feedback
- Build a culture of effective meetings
- Boost employee engagement and productivity
1Foster trust between managers and their reports
Regular 1:1s with managers and their direct reports are a great way to foster trust and build a positive rapport. A manager always wants their team members to know that connecting in these meetings is important to them, and having recurring 1:1s lets your team members know you care about the work they’re doing and are always there to help along the way. In fact, a study done by Gallup has found that 70% of the variance in employee engagement is caused by a person’s manager.
In the book Radical Candor, Kim Scott points out that the most important thing a manager can do to build a culture of trust is to meet with each of their direct reports regularly. She states,
“Holding regular 1:1s where your direct report sets the agenda, and you ask questions is a good way to build trust. One-on-ones are your must-do meetings, your single best opportunity to listen to the people on your team to make sure you understand their perspective on what’s working and what’s not working.”
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Recurring 1:1s also give managers and their teams a chance to create alignment. Having these regular conversations stops smaller issues from becoming larger and more significant issues—which they may if they fester too long. This alignment can also focus on action items on either party’s to-do list or more meaningful topics like how the direct report can improve to earn the promotion they’re striving for.
3Enable open communication
One-on-one meetings are a great way to allow for immediate and regular communication to take place. Knowing these meetings will occur regularly lets your direct reports plan their communication ahead of time. Plus, it can be reassuring to know that they can use this time to update you on progress and get advice on a roadblock or challenge they’re experiencing.
Research from Salary.com shows that 23% of employees look for a new job daily. That same study also showed the majority of those searching cite having a “poor manager” or “poor relationship with manager” as their reason. Having psychological safety between a manager and direct report not only improves the relationship and rapport but can also help with talent retention.
4Provide an opportunity to privately voice questions or concerns
Team meetings aren’t always the best time to voice questions or concerns. Sometimes your employees want to have private conversations that focus on questions they may have about a project or concerns about the team structure. Whatever the case, 1:1s can be used to have these private, potentially sensitive, conversations without prying the eyes and ears of other employees.
5Encourage a culture of continuous feedback
No matter how your team is structured, normalizing giving and receiving feedback is a great way to establish a healthy and strong culture. And there’s no better place to have a conversation centered around feedback than in a one-on-one meeting.
To ensure feedback is always a component in your 1:1s, be sure to use Fellow for all of these meetings. As a manager, your team members want you to tell them how they can improve, so don’t wait for a quarterly review. And, as an employee, asking for feedback about your performance and tracking how it’s improving can help you to visualize your growth and progress. With Fellow, it’s easy to incorporate feedback into every 1:1 and track progress over time in prebuilt meeting templates, which help create feedback requests without making it uncomfortable.
6Build a culture of effective meetings
Having a recurring 1:1 with every team member isn’t getting you anywhere unless the meetings are productive and effective. One way to know for sure if they are is by using a meeting tool like Fellow, which helps build a culture of effective meetings by ensuring you and your direct report always show up prepared with a meeting agenda, action items are properly recorded, and meetings notes are collaborative and actually useful.
Best of all, with so many meeting agenda templates to choose from, Fellow does the heavy lifting for you, so all one-on-ones are as efficient as possible.
7Boost employee engagement and productivity
Nothing halts productivity for your direct reports like being unsure how to move forward or needing to verify something before continuing work on a project. Having these consistent connections with your team members provides a boost in productivity and ensures their progress is on the right path. In an HBR study, the average manager spent 30 minutes every 3 weeks with each of their employees. Those who got little to no one-on-one time with their manager were more likely to be disengaged. The employees that received double the mount of one-on-ones with their manager relative to their peers are 67% less likely to be disengaged. Additionally, referring to a project management software during one-on-ones to get an overview of ongoing projects and current blockers can help increase employee productivity and engagement.
As Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel, argues in the book High Output Management, meeting regularly with employees allows managers to coach them on priorities and develop a common base of information. Doing so helps your team stay in sync and produce better results. Grove states,
“Let’s say you have a one-on-one with your employee every two weeks, and it lasts one and a half hours. Ninety minutes of your time can enhance the quality of their work for two weeks, or for some eighty-plus hours, and can also upgrade your understanding of what they’re doing.”
How often should you have 1:1 meetings?
The meeting cadence of the one-on-one meetings you have with your team may vary from company to company, but a good rule of thumb to follow is to have these connections weekly. The frequency of these 1:1s is important because it allows you and your team to handle things as they arise, instead of waiting weeks and weeks to have conversations about challenges your team members may be facing or questions that could come up along the way.
“Managers should have a weekly one-to-one scheduled with each direct report. It is understandable if it needs to be rescheduled in a specific week or if it doesn’t happen from time to time. But in my experience, managers should aim to have one-to-one meetings at least three out of every four weeks.”
Yolanda Lau, Co-Founder and Advisor at FlexTeam and CXO at Liquid
To ensure these meetings are as efficient and productive as possible, consider using a tool like Fellow for agenda templates, tools, and more. Plus, meetings can be costly, but teams that use Fellow spend 16% less time in meetings, meaning they have more time to focus on completing projects, accomplishing goals, and achieving success.
How long should your one-on-one meetings be?
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to how long these 1:1s should be scheduled for. For example, if your weekly one-on-one with your direct report is typically one hour, but your meeting agenda is full of talking points, consider increasing it to closer to 90 minutes. The same can be said if the agenda isn’t as full as usual – maybe you only need 45 minutes this week. Do what works best for you and your direct report.
Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel, recommended managers block one hour of their day to meet with their team members.
“Anything less, in my experience, may make the subordinate confine themself to simple things that can be handled quickly.”
Tips for choosing your 1:1 meeting frequency
Not sure how to choose the right cadence for these meetings? Here are five tips to keep in mind as you decide.
- Look at the size of your team
- Seek meeting feedback from your direct report
- Determine your meeting purpose
- Remain consistent
- Experiment with different frequencies
1Look at the size of your team
The first element to consider is the size of your team. This will come down to how many direct reports you have and what’s a feasible frequency to make sure everyone gets a regular time slot in your calendar.
While it’s important that these meetings be scheduled regularly, it’s not going to do you any good if you’re booked seven hours a day, every day, conducting one-on-ones. To ensure these meetings stay consistent and productive, consider a biweekly cadence with your direct reports who may need less consistent check-ins.
2Seek meeting feedback from your direct report
If you’ve had weekly 1:1s with your direct report for, let’s say a month now, ask them for feedback on how this cadence is working for them. Depending on their workflow and level of expertise in their role, they may not need weekly check-ins—maybe biweekly or monthly meetings would work better for them. Or they may tell you that an hour is too much or not enough time.
The cadence of these meetings may vary for each of your direct reports, but make sure to have them tell you how often they’d like these meetings to take place. In Fellow, you can incorporate this feedback into your next 1:1 so you don’t forget to ask them for their preference.
3Determine your meeting purpose
Have you ever left a meeting only to think it was completely pointless and could have probably been an email? You don’t want your 1:1s to feel like that, so be sure to determine the meeting purpose. To do this, think about whether the meeting is for:
- Coming up with new ideas
- Finding effective solutions
- Making an informed decision
- Exchanging helpful and pertinent information
- Discussing assignments or projects
- Continuing to build rapport
From there, you’ll be able to better determine how frequent these meetings should be.
One-on-ones should take up consistent time slots in your calendar. Your direct reports should know when these meetings will take place and for how long. This consistency helps your direct reports keep a running list of action items, questions, or general topics to bring up. It also lets them decide what can wait to be brought up in these connections and what they may need to bring to your attention sooner.
5Experiment with different frequencies
Weekly 1:1s may work for some of your direct reports but not all of them. For example, weekly check-ins are likely the way to go if you have a new department member. But your most tenured employee or the one you consider to be the highest performer may not need—or want—weekly meetings.
Experiment with different frequencies for different employees. And don’t be afraid to try a different cadence even if it means finding out it’s not quite working and having to change it back soon after. By the way, it’s always a good idea to set an end date for your recurring meetings, so you can evaluate your meeting needs on a regular basis. You can enable thoughtful meeting creation with Fellow’s Meeting Guidelines, which are baked-in to the tool to ensure recurring meetings are finite. When a recurring meeting that has no end is being made, the meeting organizer is prompted to add an end date.
It’s always a good time for a 1:1
There are endless benefits to recurring 1:1s, and whether you’re a manager connecting with your direct reports or an employee checking in with your supervisor, these meetings can improve workflow, boost productivity, and make both parties feel valued and appreciative. They can also be the place for having private conversations and talking through tension. However, if you use this time, make sure to use it wisely with Fellow!