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How to Run Effective 1 on 1 Meetings: a Guide for HR Departments

1 on 1 meetings have been long considered one of the best tools that can be used to boost employee engagement, foster feedback culture, and improve communication between managers and subordinates. However, like many other handy solutions, it has to be used wisely if we want to see positive results. If 1 on 1 meetings are not implemented thoughtfully and carried out according to the best practices, there’s a risk that they would become just yet another thing your employees have to tick off their ‘to-do’ lists. Having in mind that making sure that 1 on 1’s function properly is the role of HR and leadership, we prepared this step-by-step guide that you can follow in order to introduce the 1-on-1 culture into your company in an efficient manner.

Benefits of 1 on 1 meetings: employee, manager, and HR points of view


Employees often suffer from not enough face-to-face time with their managers. They do communicate with them a lot: in team meetings, by chat, email, video call, or phone. But these ways of communication can’t replace the precious time when two humans sit together and pay attention only to the other person, talking about things from a perspective, without focusing on the day-to-day matters.

Thus, 1 on 1 meetings are an invaluable chance for employees to raise matters that cannot be discussed during team gatherings or on other opportunities: personal development, career growth opportunities inside the company, any problems, obstacles or conflicts, etc. In a healthy organizational culture, during 1 on 1 meetings employees can give honest feedback to managers, talking openly about what they like or dislike in the management style and express concern or dissatisfaction regarding other professional matters.


The lack of face time–not only in the era of remote work–with subordinates is obviously a serious challenge for many busy managers as well. Without 1 on 1 meetings, it’s way harder to establish confidence and trust in such a relationship, and this leads to the situation when many employee concerns and problems are not verbalized. This, in turn, often affect the performance and satisfaction of the subordinates, while the manager, unaware of the core of the issue, is unable to take action. Recurring face-to-face meetings can also help to spot, avoid and alleviate any possible conflicts inside the team

HR department

As an HR representative, you surely look for solutions that can make employees in your company more engaged and happy. Improving communication should be one of your goals, too, not forgetting about reducing employee turnover.

This is where 1 on 1 meetings come to the rescue. It’s one of the best tools available to HR that can allow for achieving these objectives. Need any proof? When Adobe introduced the so-called “check-ins”, or 1 on 1 meetings in their nomenclature instead of a classic performance review, the company saw a 30% decrease in employee turnover.

Speaking about performance: GE is another company that achieved impressive results: a five times increase in productivity in just 12 months thanks to the introduction of “touchpoints”, regular, informal meetings between managers and their direct reports.

What is more, research shows that only 15% of employees that don’t have the chance to meet regularly with their managers are engaged in their work. On the other hand, those that do regularly meet with their superiors were almost three times more engaged, which demonstrates the direct correlation between 1 on 1s and job engagement.

How to foster the 1 on 1 culture? Step-by-step guide for HR

1 on 1 meetings are not only a matter between a manager and their employees. In fact, they are a crucial part of the company culture that influence numerous areas of corporate life. Therefore, these recurring meetings should be implemented and overseen by the HR department across the whole company with a set of unified rules. This way, you can make sure that the meetings are carried out the right way and are indeed fruitful.

Step 1: Examine needs

It’s not a good idea to implement any initiatives without consulting them beforehand: with company leadership, managers, and employees. Even when you’re convinced your solution is going to help them, it’s wise to hear their voice first. Do they feel the need of introducing 1 on 1s? Do they have their own opinions on how the meetings should look like? How often should be organized? The meetings should serve all the parties involved, so make sure you are aware of the needs of all stakeholders.

Step 2: Communicate

It’s natural that some people may be reluctant at first–it’s often a normal reaction to new solutions implemented in the company. Moreover, employees might feel that 1 on 1s are yet another thing added to their long list of responsibilities and that they don’t have time for it. That’s why the benefits of 1 on 1 should be properly communicated (make use of the data we shared above!) and the decision should be well explained by someone respected in the organization in order to build rapport.

Step 3: Plan structure

Using the information gathered in the first step, you can now think about how the 1 on 1 should be organized. It’s a good practice to team up with managers to develop an agenda and determine what matters should be raised, but don’t forget about the employee perspective as well. Moreover, it’s recommended to allow the employees to co-create agenda and contribute their ideas for the talking points before every meeting. Using a 1 on 1 software streamlines this process–more on this later.

Step 4: Train

The introduction of 1 on 1s is an excellent moment to train both employees and managers in such areas as giving and receiving feedback, interpersonal communication, active listening, and other soft skills. You should also state clearly what 1 on 1 meetings are and what not: for instance, it’s not for discussing tasks in progress, but rather more general matters such as employee wellbeing, performance, growth, etc. This is also the time to explain the structure you’ve come up with in order to make sure that employees know what to expect.

Step 5: Provide tools

As said before, the right tools streamline the 1 on 1 meetings by allowing managers and employees to collaborate on the agenda. Other features may include scheduling the meeting, accessing notes and reports from previous conversations, as well as sharing them with other people (leadership or HR) to review. If you’re looking for the right app, we encourage you to give tomHRM a try: our 1 on 1 meetings module might be the solution you’re looking for! Plus, you can test our entire system–including many other HR modules– for free during 30 days. Sign up here!

1 on 1 Metings Software - Agenda - HR app
Set up 1 on 1 meetings easily in an HR software

Step 6: Gather feedback

Last but not least, it’s recommended to ask the employees about their experience with 1 on 1s. You can do it after a few initial sessions and then repeat regularly in order to detect any changing needs. The feedback can help you optimize the process to make it even more helpful. Keep also an eye on the different HR metrics you can track in the company: maybe you’ll observe a boost in productivity or a decrease in employee turnover, just like it happened at Adobe and GE? Hopefully!

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