A new person has joined your team, or maybe you have recently become a manager. If either of these situations is true, it probably means that you have your first one-on-one meeting with an employee coming up, and you want to get it right.

One-on-one meetings are a useful tool to build trust with your team members, set clear expectations, and establish an open communication, and the first one is especially important. Your first one-on-one with any direct report is the stepping stone for your future work relationship and a key opportunity to connect with this person on a human level.

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Prepare your one-on-one meeting structure

Having a one-on-one meeting structure helps you lead the conversation with confidence, and shows your new employee that you're organized, and you care. Using a one-on-one meeting template or agenda template is a good way to make sure the conversation runs smoothly.

Try this meeting agenda template specifically made for a first one on one with new employee!

1. Get to know the person

Before manager and employee, you are two human beings. Ask them about themself, and it feels natural, you can tell them a little bit about your background. But most importantly, listen to what they've got to say. This will set the tone for open communication, and help you build a real connection.

Tip: Having your first one-on-one meeting virtually? Break the ice with a quick 'show and tell' where you each talk about an item on your desk or in your space. Or, you could each select a video background that represents you in some way. Don't be shy to lighten the mood.

2. Ask about their drives and motivations

What are their favourite and least favourite tasks? Which projects do they normally enjoy? When you understand your team members' motivations, it helps you keep up employee engagement on your team. Getting to know their career goals and professional aspirations helps you empower them, which is "associated with stronger job performance, job satisfaction and commitment to the organization," according to Harvard Business Review.

3. Go over team communication channels and work processes

This is a crucial first step to onboarding any new employee, whether it's your team member or yourself. Catch them up to speed on communication channels and norms and how the team usually gets work done. Or, have them do the same for you. Establishing clear expectations around communication is key to avoid potential misunderstandings.

Tip: If you're a new manager, have your first team meeting early on as well to connect with everyone at once. This will help with getting to know your team's communication norms and other team dynamics.

4. Talk about constructive feedback

Offering feedback and guidance to your employees is part of your role, and knowing how to deliver it is key to a good relationship. So ask them how they like to receive feedback and what things they'd like to work on. Listening to them and accommodating their needs shows that you're there to support them.

5. Ask them how can you make their life easier

Ultimately, every one-on-one is an employee meeting, and meant to help them succeed. Pay attention to their requests and do your best to help them out. Showing your employees that you listen, that you acknowledge their fears and frustrations, and want to genuinely support them will increase their trust in you as a leader.

Share a meeting agenda with your employee

Having established an agenda prior to leading your first one-on-one meeting helps you keep the conversation focused and efficient. Share a simple agenda with your team member and ask them to add any talking point they'd like to cover.

Officevibe's one-on-one meeting software lets your create your meeting agenda in collaboration with your employee. Knowing the agenda beforehand gives people time to self-reflect and think about things they might want to bring up, so you both arrive prepared.

Be flexible with how the conversation goes

Although having a structure is helpful, a first one on one meeting can be informal and mostly about getting to know each other. Rely on your structure as a loose guide but let the conversation flow naturally. Remember, it's not a monologue. Listening to your employee and acknowledging what they've got to say is the most important thing in all 1-on-1 meetings. Let this person share their thoughts and vision to create open, two-way communication from day one.

Ask questions to let your employee share

Your first one-on-one meeting with an employee is a great opportunity to ask lots of questions and get to know each other. A good manager is a good listener. Prepare some one-on-one meeting questions to give your direct report a chance to share.

Questions for a first one-on-one meeting with an employee

  1. What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
  2. What do you like best about your job (and what do you like the least)?
  3. Where do you seek motivation?
  4. What are your career goals?
  5. How do you prefer to receive feedback?
  6. What can I do to make you more comfortable at work?

Follow up in your next one-on-one meeting

You probably won't be able to cover all the topics in one day, and that's okay. Don't feel like you need to rush through it, and take the time to really listen to your employee's thoughts and questions. If you don't get to cover your whole agenda, you can pick up where you left off next time.

There might be questions that you won't know the answer to, or things that you will need to check for them. Don't be shy to say "let me get back to you on that." But make sure that you do get back to them. Set some action items at the end of the meeting and follow up on them the next time you have a one-on-one.

Tip: Decide on a time and day to set a recurring meeting during your first one-on-one. This way, you'll have regular meetings going forward, so you can always follow up. This is the best way to get the full benefits of one-on-one meetings.

You're ready for your first one-on-one with an employee!

We don’t need to wish you any luck because with these tools you’re set up for success. Just remember: a good one-on-one meeting is always more about listening than about speaking. Be present, take notes, and follow up!

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