As a people manager, your ability to coach and mentor your employees makes all the difference. To flex those coaching and feedback muscles, you need to add regular one-on-ones with your direct reports to your repertoire. If you already have, take it up a notch and ask yourself: are you making the most of those conversations? Do you have clear objectives for the time you spend with employees?

Without an established purpose, meetings can start to feel directionless and even like wasted time. When it comes to one-on-one meetings, this can lead to employee disengagement, a lack of direction in professional development, and even leave employees feeling disconnected from work on a personal level.

Goal-driven meetings help you maximize the time you have with employees and make sure conversations lead to real results. So what are the main one-on-one meeting goals, and how can you set some of your own? Keep reading to find out!

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Why is meeting with your direct reports important?

As the name suggests, a one-on-one is a meeting between two individuals working together at an organization. While they can happen between peers, leaders, and any mix of two people, the most common are one-on-ones between managers and their direct reports. That's because employee-manager relationships are some of the most important to nurture at work.

Regular conversations with employees help managers drive their entire team to success by making sure every player has what they need to do their best work.

Benefits of effective one-on-ones for both managers and employees

By digging deeper into the benefits of one-on-one meetings, you'll quickly see that a purpose-driven one-on-one is a win-win for both managers and their direct reports.

When planned with intention, one-on-ones help you:

  • Set expectations: One-on-ones are a great time and place to align on goals and clarify roles and responsibilities. This helps you build a more autonomous, high-performing team, so you can focus on leadership and strategy.
  • Gain confidence: Having regular touchpoints helps you build your managerial abilities and instincts. With time, problem-solving will become second nature and you'll be primed to guide employees in the right direction every time.
  • Delegate work: Leading successful teams means delegating work to the right people. One-on-ones help you decide who's best for the job (or who has the biggest interest) while clearing up time in your agenda for more strategic work.
  • Create a safe space: Employees who trust their managers are more comfortable talking through issues with them. When done right, one-on-one meetings can provide a safe space for employees to ask questions, raise flags, and address challenges they're facing so they don’t end up feeling stuck or disengaged.
  • Build human connections: It's nearly impossible to build relationships and rapport with people you don't talk to often. Having a dedicated and recurring time to speak with each team member individually will foster connections and allow everyone to get to know each other better.
  • Discuss career growth: One-on-one meetings give employees the chance to discuss their professional development and career ambitions. By supporting them through their growth, managers can make employees feel valued and ultimately improve their engagement levels.

4 Common one-on-one meeting goals

When it comes to setting one-on-one meeting goals, you don’t have to start from scratch. Here are some common objectives managers look to achieve with these important employee check-ins.

1. Relationship building

Research shows a positive correlation between employees who have a strong relationship with their boss and their productivity at work. This is why positive employee-manager relationships are so critical to developing high-performing teams.

One-on-one meetings are one of the best ways to get to know your employees, build relationships, and maintain personal connections. They give you a chance to actively listen to your employees, hear their problems, and answer questions they might have.

Questions to build solid work relationships

  • What is currently energizing you outside of work? (Be sure to answer this one too!)
  • How can I better set you up for success in your role?
  • What can I do to improve your overall happiness at work?

🤝 Fostering great relationships at work can be as easy as one, two, three (… and four). Follow these four steps to building better relationships with your team members.

2. Employee engagement

The importance and benefits of employee engagement really can’t be overstated. People want to feel connected, motivated, and like they’re having an impact at work. Engagement is complex and can be impacted by an array of factors, including job satisfaction, recognition, and well-being. So naturally, measuring and acting on engagement takes time and dedication — making it a perfect objective for a series of one-on-ones with your direct reports.

Individual conversations with employees are a good moment to gauge people’s engagement levels because they allow you to collect useful qualitative information. They're the perfect time to ask open-ended questions to better understand what’s motivating (or demotivating) the people on your team.

Questions that help you engage employees

  • What do you enjoy most about your role?
  • What kind of projects would you like to work on this upcoming quarter?
  • Are you currently struggling with anything? If so, how can I help?

🎯 Reach this goal quicker with an employee engagement solution. Keep track of one-on-one meetings and supplement them with regular engagement surveys, so you can measure trends and fluctuations over time.

3. Career development

Having a clear career path and goals that align with that vision helps employees feel like they’re moving in the right direction. People want to know that they have room to grow on your team and at your company.

Some managers use one-on-one time for career chats. Spending focused time talking about professional development and self-improvement with your employees will help them stay engaged and invested in the team. It also lets them know that you care about their growth and are invested in their success.

Questions to support career growth

  • What skills are you looking to build in the next year?
  • What are your upcoming career goals?
  • How can I best support you to achieve these goals?

Not sure how to bring up someone’s future career path or connect it with the team goals? This career development talk template will nudge you in the right direction.

4. Exchanging direct feedback

For people to grow and achieve their goals, they need to exchange feedback with one another. And while it may be surprising for some, employees love and want to get constructive feedback from their managers — usually as often as possible. It helps them know what they're doing well, but most importantly how they can improve. The same goes for managers. Getting honest feedback from your employees gives you actionable insights to better support your team.

One-on-one meetings are one of the best settings for sharing constructive feedback (and sometimes even negative feedback) with employees. It comes with the territory of being a coach, and an important practice so no one is surprised when it’s time for bi-annual or annual performance reviews.

Questions to spark a feedback loop

  • Have I given you any feedback recently that you'd like me to further explain?
  • Are there any projects you would like me to give you more constructive feedback on?
  • Do you have any constructive feedback about my management style?

Track your feedback: Make sure you’re taking notes in every meeting and setting action items you can follow up on. With one-on-one software like Officevibe, you can easily store all your meeting notes in one place, so planning annual reviews is a breeze.

How to set realistic one-on-one meeting goals (with your direct reports)

Before scheduling recurring one-on-one meetings with all your team members, establish what you’re both looking to get from them. Based on these goals, you can work together to create meeting agendas and set talking points that will help you really drive those desired results.

One-on-one meetings are a time to get a status report, tackle challenges, give feedback, track employees’ career goals, and delegate tasks. That’s a lot, so pinpointing what your short-term and long-term goals are will help you keep your one-on-one conversations focused.

With the broader goals outlined above in mind, you can set more specific goals for your one-on-one meetings. These could be the same for every employee on your team or different based on their individual aspirations and roles in the team. For example, one employee may be keen on meeting specifically for feedback and coaching. Others might prefer to spend their time discussing their career aspirations and goal progress.

Steps for setting (and achieving) great one-on-one meeting goals

  1. Set your goal: You may choose to set a new goal each week or spend a few weeks focusing on the same goal. Check in at the start of every meeting to make sure you’re on the same page and know how you want to use your time.
  2. Identify milestones: Define success and set some milestones so you can assess and track if you’re meeting your goals with your employees. Follow up frequently to see when it’s time to move on from your current goal or goals, or when you might need to spend more time covering a certain topic.
  3. Take notes: Have a dedicated space for meeting notes, whether it’s a Google Doc or a tool for one-on-ones. This makes it easier for you to arrive prepared at every meeting without adding to your workload.
  4. Use a meeting agenda: A one-on-one meeting template keeps you on track to cover the most important talking points and make the best use of your time. You can even collaborate on the meeting agenda with your direct report so you can establish the primary goal of your meeting together.
  5. Follow up: Make a practice of following up. Get in the habit of adding an agenda item for your next one-on-one each time you wrap up, so you always follow up on commitments.

Have more productive meetings with clearly set goals

With so much distraction in our lives, setting goals for our meetings helps you stay on track, organize your time and resources, and ultimately keep building a thriving team. This way, you can run more effective meetings with your team members and make the best use of everyone’s time. What will your next one-on-one meeting goal be?

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