Having frequent communication with direct reports is one of the most important things successful managers can do. And one of the best ways to keep up this communication is through regular one-on-one meetings with each of your team members. But how often should a manager have one-on-one meetings with their employees?
Keep reading to understand how you can set the best cadence for your one-on-one meetings, and stay aligned with each person on your team.
First, why having regular one-on-ones is important
There are many benefits to having one-on-ones regularly with the people you manage. Team leaders need to keep a high-level view of what everyone is working on, how they're collaborating with their peers, employee engagement levels, and overall team functioning.
One-on-ones are a key way you can maintain team alignment and drive employee performance.
Regular one-on-one meetings will help you to:
- Keep up with the status of ongoing projects.
- Coach each person's career development.
- Address any team issues or employee concerns.
- Carry out a difficult conversation privately.
- Build positive relationships with team members.
Essentially, having direct report meetings on a regular basis helps you understand what's going on with your team and every person on it. Whether you're sharing feedback, asking one-on-one questions, or catching up on goal progress, these meetings are how you stay connected with employees.
So, what's the ideal one-on-one meeting frequency?
A frequent meeting cadence is important for keeping up ongoing communication with your direct reports. The right frequency for your one-on-ones will be a little different depending on your team and company context, your management style, and your relationships with the employees on your team.
To help you find a guideline, we consulted some of the data from Officevibe, an employee engagement, feedback, and one-on-one software for managers.
Data on the best conversation cadence between managers and employees
We analyzed over 30,000 employee feedback messages collected through Officevibe between 2017 and 2020. These are our findings of how people answered the question 'what would be your ideal frequency of communication with your manager?':
- Monthly or every 2 weeks was the frequency most often cited, found in 25% of the messages analyzed.
- 22% of the feedback cited weekly communication or several times a week.
- Only 8% of messages cited daily communication.
- Phrases like 'at least' and 'minimum' were used in 11% of the responses.
The takeaway? Employees want to communicate with their manager somewhere between weekly and monthly. Feel free to use this as a guideline for how often to have a recurring one-on-one meeting with your team members.
Factors to consider for setting a one-on-one schedule
Some things you can take into account as you plan your meeting schedule with employees are:
- The type of meetings you're having. Are you exchanging feedback, getting a status update, or checking in on a personal level? How often should you be meeting to fill that purpose?
- Are you new to the team, or is the employee? You might want to meet more frequently to make sure you're building a relationship and establishing good communication and trust.
- How many direct reports do you have, and what's a feasible frequency to make sure everyone gets a regular time slot in your calendar?
- Is the employee working on a big project or toward ambitious career goals? If so, more frequent meetings could help support their career development.
- Are you having virtual one-on-one meetings, or does your team work together at the office? If you're chatting more often in person, you might need fewer formal meetings with employees.
How long should a one-on-one be?
The length of your one-on-one meetings is tied to the frequency because you might decide to have shorter meetings more often, or longer meetings less often. If you only meet with your direct reports monthly, schedule a full 45-60 minutes to make sure you have time to cover everything. If you have weekly meetings, you might opt for 25-30 minute time slots instead.
What's the best day to have a one-on-one meeting?
There's no specific best day of the week for one-on-one meetings. But you can certainly consider what makes the most sense for each person in your team's context. Some things to take into account are:
- How do one-on-ones fit into the employee's work cycle? For example, at the start or end of a sprint.
- What other recurring meetings do they have? Can you schedule meetings to avoid cramming their calendar?
- Do they have a preference? You can even ask each employee to set their own regular meeting time.
Is it ever okay to cancel or skip a meeting?
Generally, you should keep every one-on-one meeting you schedule. Even if you have no set talking points, there might be a work or personal issue your employee wants to bring up. You could end up having an important one-on-one conversation you hadn’t realized you needed to have.
It's usually better to grab a quick coffee or hop on a video call and check in for 5 minutes than cancel the meeting altogether. Especially for the sake of being a fair manager, you want to avoid missing meetings with your team members.
Of course, there are some exceptions. If something urgent pops up and one or both of you can't make it, you might push your meeting to a later date. Just keep in mind that these meetings are really for your employees. Canceling or rescheduling last-minute could risk someone feeling like their scheduled time isn't important to you.
5 Tips to determine your one-on-one frequency
Follow these quick tips to set the right cadence for your recurring one-on-one meetings.
- Test out different frequencies. Try having monthly meetings, weekly meetings, or biweekly meetings, and see what works best with each person.
- Establish one-on-one meeting goals, whether it's to build personal relationships, coach employee performance, or track current projects.
- Be consistent, whatever frequency of meetings you choose. Avoid rescheduling or picking a new day or time of day every other week.
- That said, be flexible. Don't keep your meeting to the same time slot just because it's what used to work. Make adjustments as things change.
- Check in with direct reports regularly to make sure your meeting frequency is good for them. Adjust your cadence according to their needs.
How to optimize your one-on-one meeting management
Every busy manager wants to improve their team's productivity as well as their own. When you're trying to schedule a weekly individual conversation with every member of your team, your calendar can fill up quickly. And if you're not arriving to those meetings prepared, you can end up feeling like precious time has been wasted.
Using a one-on-one meeting management tool like Officevibe can help. In the platform, you can access dozens of one-on-one agenda templates or build your own by adding talking points — and asking your employee to add some, too. Then, set action items that carry over to your next conversation so you can follow up on commitments. All of your meeting notes are stored in one place, and easily accessible for future reference, like planning performance reviews.