30 Questions for Your One-on-One Meetings with Employees

One of the most important business opportunities that many managers overlook and miss out on is holding regular one-on-one meetings with the members of their team. Meeting one on one is an excellent way to raise overall production at a company, but it can be intimidating if you are not naturally extroverted and get uncomfortable at the thought of holding face-to-face meetings with your employees. An effective way to make your one-on-one meetings easier is to come into the meeting prepared with questions and conversation starters. By having meeting ice breaker questions and work-related questions ready to go, you can be more relaxed and avoid worrying about not knowing what to say.

The Benefits of One-on-One Meetings with Employees

The reason that every manager should consider holding one-on-one meetings with their employees is very simple—they work. There are many boosts provided by meeting with your staff in solo conversations:

  • One-on-one meetings are the ideal way to integrate new staff members into the team. They give you the opportunity to speak directly with new employees and ask about how they are acclimating and answering any questions they have about how to best carry out their daily responsibilities. Faster integration into the team is essential for helping new employees work at their best.
  • Just as new employees need to get settled and understand their new job, a veteran of the team who has been moved over to a new assignment can benefit greatly from the opportunity to talk with you directly. Mistakes caused by a lack of familiarity with a project waste precious time in the workday, so asking one-on-one meeting questions helps make sure that employees in new areas know exactly what they are supposed to be doing.
  • Even for employees who have been fulfilling their current role for a long time, there are productivity benefits to having the chance to meet with a supervisor one on one. Meeting directly with your employee gives you the opportunity to check in on how their work is progressing and make any adjustments to their workload or to projects other staff members are working on, should anything in the meeting call for a change of plans.
  • When the time comes that you need to give bad news or criticism to an employee, having a one-on-one meeting is the best way to handle the situation. While it can be uncomfortable to be face-to-face with somebody while delivering criticism, it also makes the individual being spoken to feel more respected than if you said the same information in a memo or an email. It also opens up the lines of communication between you during the conversation to better solve the problems being addressed in the meeting.
  • Holding direct meetings with your employees is an excellent way to form personal bonds with the members of your staff. In addition to work-related questions, a meeting provides a chance to talk as two regular people and get to know each other better. Employees who have a strong personal relationship with their boss are more effective, as it is natural for people to want to impress others they like and respect and to be more concerned with not letting you down as a result.

These multiple benefits all combine together to have one major effect. Your employees will get more work done more efficiently, which means more profit for the company’s bottom line, which benefits everyone on the staff.

The Parts of an Effective One-on-One Meeting

There is no uniform amount of time for a one-on-one meeting to last, as the needs for meetings can vary not only from company to company but from staff member to staff member as well. However, there are still universal elements common to most successful one-on-one meetings with employees. Here are the phases of an average one-on-one staff meeting:

  • Greeting and breaking the ice: If you come into the meeting and immediately start firing off one-on-one meeting questions about how your employee's work is coming, this can be off-putting to people and put them on the defensive. This is not conducive to getting the most out of the meeting. Instead, spend some time chatting casually to establish a more relaxed and open tone for the meeting and also build personal bonds with your employee.
  • Get updated: Once you are settled into the meeting, it is time to transition to one-on-one meeting questions more directly targeted at your employee’s work. The best way to start is by getting on the same page as each other by asking questions about how their work is progressing and sharing any information you have about changes to plans that are relevant to the employee’s workload.
  • Open dialogue: Having established an understanding of where things currently sit with your employee, it’s time to start asking questions designed to achieve your primary goals for the meeting, whether it’s introducing a major shift, troubleshooting problems or simply checking in on your employee’s overall happiness and performance.
  • Closing with class: When the meeting has run its course, it’s time to depart. As with opening the conversation, it is best to do this in as warm and friendly a manner as possible. This keeps your employee in a good mood following the meeting, which keeps morale high and improves productivity.

Why Prepared Questions Matter in a One-on-One Meeting

While there are many benefits to holding one-on-one meetings with your employees, if you don’t come into the meeting prepared it can have the opposite effect. Holding a meeting that does not run smoothly and features awkward pauses can actually have the opposite effect, making your employee feel uncomfortable. This can lead to a short term dip in production or even cause workers to come away unsure of what you were trying to convey, which can cause more severe negative production effects.

While naturally charismatic bosses and managers may be comfortable going off the cuff for a one-on-one meeting, every manager can benefit from coming into meetings with staff prepared, whether that means readying specific questions or simply outlining the overall topics to discuss.

One-on-One Meeting Questions to Break the Ice

Starting your meeting with your employees on the right foot is key to having a successful staff meeting. By building rapport and placing your employees at ease, you create an atmosphere for an open and honest dialogue that produces the best results. After greeting them in a friendly manner, use one or two of these meeting ice breaking questions to set the right tone before proceeding, adjusting to include their actual family members names or the specific event you’re referencing where necessary:

  • How was your holiday?
  • How is your family doing?
  • Do you have any big plans for the weekend?
  • Did you catch the game last night?
  • Have you had a chance to see the latest blockbuster?
  • Are you up to date on the latest episode of a popular TV show?

One-on-One Meeting Questions About Your Employee’s Needs

One of your primary goals in a one-on-one meeting with employees should be making them feel valued at the company. In addition to this being the basically decent thing to do for your staff members, it is also good business, as a respected and happy employee is more willing to go above and beyond expectations to deliver great results. These questions can help make sure you are satisfying your employees’ needs while they work to satisfy the company’s:

  • How are you finding your current assignment?
  • What’s one change about your work day that would improve your personal life?
  • Where would you like to see yourself with the company in two years?
  • Is there any additional training you wish you could pursue?

One-on-One Meeting Questions About Work

The core of your meeting should be having a conversation about the employees’ current work. While the specifics of your meeting will be dictated by their role and current tasks, these are strong options to consider:

  • How would you rate the current approach we have taken for your task?
  • Where is an area you think you have a more efficient solution?
  • Do you feel you’re getting enough direction?
  • How can I help make your job easier?
  • Where do you feel you would benefit from more freedom?
  • What is your preferred style of management?
  • What opportunities do you feel the company is failing to exploit fully?
  • Are there any areas where you feel out of the loop?
  • How could we improve the morale around the office?
  • Who at work do you enjoy collaborating with most?
  • Do you prefer your job now in light of recent changes?
  • What’s your biggest cause for concern around the office?
  • Would you be interested in working remotely part time?
  • Do you find the atmosphere in the office to be warm and communal?
  • What is your biggest challenge in an average week?
  • Do you get along well with the rest of your team?
  • Is there any daily task you feel is no longer necessary?
  • Have you considered leaving for another opportunity recently?
  • What would it take to keep you in your current role?
  • What part of the company would interest you to learn more about?

With these one-on-one meeting questions, you’re ready to have effective talks with your staff. Choose from the conversation starters to break the ice, then get into the heart of the meeting to help your staff operate at their best.

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