Your Guide To Employee One-On-One Performance Meetings

one-to-one performance check-ins

What is A 1:1 Meeting?

One-on-one meetings are brief, scheduled, and frequent conversations where managers check-in with their employees. These meetings are intended to discuss employee performance and employee sentiment, as well as any challenges the employee may be facing. 

Effective performance check-ins are employee-driven, with a focus on reaching alignment through intentional communication. Managers get a gauge of employee sentiment about performance and progress versus goals, while also keeping a pulse on employee satisfaction and development. Performance check-ins are different from daily project meetings or quick goal updates because they are not centered around task delegation, but employee development. Organizations that utilize performance check-in software have the ability to review past check-ins, track sentiment trends, and document notes. The most effective performance check-ins happen when both parties maximize the value of coaching by committing to actionable steps after the meeting occurs.

What Is the Purpose of A Performance Check-In/One-On-One Meeting?

When it comes to performance evaluations, no employee likes surprises. Unfortunately, that is precisely what occurs when managers do not implement frequent 1:1 meetings. The purpose of check-ins is to ensure that employee and manager conversations happen on a regular cadence, not just at appraisal time. If the review is the only format for feedback, performance expectations will be misaligned and employees will likely leave confused and frustrated. Check-ins allow for ongoing feedback where performance is discussed throughout the year and accomplishments are celebrated. Managers provide continuous encouragement and guidance, and employees’ voices are heard as they work towards reaching goals and strive for continous professional development.

Benefits of 1:1 Meetings

The following list details a few benefits of implementing consistent performance check-ins.

     1. Mutual Accountability

Check-ins ensure that employees and managers are aligned and share accountability. Managers have full transparency into the actions of their direct reports and can tackle any performance, behavior, or sentiment issues in a timely manner. Likewise, when documented properly, top leaders have visibility into the coaching skills of their managers. Documented one-on-one meetings ensure employees are receiving the development they deserve and managers are receiving leadership training when necessary.

     2. Employee Sentiment

Establishing a process where employees are free to share how they feel about their role, the organization, or life in general brings a deeper level of humanity to the workplace. Employee sentiment has a direct line to productivity. According to Forbes, employees who feel their voices are heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work. Addressing employee sentiment on a frequent basis improves performance and is clear evidence to employees that the organization values them as people over performers. Frequent pulse checks also provide data points for tracking historical sentiment trends.

one-on-one performance check-in

3. Crucial Conversations Happen Sooner

Misaligned employee behavior does not happen overnight. Regular 1:1 meetings ensure that managers tackle performance or behavioral missteps head-on before they become genuine issues. It is counterproductive for both the employee and manager to wait for an annual performance review to make mid-course corrections, or to brainstorm and document areas for improvement. Crucial conversations become less crucial because they happen sooner. With ongoing feedback, the performance review becomes more of a discussion about the future instead of a performance discussion stuck in the past. And, with a performance management software such as WorkDove, these performance check-ins can be integrated into performance reviews.

Why Do One-On-One Meetings Matter?

If employee efforts appear out of line with performance expectations, the check-in lets managers regain alignment quickly and follow up with each subsequent check-in. These healthy conversations strengthen the relationship and improve productivity. Performance check-ins are critical for employee engagement and for reaching organizational goals. 

The following bullet points highlight several important factors behind the 1:1 meeting.

  • Ongoing feedback- Organizations that value coaching and development implement continuous feedback. “Best-in-class managers use ongoing conversations to deliver energizing feedback that celebrates successes and calibrates performance,” states Gallup. One-on-one meetings foster an environment of higher employee engagement that retains employees through purpose-driven work and career growth discussions. With WorkDove’s powerful dashboards, leaders can evaluate trends in employee sentiment to improve retention.
  • Coaching tool for managers- Managers are typically players and coaches. They have a full-time job on top of employee development. Performance check-ins provide managers with an effective coaching framework that has less rigidity than a formal performance review.  Additionally, leadership can use WorkDove’s reporting to see what managers are providing feedback, as well as the latency between employee submission and manager feedback.

Dashboard reporting tools

  • Improves relationships- Frequent 1:1 meetings allow managers and employees more time to establish trust, common ground, and a deeper understanding of one another. Spending scheduled, uninterrupted time together increases the strength of the relationship.
  • Employees feel valued- All too often managers are fighting fires all day, unable to spare time to invest in their direct reports. This type of work environment does little to engage employees and results in them believing their efforts are not valued. Frequent performance check-ins mitigate this by showing employees their manager is committed to their growth and setting them up for performance success.
  • Building up to the performance review- As previously mentioned, the performance review should never be the only allotted time to discuss employee performance and behaviors. Instead, check-in meetings should build up to it, so by appraisal time the manager and employee have reached alignment and the discussion can be future-focused. 

How To Run A Successful 1:1 Meeting

We have compiled a comprehensive list of recommendations that can help your managers run a successful one-on-one meeting/performance check-in.

  • Conduct one-on-one meetings at least once a month- Our recommendation is to conduct one-on-ones no less than once a month to maintain a high level of communication and account for any business changes in that timeframe. Every employee/manager duo has different needs, so once a month may not be a hard and fast rule. The point is that meetings occur frequently. 
  • Document well- Whether the organization is using paper or a digital tool, it is critical that all scheduled one-on-ones are well documented. Documentation allows managers and employees to observe growth, recall important conversations without relying on memory, and ensure the performance evaluation is well-informed through written notes. In rare cases of disgruntled employees or negligent managers, documentation provides a level of security for both parties.
  • Two to three open-ended questions- Include a short set of questions that are consistently relevant to avoid unnecessary work for the manager. For example, “What have you accomplished since our last check-in? What are you proud of?” is a prompt that withstands the test of time and will likely evoke a different and important response each time.
  • Include performance objectives and core values- Keeping objectives and core values front of mind makes for a more meaningful conversation that is aligned with the organizational mission and goals. Incorporating values also gives managers a holistic view of the employee that is not solely concentrated on their performance.
  • Employee-led- The most effective check-ins are prompted by the employee. While the manager is responsible for blocking off time, the conversation should ultimately be employee-driven while the manager listens, takes notes, and responds with thoughtful coaching as opposed to simply delegating tasks.
  • Manager comments- Each one-on-one meeting should be followed by comments from the manager briefly summarizing the discussion and detailing what next steps should be taken.
  • Survey employee sentimentWithin the check-in, the employee should have a simple way to record his/her current sentiment.  This allows the manager to evaluate sentiment trends and take action.
  • Always include an action- The end of each 1:1 meeting should include clear, actionable steps. This standard ensures the check-in conversation is purposeful and developmental.
  • Digital tool- While not required, it is recommended that organizations utilize a digital tool for one-on-ones. Performance review software prevents important information from potentially getting lost and creates a more efficient experience for employees, managers, and HR leaders.

What Managers Should Avoid During One-On-One Meetings

Conversely, managers should avoid some common pitfalls in 1:1 meetings. 

  • Manager latency- A grave mistake managers make is not following up or providing comments in a timely manner. Employees value the thoughts of their leaders, so when managers take an especially long time to comment (or don’t at all), employees may feel that their development is not a priority. 
  • Just checking the box- It is easy to slip into a rhythm of having check-in conversations just to mark it off of the list. If managers or employees find the check-in is losing value, it is time to reassess the end goal and work to make sure each 1:1 is intentional. 
  • Stagnant questions- If check-in meetings become stale and unproductive, it may be time to reevaluate the templated questions. Perhaps they are no longer producing insightful answers or are no longer relevant. Keep in mind that the check-in is for the people, not people for the check-in. One-on-one meetings should ignite impactful conversations and encourage change.
  • Lack of consistent scheduling- It is imperative that performance check-ins are scheduled ahead of time. A good practice is to block off time at a consistent frequency, perhaps even at a consistent time. For example, the second Tuesday of every month at 11 am. This shows employees their time with the manager is important and managers are setting a boundary to ensure conversation is uninterrupted.

1:1 Meetings Increase Retention & Create High-Performing Cultures

Companies that want to increase productivity, reduce turnover, and fuel employee engagement rely on continuous, ongoing communication between managers and employees. Check-ins are the cornerstone of effective performance management. These conversations are vital to employee development, manager’s growth in coaching skills, and goal management and attainment. 

If your organization is looking for a digital tool that integrates employee sentiment, tracks goals, sends automated reminders, and reconnects employees to their managers, check out WorkDove’s Check-In app today!