So, you work from home. Your professional life revolves around the constant pings from Slack and Gmail. You’re pretty content, but one thing nags at you—you have trouble feeling connected to the organization you work for. You’re not alone—one in three employees say they feel disconnected from their leaders. This lack of connection results in low productivity, low morale, and—you guessed it—higher turnover. Enter one-on-one meetings.
One-on-one meetings establish a stronger relationship between two remote teammates, allow them to get an update on each other's work and build camaraderie. But it can be difficult to maintain a productive and engaging conversation if you don’t plan for it. In this article, we’ll explore what 1:1 meetings are, how to have effective 1:1 meetings, and AI tools to help you make the most out of your one-to-one meetings.
What are 1:1 meetings?
One-on-one meetings, or 1:1 meetings, are check-ins between two people in an organization, typically a manager and a direct report, to discuss their current tasks, progress, and potential issues. A one-on-one could be about:
- Coaching team members to develop a growth mindset
- Getting feedback on performances and projects
- Brainstorming ideas for upcoming projects
- Exploring opportunities for career development
- Identifying challenges and opportunities that the team member is facing
- Getting status updates on current tasks
- Giving performance review feedback
- Discussing career goals
- Resolving roadblocks or issues
What is the purpose of one-on-one meetings?
One-on-one meetings are the most valuable meetings across everyone's calendars. They build stronger relationships, improve transparency and communication, and help leadership rectify issues before they become unmanageable.
Research suggests that employees at every level find 1:1s useful—especially those at CEO and Director levels. 1:1 meetings provide a safe space for direct reports to voice their concerns and for managers to provide and receive constructive feedback. Open feedback systems build psychological safety and trust as people can assess their performance in a non-judgmental environment.
1:1 meetings also have an organizational effect—managers with 1:1s are 1.5 times more likely to retain their team. Employee retention decreases turnover costs and eliminates the loss of institutional knowledge. Overall, one-on-one meetings create an environment where employees feel more supported and can build stronger relationships with their managers.
Skills necessary for effective 1:1 meetings
Held productively, a 1:1 meeting can benefit both parties. Held without planning, however, it can create more problems than it solves. Here are four skills necessary for effective meetings.
Active listening is the ability to fully engage with what someone is saying and understand their thoughts. It’s an important skill for managers—it shows you’re listening to your direct report and interested in understanding them better. For example, you could use active listening to respond with a question such as “Could you tell me more about that?” Use tools like note-taking apps to ensure you don't miss out on key points.
Empathy involves understanding and sharing someone else’s feelings. It shows your direct report you care about their work, struggles, and successes. Validate their feelings and show your interest—don't disregard any concerns they may have.
Identifying the root causes of issues and suggesting proactive measures to solve problems is a crucial skill for managers. These skills ensure a productive 1:1 and resolve any issues that may arise. Come into the meeting prepared to offer solutions, not just discuss the problem. Discuss potential courses of action with your team member and work together to find a solution.
Being open to different ideas and perspectives from your team members creates a productive 1 on 1 meeting. Encourage your team members to speak openly, and don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo or embrace new perspectives. An open-minded attitude allows for more collaboration and creativity to come through.
How to have engaging 1:1 meetings
Whether you're a manager or a direct report calling for the meeting, you need to be prepared. Here's a step-by-step on what you can do before, during, and after the meeting.
Before the meeting
Prepping for the meeting is just as important as the meeting itself. Here's what you can do to ensure you're prepared:
Set a meeting agenda
Define a meeting agenda to structure the conversation and ensure you cover all topics. Highlight any agenda items you want to discuss and any questions you have. Don't restrict yourself to a rigid agenda—while some talking points are important, ask open-ended questions to let the conversation flow naturally.
Schedule the meeting
Schedule the meeting based on how often you want 1:1s with your team member—one-off, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. Discussing goals weekly is a good idea—teams are three times more likely to feel confident about hitting them if you do.
Also, define how long the meeting will be. 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour? Research suggests that 30 minutes is the most common length for 1:1s. This gives ample time to set goals, discuss progress, and provide feedback. Once you know your preferred meeting length, set a recurring meeting with Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Meet.
During the meeting
Once you have your meeting set, it's time to jump right in. Here's how to make sure the conversation flows smoothly:
Create a safe space
Make sure those taking part feel at ease. Acknowledge any feelings brought up and listen carefully so they don't feel judged or unheard. Allow them to speak openly, honestly, and without fear of repercussions.
Ease into the conversation
Start with some small talk by using icebreakers. Ask about their weekend, family, hobbies, or anything related to personal life. This moves the conversation away from work and creates a relaxed atmosphere—this will be helpful if you’re about to have a difficult conversation.
Focusing on the meeting is critical to ensure the other party feels heard and understood. Find a comfortable and distraction-free space for your 1:1. Let your team member know you’ll be focused on them and won't be distracted by emails or other tasks. If you can’t meet in person, use Zoom or Google Meet for full attention and engagement.
Check-in on progress
Once everyone is comfortable, discuss current projects and goals. Ask the team member to provide a brief update on any ongoing tasks. Talk about expectations, deadlines, or anything else that needs attention.
If you’re a manager, ask your direct report about their personal and professional goals—this helps set the tone for meaningful conversations on progress. If you’re a direct report, you can also ask your manager questions about their experience and career to get to know them better.
Focus on the body language
Pay extra attention to the other party’s non-verbal cues—facial expressions, gestures, and tone of voice. Take note of these—positive or negative—to better understand how your team member feels about the conversation. This will give you an idea of their engagement and if any topics make them uncomfortable or anxious.
Create action items
Set deadlines for tasks and goals you need to accomplish after the meeting. Having something tangible to work towards keeps everyone accountable and motivated.
After the meeting
Once the conversation wraps up, document your action items and progress in a shared workspace.
Follow up on any action items you discussed during the 1:1 meeting. Ensure any tasks are complete before the next meeting. If they need help, provide support and guidance.
Ask for feedback
Ask your team member questions about their experience and allow them to provide constructive criticism. This helps you understand what works and what can be improved in the next 1:1 meeting.
1:1 meeting agenda checklist & topics of discussion
It may seem daunting to create a one-on-one meeting agenda, but it doesn't have to be. Here's a meeting agenda template you should follow:
Before the meeting:
- Set a time and duration for your 1:1 meetings
- Choose a platform such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Meet
During the meeting:
- Create a safe space where everyone can be honest
- Ease into the conversation with small talk or icebreakers
- Eliminate distractions to stay focused
- Check in on progress and set expectations
- Get personal to build trust
- Create actionable items with achievable deadlines
After the meeting:
Document action items in a shared workspace like Asana or Trello
- Follow up on any actionable steps discussed during the 1:1 meeting
- Check-in at least once a week
- Ask for feedback to understand what works and what needs improvement
Make the most of your 1:1 meetings with this checklist. Then, consider these topics to discuss in your next 1:1 meeting:
- How can we maximize our team’s productivity?
- What challenges are you having, and how can I help?
- What goals have been accomplished since the last meeting?
- What new professional goals do you want to set for yourself?
- Do you have any feedback or ideas to share?
- What do you need from me?
- Are there any resources I can provide to help with your tasks?
- What successes have been achieved since the last meeting?
- How do your colleagues contribute to your success?
4 AI tools for effective 1:1 meetings
You can go the old-school route and take notes manually, but why not use AI-powered tools to streamline your 1:1 meetings? Here are four AI tools that can make your 1:1s a breeze.
Supernormal is an AI transcription tool that turns 1:1 meetings, sales calls, and product demos into searchable text and audio. This allows you to focus on the meeting instead of diverting your attention to note-taking for meeting minutes. Undivided attention with Supernormal ensures you have a more productive and meaningful dialogue with your team.
- Integrations with Slack, Google, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and other enterprise apps allow you to get the best out of your meetings
- Transcriptions in multiple languages including Spanish, German, and Portuguese
- Share notes easily with anyone in the conversation
- AI-powered assistant (named Norm) captures key takeaways and meeting notes
- Share links with anyone in the conversation
- Seamless syncing with any HR tools
The Starter plan is free for Google Meet users and includes 20 meetings per month. The Pro plan starts at $13 per month.
Small Improvements is a feedback and performance management tool that makes it easier to track progress, measure outcomes, and have meaningful 1:1 meetings. It integrates with collaboration tools and offers pulse surveys to measure employee experience and satisfaction. A self-service portal also allows employees to give or request feedback.
- Talking Points helps you plan the agenda ahead of time
- Record action items to provide accountability and highlight the next steps
- Meeting Templates offer pre-defined meeting agendas
- Dashboard giving an overview of all the 1:1s happening in the organization
- Configurable to suit the organization's needs
- Integrations with apps like Okta, Slack, and Google Apps
- Only suited for corporate-level communication
- Not very intuitive or user-friendly
The Performance Starter Pack starts at $5 per user monthly, and the Feedback and Performance Suite starts at $7 per user monthly.
Slite is a modern knowledge-sharing platform that organizes 1:1s and team meetings into an easily searchable and shareable repository. It allows teams to create agenda documents, record notes, assign tasks, and track progress in a central location. The editor includes hundreds of integrations, sketches, video explainers, and advanced tables.
- Ready-to-use templates to quickly get started with meetings
- Customize meeting notes with highlights and hint blocks to keep conversations organized
- Sort documents by channels and tags for easier navigation
- Integrations with popular collaboration tools like Slack, Dropbox, and Google Drive
- Easy search capabilities to quickly find the documents you need
- Share agendas and ideas ahead of time in scheduled Docs
- Lagging during collaborative editing
- Doesn't have open API resulting in limited integration
Free plan available. Standard plan starts at $10 per user monthly, and the Premium plan starts at $15 per user monthly.
Taskade is an AI-powered productivity tool that allows teams to create checklists, workflows, and outlines. It enables team collaboration by allowing you to organize and visualize notes, tasks, and projects from multiple views. Taskade also has a chat assistant that simplifies 1:1s and team meetings.
- Structured notes and docs for better meeting organization
- Mind maps to turn thoughts into action items
- Built-in video chat to empower 1:1s
- Central location for notes, tasks, and project management
- AI-driven chat assistant to simplify conversations
- Unlimited sharing of documents and files
- Notifications can be difficult to track
- Two-way calendar sync only works with Google currently
Free plan available. Personal plans for up to five members start at $5 monthly. Plans for Teams start at $23 monthly.
Streamline your one-on-one meetings with Supernormal
One-to-one meetings are critical to team productivity, but it can be hard to keep track of key points and action items. You can scribble notes on a pad of paper and hope you remember to follow up, or you can use new AI tools like Supernormal.
Supernormal helps teams stay organized, focused and productive during meetings. Never miss a beat with Supernormal’s AI-driven note-taking abilities.
Try out Supernormal today and record 20 free meetings per month.