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What are 1:1s?

It may seem like just another buzzword, but it's so much more than that.
Published 10 Feb 2021
5 min read
What are 1:1s?

We often hear that internal communication is a pain point for businesses, so what if we told you that you could improve it by one simple, yet effective management technique?

1:1s might be the very thing to take your company communication and alignment to the next level of performance. 1:1s. It may seem like just another buzzword, but it’s so much more than that. Buzzword or not, we’re calling it — implementing 1:1s can be the difference between building a good team and a great team.

Regular feedback is essential for all employees to reach their full potential and climb the career ladder. Whether you’re a manager or early on in your career, ongoing communication is an important part of managing a team effectively.

We know that many of you can relate when we talk about internal communication challenges. How do we know? According to a recent study, 60% of companies don’t have a long term strategy in place for their internal communication. This means that there is no regular communication across the team, which could contribute to workplace silos.

Ready to dive in and get up to speed with 1:1s? Keep reading as we explain the concept of 1:1s and how you and your team can get the most out of them.

What are 1:1s?

1:1s are a scheduled weekly or fortnightly catch up that an employee has with their direct manager. This is time dedicated for the employee to talk through how their past week or fortnight has gone, as well as commit to things for the future.

Although there’s still structure to 1:1s, it’s an informal way to catch up on the week that was. They empower accountability and trust, and are a great way to discuss goals, engagement, career development and roadblocks.

DID YOU KNOW? 1:1s have many different names. They can be referred to as 1:1s, 1-1’s, 1 on 1’s, 1:2:1’s, or one to ones.

Why are 1:1s important?

1:1s can strengthen the relationship between managers and their team, reduce turnover and increase productivity. For 1:1s to be as effective as possible, they should adhere to three key things:

  • scheduled
  • recurring
  • structured

Not only do 1:1s serve as a way to strengthen bonds, they contribute to improved communication and trust within the business, a great benefit for any workplace.

By having a transparent relationship with your direct reports, you’ll be able to understand how they’re feeling. This could be whether they’re feeling frustrated or anxious about an upcoming project and need some assistance. Alternatively, feeling happy, inspired and extremely engaged about their work.

This is important for managers in order for them to manage their direct reports effectively. How do you manage someone you aren’t regularly checking in with?

Let’s take a look at this scenario: Your direct report is completing great work so you assume they’re loving their role. However, one month later they resign from their role and you feel blindsided and confused. You assumed that they were working long hours because they loved what they were doing, however, this was not the case. In the exit interview they reveal that they were feeling extremely burnt out and underappreciated in their role, so when the opportunity came about to jump ship, they did.

We’ve all seen this scenario time and time again, and it’s something that we believe can be avoided with better communication. If you knew that your direct report was feeling underappreciated, you could have taken the appropriate action to reward and recognise their efforts. If you know that they were feeling burnt out, you could have reduced their workload, expanded the team or encouraged them to take leave.

At the end of the day, poor communication can be detrimental to business success. To decrease your risk of losing top talent, we suggest that you implement 1:1s pronto!

How do I run an effective 1:1?

To run an effective 1:1, it requires preparation. If you prepare a few questions prior to meeting, it can help guide your discussion and result in an effective outcome. Sounds good, right? To help you get the most out of your 1:1s, we’ve rounded up our top tips.

how to prepare for one on ones

Be prepared

Preparation is key when it comes to an effective and productive 1:1. Start by thinking about a few questions your direct report will find useful so you can help them achieve their goals. By setting an agenda, you’ll be able to support your employee and ultimately be more collaborative.

Set a regular cadence

Whether you choose a weekly or bi-weekly cadence, having your 1:1s on a recurring schedule in your calendar means they won’t suddenly disappear from your agenda.

Even when times are busy and you have to reschedule your 1:1s, make sure you move them to a different time or day. You don’t want to fall into the routine of continually saying “Sorry, can we reschedule our 1:1?” and they never actually happen. However, if things are going well and you’re both happy to miss the occasional 1:1, that’s a-ok, too — just make sure to reschedule!

Remain flexible

Although you should have set questions planned for each week, it’s important to remain flexible on the structure. If the 1:1 focuses specifically on one roadblock someone is facing and you find a solution, that’s still a great outcome.

Sometimes your 1:1s will be 10 minutes (especially if you regularly talk to your direct report), sometimes they’ll be an hour. There’s no right or wrong way when it comes to 1:1s — it can be a process of trial and error, and finding out what works best for both of you.

Don’t make it too formal

The last thing you want to do is make your 1:1s a formal, robust process where your employee feels like they can’t have a personal conversation about how they’re feeling.

If some weeks you only focus on one issue, that’s still considered a productive 1:1. They’re designed to increase trust and communication within teams so you can help them develop both professionally and personally.

REMEMBER: 1:1s are a casual way to share feedback, progress and roadblocks with your direct manager — they aren’t annual performance reviews.

Be honest

At the end of the day, honesty is key. When you are open, transparent and honest with your manager, you’ll be happier and in a better position to achieve your best work.

DID YOU KNOW: Employment Hero has an built in 1:1 feature that can help you manage your team effectively? 1:1s in Employment Hero will guide managers and employees through structured and regular meetings with the goal of providing an environment for coaching and feedback.

If you’d like to learn more about 1:1s in Employment Hero, get in touch with one of our small business specialists who will walk you through a demonstration. Alternatively, you can watch the quick demo below.


What questions should I ask in a 1:1?

It’s important to have a list of questions ready for your 1:1. If possible, ask your employee to fill them out prior to your meeting so that you can both come prepared. This will ensure that you stay on track and get the most out of your 1:1. Some examples of questions you could in your 1:1 ask include:

  • Rate your happiness on a scale of 1 to 10
  • What are you proud of in the last week?
  • What are your roadblocks right now?
  • How are you progressing with your long term goals? Have you made any progress this week?
  • Are there any skills you would like to improve?
  • How can I help you achieve your goals better?
  • What are you committing to next week to progress your goals?

The wrap up

At the end of the day, 1:1s are an important ingredient of every high performing team. By being prepared, setting a regular cadence, remaining flexible and being honest, you’ll be on your way to getting the most out of your team. Not only this, but you’ll also begin to reap the benefits associated with regularly communicating with your team.

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1:1 Meeting | Template

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