Times have changed. No longer do you have to keep your personal life a secret. Your employees and coworkers will see you as more authentic, trustworthy, and will be more inclined to open up to you if you get to know them better.
Set time aside to be informal and talk about personal items and issues.
The beginning or the end of your 1-on-1 would be a great time to check in with your team members and employees on the personal side. This also includes you being vulnerable and sharing personal details about "how your weekend was" or what is going on in your life. Why? It makes you more relatable and builds trust which makes employees more likely to tell you the truth when you ask them "how are you doing" and "what do you need?".
If you're not a "people person" or interested in small talk this might not seem super important to include in every 1-on-1. However, the quick conversations that may initially be viewed as a waste of time are what bring a human connection to your employees and their work. Especially for companies with remote employees, personal conversations can actually improve employee engagement and team cohesiveness. Gallup states that "Employees at all levels need to make a concerted effort to get to know their coworkers and maintain friendships" and we couldn't agree more. When you like the people you work with, or feel connected to them, you will be more motivated to be engaged in your work.
Improve your awareness of each team member's situation.
You should not be expected to have enough time or resources to immediately take action on every piece of employee feedback sent your way. That doesn't mean you shouldn't still go and seek it out. Simply being aware of the feedback and listening to employees might be enough to make a positive impact.
As a manager, knowing more about what makes each employee unique including their likes and dislikes about their role can improve your working relationship and their performance. That is not to say that you never ask them to do a task that you know isn't their favorite. Simply being aware of what parts of their job they love and the parts they would rather not do every day can help you be a more empathetic and effective leader. Opening up and being authentic also helps to build psychological safety in employees which is a key driver in retaining your top performers.
Touch base with each employee before the meeting.
No, this doesn't mean schedule a meeting before your 1-on-1 meeting. It means reach out to your employee in some way (chat, email, survey) to get a sense of how they're feeling. At TINYpulse, our Coach solution sends employees a quick survey before their 1-on-1 to provide the manager with agenda items they might have, how their week has been going, their mood, and any help they might need coming up. Want to know the best part? It hardly takes any extra effort on the manager's side to set this up. It doesn't have to be a big fancy message, just a way to get some input from them before the meeting starts.
People want to be treated like people. By taking the time to get to know each employee you engage with on a regular basis, actively listening, and touching base on a consistent cadence, you're well on your way to making more of an impact with your 1-on-1s.