How To Have Effective 1:1s (sample questions)

7 min read
Oct 5, 2022

Employees are the foundation of your company, and building strong employee relationships is the key to a successful business. The best way to build those relationships is by having more effective 1-on-1 meetings.

According to a survey, 48% of managers have consistent weekly meetings. These meetings are used to build relationships with employees while providing them with direct support.

It might be hard to get started — and even harder to make it a habit. However, tools like TINYpulse Coach help automate scheduling and send 1-on-1 surveys in advance so managers can prepare for all meetings ahead of time. Using such tools will not only make it easier to plan and hold meetings but also keep them consistent.

The Importance of One-on-One Meetings

From the outset, 1-on-1 meetings may sound daunting for both the employee and the manager. But in reality, it’s quite the opposite. That’s because 1-on-1 meetings allow both parties to express themselves without having to worry about anyone else. In fact, according to Gallup, employees who have regular 1-on-1 meetings are three times more likely to be engaged than the ones who don’t.

Some people have fears that expressing themselves to their managers, even in 1-on-1 meetings, can lead to negative repercussions. However, time and time again, it has been proven that the best time to voice any concerns is during these exact kinds of meetings.

In fact, this exchange of both professional and personal information leads to better employee-manager relationships. It helps employees trust their managers more and helps managers understand and empathize with their employees.

Furthermore, 1-on-1 meetings also build a two-way feedback channel where both parties can praise, criticize, and provide feedback on different factors. This helps both the employee and the manager learn, adapt, and develop new skills.

Eventually, the increased level of employee engagement leads to better employee retention as well as happier and more motivated employees.

15 Questions You Should Ask in Every 1-on-1 Meeting

It might feel like it’s hard to get started and keep 1-on-1 meetings consistent. However, if you treat them as any other meeting with an agenda, you won’t face any problems.

You can use the following list in its exact order as a template for your meetings. Once you get the hang of it, you can tweak the questions to suit your needs, organization, and employees.


Questions to Show You Care

1. How are you doing?

It’s important to start with something simple and somewhat personal so you can gauge how an employee is feeling about the meeting. For example, a clear answer indicates they are feeling good — while a vague answer might mean that they’re nervous and have something on their mind.

2. Since we last met, what are you most proud of and why?

Ask about their biggest accomplishments at work or outside of work. From there, give recognition or connect with them on a personal level.

3. What support do you need from me this week? What’s your top priority for next week?

After that, ease into the employee’s work life. Have open communication about their capacity, obstacles, and roadblocks. Letting employees know you’re here to help them get better at their jobs and advance their careers. After that, inquire about their plans for next week with regard to work. Align on key deliverables, making sure employees are tackling the right tasks at the right time.

Questions About Career Goals and Aspirations

4. What accomplishment in your career are you looking forward to this year?

It’s best to understand your employee’s professional progress and where they want to take their career. This can help you provide them with the means or help them achieve what they want.

5. What part of your job and role energizes you the most and motivates you?

The point of this question is to understand what an employee can specialize in moving forward. It can help you provide them with future projects that they like and support their professional development.

6. Do you feel that your current responsibilities and job align with your future goals?

The answer to this question will tell you whether that employee is the right person for the job. It can help you provide the employee with relevant responsibilities or offer them a position that aligns with their goals or interests.

Questions to Discuss Obstacles in the Employee’s Life

7. What is the one thing that you feel is holding you back from getting closer to achieving your goals?

This is where you start to check whether the employee is having any issues or troubles, both professionally and personally. This is an opportunity to help your employees reach their goals. The answer to this can also be a precursor for question three in upcoming 1-on-1 meetings.

8. Do you feel like something or someone in the company is hindering your work in any way?

This question helps weed out any inter-company problems due to other employees, equipment, or even a company process. This is also an opportunity to fix or make company processes better.

9. Are there any non-company-related matters that are making it hard for you to concentrate on your work?

This helps paint a complete picture of what an employee might be going through. Knowing both personal and professional issues can help fully understand the problems an employee might be facing and gives you the opportunity to help fix them.

Questions to Gauge How Engaged and Satisfied the Employee Is

10. On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy are you with your current job? Is the nature of your job clear in terms of responsibilities and expectations? 

It’s important to understand how your employees feel about their jobs and responsibilities. You can delve deeper by asking each employee to emphasize their ratings.

11. Do you feel like you’re making a positive contribution to the company/industry/world with your work?

Ask this question depending on your company’s size, goals, and values. It will help you understand how motivated the employee is when it comes to their work.

12. Do you believe you have a good work-life balance? If not, why do you think that is and what can we do to improve it?

This question provides insights into your daily organizational practices and it shows whether the employees are underworked, overworked, or doing just fine. It also provides insights into an employee’s psychological profile, allowing you to use that information to provide a better work-life balance (as the employee sees it). 

Questions to Tap Into Self-Improvement

13. Are you getting enough feedback? How frequently do you like receiving feedback?

The answers to this question are used to check how employees feel about feedback and if they deem it necessary. If the employee wants to increase feedback frequency, it shows that these meetings and feedback sessions are working. If it’s the opposite, it’s an indication that some part of the meeting or feedback session isn’t up to standards.

14. What feedback and suggestions do you have for me and/or the company?

Since the idea is to develop a two-way feedback channel, you should ask the employee for their feedback and suggestions. You might receive some good, insightful information while also enabling your employees to feel empowered. If you act on one of their suggestions, they are bound to remember that positively.

15. Is there anything I can help you with after this meeting? Is there anything we missed that you want to talk about?

Concluding the meeting open-endedly is important because it leaves the door open for more discussion, which might even take place after the meeting itself. It’s also a good way of setting the following meeting’s agenda. On the other hand, it gives the employee an opportunity to express their thoughts freely.

Bonus: Questions to Ask in Your First 1-On-1 Meeting

If you’re doing 1-on-1 meetings for the first time, you can still ask the questions above (with little tweaks). However, what’s more, important is that the first meeting flows smoothly, and you get to know each other.

You need to set the time and agenda and agree on specific guidelines. It’s also important to ask the employees what their expectations are for these meetings and how they believe these meetings can help them.

Here are some questions you can incorporate in your first 1-on-1 meeting.

1. Are you comfortable with 1-on-1 meetings? How well do you take constructive feedback?

This question is just used to see if the employee is nervous about the meeting. The second part can show you how deep you can take the meeting. It’s best to provide some sort of constructive criticism after the employee answers this question to gauge their responses.

2. Do you think these meetings should take place every week/month/quarter?

This will tell you if the meeting has had a positive impact on the employee. It also tells you how many 1-on-1 meetings you can have with that employee without hindering their work or annoying them.

3. What are your expectations for these meetings? Do you believe they will help you and the company?

This is the most important question of your first meeting, but it’s best to ask it in the end. It will tell you how positively the employee has responded to the meeting and how enthusiastic they are about future meetings. It also gives you the opportunity to tweak your future meetings so they’re more helpful to each individual employee.

Building Better Relationships with A Whole-Person Approach

The entire idea of 1-on-1s is to have personalized meetings so manager-employee relationships can be cultivated. By having a safe space to talk, both the employee and the manager can be more open and direct with one another.

Privacy is a major concern for most employees when it comes to talking about issues. This is why 1-on-1 meetings are successful; they provide privacy and allow any and all controversial information to stay between the manager and the employee.

At the same time, it gives the manager the opportunity to acknowledge any feelings the employee may have without them feeling bottled up resulting in burnout, etc. 

Add it all up, and 1-on-1 meetings will always lead to better employee engagement, retention, and increased employee satisfaction. 

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