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Essential 1:1 Conversation Guide: 15 Key Questions to Ask

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Since your employees are the foundation of your company, building strong employee relationships is the key to a successful company. And the best way to build these relationships is to commit to regular 1:1s with every employee.

According to a survey, 48% of managers hold regular weekly meetings. These meetings are designed to build relationships with employees while providing them with direct support.

It may be hard to start - and even harder to make it a habit. However, tools like IceHrm Listening help automate scheduling and send 1:1 surveys in advance so managers can prepare for all meetings. The use of such tools not only makes planning and conducting meetings easier, but also ensures that they are carried out consistently.

The importance of one-on-one meetings

At first glance, one-on-one meetings may seem daunting for both the employee and the manager. But in reality it is exactly the opposite. That's because 1:1 conversations give both parties the opportunity to express themselves without having to worry about others. According to Gallup, employees who have regular 1:1 meetings are three times more likely to engage in regular 1:1 meetings than employees who don't.

Some people are afraid that speaking up to their managers, even in face-to-face conversations, could have negative repercussions. However, it has been proven time and time again that the best time to raise concerns is precisely these types of conversations.

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

In addition, 1-on-1 conversations also form a two-way feedback channel where both parties can praise, criticize and give feedback on various factors. This helps both the employee and the manager learn, adapt and develop new skills.

Ultimately, increased employee engagement leads to better employee retention and a happier and more motivated workforce.

15 questions you should ask in every 1-on-1 conversation

It may feel like it's hard to get started with 1-on-1 meetings and do them consistently. However, if you treat it like any other meeting with an agenda, you won't have any problems.

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

Questions about checking in on the employee's life

1.How are you feeling these days?

It's important to start with something simple, familiar, and somewhat personal so you can gauge how the employee is feeling before the meeting. For example, a clear answer suggests that he is looking forward to the meeting, while a vague answer suggests that he is nervous and has something on his mind.

2.What are you most proud of since we last met and why?

Ask about their greatest accomplishments at work or outside of work. Then offer recognition or make a personal connection.

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

Then you should get involved in the employee's working life. Speak openly about obstacles and roadblocks and let your employees know that you want to help them do their jobs better and advance their careers. Then ask about next week's plans as far as work goes. Align with key deliverables and ensure employees are tackling the right tasks at the right time.

Questions about career goals and aspirations

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

It is best if you know how your employee is progressing professionally and where he wants to develop professionally. This can help you give them the tools or help them achieve what they want.

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

This question is about understanding what an employee can specialize in in the future. This can help you offer him future projects he likes and support his professional development.

6.Do you feel that your current tasks and activities align with your future goals?

The answer to this question will indicate whether the employee is the right person for the job. It can help you assign appropriate tasks to the employee or offer them a position that aligns with their goals.

Questions to discuss obstacles in the employee's life

7.What do you think is stopping you from moving closer to your goals?

At this point you should check whether the employee is having any problems or difficulties, both professionally and personally. This is an opportunity to help your employees achieve their goals. The answer to this question can also be a precursor to question three in the next 1-on-1 conversations.

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

This question will help rule out internal company problems caused by other employees, equipment, or even a company procedure. This is also an opportunity to improve company operations.

9.Are there any non-company issues that make it difficult for you to concentrate on your work?

This helps to get a full picture of what an employee might be going through. Knowing about both personal and professional issues gives you a better understanding of an employee's problems and the opportunity to help resolve them.

Questions that provide information about how happy and satisfied the employee is

10.On a scale of 1 to 10, how satisfied are you with your current job, your tasks and your position?

It's important to understand how your employees feel about their work and their tasks. You can dig deeper by asking each employee to underline their rating. This can also be an indicator of whether it is time to promote someone.

11.Do you feel that your work makes a positive contribution to the company/industry/world?

Ask this question depending on the size, goals and values of your company. It will help you understand how motivated the employee is in their work.

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

This question provides information about your daily organizational processes and shows whether employees are under or overloaded or whether they are doing well. It also provides insight into an employee's psychological profile, so you can use this information to achieve a better work-life balance (from the employee's perspective).

Self Improvement Discussion Questions

13. Do you think you receive appropriate feedback? How often do you think feedback discussions should take place?

The answers to this question are intended to check how employees think about feedback and whether they think it is necessary. If the employee wants to increase the frequency of feedback, it shows that these sessions and feedback conversations are working. If the opposite is true, it suggests that some part of the meeting or feedback conversation is not up to standard.

14.What feedback and suggestions do you have for me and 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 get some good, insightful information and employees will feel empowered. If you take up one of their suggestions, they will definitely remember it positively.

15.Is there anything I can help you with after this meeting? Is there anything we missed that you would like to discuss?

An open ending is important because it leaves the door open for further discussions that can take place after the meeting itself. It's also a good way to set the agenda for the next meeting. On the other hand, it gives the employee the opportunity to express his thoughts freely.

Bonus: Questions to ask in your first 1:1 conversation

If this is your first time having a 1:1 conversation, you can still ask the questions above (with small adjustments). What is more important, however, is that the first meeting is relaxed and smooth.

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

Here are some questions you can include in your first 1-on-1 conversation.

1.Are you comfortable with 1:1 conversations? How well can you accept constructive feedback?

This question is just to determine if the employee is nervous before the interview. The second part can show you how deep you can go into the conversation. It's best to offer some form of constructive criticism after the employee answers this question to gauge their reactions.

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

This question provides information about whether the conversation had a positive impact on the employee. You will also find out how many 1:1 conversations you can have with the employee without hindering or upsetting them in their work.

3.What expectations do you have for these meetings? Do you think they will help you and the company?

This is the most important question of the first conversation, but it's best to ask it at the end. It provides information about how positively the employee responded to the conversation and how enthusiastic they are about future conversations. This also gives you the opportunity to tailor your future meetings to be more helpful to each individual employee.

Build better relationships with personalized meetings

The basic idea of 1-on-1 meetings is to have personal conversations so that relationships between managers and employees can be maintained. In a safe space, both the employee and the manager can talk to each other more openly and directly.

Privacy is a major concern for most employees when it comes to discussing issues. This is why 1-on-1 conversations are so successful: they provide privacy and allow any controversial information to remain between the manager and the employee.

At the same time, the manager has the opportunity to solve problems without causing setbacks.

Overall, 1-on-1 conversations always lead to better employee retention, higher employee satisfaction and motivation. What's not to like about it?

Prioritize employee relationships with structured 1:1 conversations. IceHrm facilitates seamless meetings, fostering trust and enhancing workplace culture.

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