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Shining the spotlight on 1:1s: How often should you have them and why?

Meeting Culture / Effectiveness
July 28, 2020
min read
What does the data say about the importance of 1:1 meetings for managers and their direct reports across on-site, hybrid, and remote working environments? Frequency and proximity matter, but this is especially true for remote working environments.

This article was originally published in July of 2020, which was just at the start of the pandemic. During that time, companies started to adopt “remote work” and “work-from-home” models to stay afloat, as countries implemented lockdowns to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. Over time, we’ve seen much of the working world undergo a digital transformation, and companies are identifying the best working environment policies to implement as returning to the office is becoming possible. Through company collaboration data and People Analytics, we learned several things about digital collaboration due to COVID, the new future of work, and how to maximize employee productivity across work environments. Here are the takeaways we’ve garnered since this original blog was published. 

One-on-one meetings are an ideal workplace practice to engage with managers and their direct reports. However, many managers fail to have the 1:1s frequently enough to garner the true value of these types of meetings. 1:1 meetings are an opportunity for a personal and productive discussion - but frequently companies fail to instill the right type of 1:1 meeting culture.

One-on-ones are unique. Used on an ongoing basis, they are a powerful tool to help managers align teams on both short and long-term strategies, encouraging trust and employee engagement. 1:1 meetings are not simply about having aimless discussions over coffee, it’s about bringing what is important to the table. Micromanagement is a dirty word in today’s modern workplace; cultivating leadership styles that focus on building rapport - over micromanaging - through personal connection is key. 

Are 1:1 meetings a waste of time?

Let’s be honest, 1:1 meetings are not part of our everyday work life because they are seen as a time suck. They are typically only scheduled due to formality reasons, for instance,  at the beginning of a performance cycle. During those 1:1 kick-off meetings, managers set business goals for employees and/or employees gauge expectations. At the end of the period, a perfunctory 1:1 meeting is again scheduled - and this time is used to evaluate an employee’s  progress and performance against the business objectives, as well as provide an employee with constructive feedback, whether positive or negative. 

1:1 Meetings
Boosting employee retention, performance, and morale is a key goal of every business. Our analysis points to 1:1 meetings as being a key component of overall employee wellbeing.
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How do 1:1 meetings contribute to productivity? 

The time in between business goal setting and a project concluding, is when an employee needs managerial support the most. Had both parties had the time, and motivation, their 1:1 meetings could have facilitated developmental discussions to increase employee performance and manager satisfaction. Being on the same page is essential for business success and optimal productivity. Unfortunately, 1:1s are meetings that are most often skipped. These check-ins are largely unprioritized because there is always something more urgent on the horizon than a 1:1 catch up in the middle of the production cycle. Regularly scheduling these meetings, however, sets the tone for a far more effective ongoing process. 

These 1:1 meetings are especially important for hybrid and remote working environment models, as managers and their direct reports don’t have the same opportunities for face time as they would in on-site work models. 

Why do 1:1 meetings matter? 

Emails and (IM) instant messaging over digital collaboration platforms like Slack, serve their use, but HBR purports that nothing beats a one-on-one meeting. Managers should be encouraged to spend regular time with their direct reports to better facilitate working relationships. The quality of these connections suffers when undernourished. Employees should also do due diligence to make the most out of their one-to-one meetings with their managers

The results are worth the effort: Gallup’s State of the American Manager report shows that employees who meet their managers regularly are more likely to be engaged, and perform better. Adobe’s evidence shows these results from another angle, proving that regular 1:1 meetings boost employee retention and lower voluntary exits by almost 33%.

Internal studies conducted at Microsoft and Cisco, found that direct reports who had more frequent - and effectively ran - 1:1 meetings with their managers were more engaged than their counterparts. In Microsoft’s study, and consistent with pre-pandemic research, they found when interviewing new hires, they reported feeling more positive when they had “formalized, consistent and sustained 1:1 interactions with onboarding buddies, mentors and their managers.” 

These crucial 1:1 meetings should not fall by the wayside; especially if your workforce is working remotely. In 2020, this original article suggested, “The recent switch to remote working may be here to stay, not just as a temporary COVID-19 response, so it is even more important to schedule 1:1s.” Moreover in 2022, as remote work and hybrid models have continued to be adopted, the statement above still rings true - no matter what working environment model your company has - 1:1 are crucial to employee engagement and productivity. 

With remote work, managers are no longer there in the flesh to monitor daily efforts, increasing the need for team coordination and personal communication. According to Microsoft's analysis, increased 1:1 meetings with managers buffer employees against the negative aspects of working from home, like overtime. But how do you know if your managers are making the right efforts?

How Time is Ltd. enables managers to optimize 1:1 meetings

Time is Ltd.’s employee engagement & productivity platform answers burning questions, such as:

  • Do your managers schedule 1:1 meetings with their team? 
  • Do managers meet with their team often enough to achieve the optimal outcome? 

Time is Ltd. 1:1 Managerial Meetings Per Person Internally & Externally 

This chart illustrates Time is Ltd. data and how often managers have managerial 1:1s per person internally and externally. 
Data Sample: These charts are based on Time is Ltd. data showcasing how a company’s 1:1s breakdown by department.

Time is Ltd. allows you to track how many 1:1 meetings took place - and highlights which teams are making:

  • positive developments, 
  • negative developments, 
  • and which departments aren’t making any changes whatsoever. 

It is vital to praise the teams showing improvement, to reinforce the value of 1:1 meetings! 

The optimal frequency usually depends on the nature of the team. Some managers, such as Mark Zuckerberg, suggest that weekly meetings are crucial if the pace of change at the company is high. For new employees, scheduling meetings as often as daily is recommended.

Our recommendation? Aim for bi-weekly meetings of thirty minutes to an hour. This allocates enough time to delve into deeper issues, so the conversation is of value and 1:1s with your employees are more productive

Ideally, managers should meet every team member 1:1. The time dedicated to these meetings should not, however, become so excessive that managers lack the time for strategic tasks. Daily meetings might be overkill, signaling a lack of independence on the employee’s part or micromanagement on the manager’s part. If the frequency is reasonable but the number of 1:1s still remains excessive, it may indicate that the manager’s span of control is too high. 

How frequently are 1:1 meetings getting canceled?

If 1:1 meetings are to have true value, they should not fall victim to last-minute cancellations to make way for other meetings or tasks. Working from home may have wreaked some havoc on our traditional schedules, but both manager and employee should carve out the time to meet. If a manager is understanding of an employee’s personal and professional commitments, offering a little flexibility can make this possible regardless of other priorities. 

How Frequently Do 1:1’s Actually Occur vs. Get Cancelled?

This chart illustrates Time is Ltd. data, which shows how often managers and employees actually have a 1:1 meeting.‍
Data Sample:  These charts are based on Time is Ltd. data showing a breakdown by department of how often a company performs at actually attending their scheduled 1:1 meetings.

Hot Tips: To have the most productive and distraction-free meetings. Encourage employees and managers to turn off channel notifications and default to using video calls vs. having the camera turned off.

Who organizes 1:1 meetings? The manager or the employee? 

The Time is Ltd. platform tracks another important metric related to 1:1s - who is playing the role of the organizer? From our perspective, the organizer should be the employee, not the manager. We took a look at Time is Ltd. data and analyzed 1:1 meetings from the perspective of who sent the original invitation to whom. The charts below showcase that managers and employees shift “meeting organizer” roles over time. Additionally, the department drastically impacts who is organizing the meetings.

The frequency that a manager vs. an employee organizes 1:1s

This chart illustrates Time is Ltd. data, which depicts who is organizing 1:1s: the manager or the employee?
Data Sample:  These charts are based on Time is Ltd. data showcasing the percentage of 1:1s organized by the manager vs. the employee from May of 2021 until May of 2022. 

A 1:1 meeting is, by nature, more personal, but this does not negate the need for an agenda. The employee should determine the topics covered, and should include more than mere updates. Short-term goals, long-term aims, learning & development opportunities, career objectives, manager & employee feedback: all are suitable for a 1:1 discussion. There are many more to choose from. 

Is there a difference between 1:1 meeting culture in remote vs. in-office environments?

Remote workers are far less likely to have as many 1:1s as their in-office counterparts.
Data Sample: Time is Ltd. data showcases that office workers have far more 1:1 meetings than their remote office counterparts

It boils down to more than the metrics. Measurable aspects aside, ensure you do not forget the informal nature of 1:1 meetings. They support strong working relationships between managers and employees because they build trust. In a world where in-person one-on-one time is difficult to organize, this is especially pertinent. Those metrics cannot be tracked, but you can at least set your managers on the right path when you start with the rest. 

Case study

How can you efficiently target and change managers’ leadership skills? Data reveals retention, engagement and performance directly correlate to 1:1 meetings. Read our case study to learn more about the fruitful outcome of effective 1:1 meetings.

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The Takeaway 

At Time is Ltd., we measure digital collaboration and productivity, without sacrificing employee privacy. We provide an advanced analytical SaaS platform that delivers a holistic view of an organization's collaboration patterns. We measure your team’s digital footprint to improve communication, and productivity as well as save precious time. Our approach only aggregates meta-data from a variety of data sources, to show how your teams work with your collaboration tools so you can get them more productive and motivated. 

Get in touch to learn how to leverage your companies’ collaboration data to create an engaged, productive, and thriving workforce! 


Article by
Klara Simcikova
Klara is our experienced People & Data Consultant focusing on advising companies in the areas of operating model transformation, process optimization and strategic change via our platform.
Article by
Klara Simcikova
Klara is our experienced People & Data Consultant focusing on advising companies in the areas of operating model transformation, process optimization and strategic change via our platform.

See other articles

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