Beating The 4 Reasons Your People Aren't Holding 1:1 Meetings

by Anita Bowness | Posted | Performance Management

Beating The 4 Reasons Your People Aren\'t Holding 1:1 Meetings

1:1 meetings between managers and employees are crucial to the success of employees, teams, and organizations. When managers hold regular 1:1s, employees are almost three times more likely to be engaged at work - that's kind of a big deal!

But despite the payoff, HR pros that encourage regular meetings between employees and managers often hear the same excuses for why these meetings just aren’t happening as often as they ought to (or at all, for that matter). For instance:

  • “We never even know where to start.”
  • “I don’t have time to properly prepare for these meetings.”
  • “I’m in enough meetings every week, I don’t need to lose another hour of my time.”
  • “We don’t have anything to talk about.”

Luckily for you, we know exactly how to counter these excuses. So let's dig in!

“We don’t even know where to start.”

This one is easy to get around. First of all, employees and their managers should pick an agenda format and stick to it. There are a ton of examples of great 1:1 meeting formats in the Ultimate Guide To 1:1 Meetings ebook. Employees and managers should pick a format that matches up well with their combined objectives, whether that’s an increased emphasis on learning and development, developing the manager-employee relationship, or a bias for action involving more tactical discussions. The longer the employee-manager team sticks to that agenda, the better they'll get at using it.

Beyond that, HR can help out by providing conversation starters to compliment the agenda. Conversation starters are great tools that encourage managers and employees to have productive discussions about performance, development, career planning and more. Conversation starters should be open-ended, unique and subtle in order to foster great conversations. In both Saba Cloud and Halogen TalentSpace, the HR team can push these conversation starters right into the 1:1 meeting agendas of certain teams, groups or of the entire organization.


With our 1:1 tool, HR can push out conversation starters to individuals, teams, groups or the entire organization to help encourage meaningful discussions.

“I don’t have the time to properly prepare for these meetings”

Employees and managers often experience the same thing in the lead up to a 1:1 meeting. They receive a notification in their calendar saying that their meeting is in 15 minutes, they scramble to put together something that resembles a real agenda and go to the meeting under-prepared. The fact is, everyone has competing priorities, and 1:1 meeting prep tends to fall down that list for many employees and managers.

So how can we overcome this last-minute scramble? By pulling in notes over time to inspire topics of conversation. Employees and managers should be encouraged to record what they’re working on, thinking about and learning on an ongoing basis. That way, when the time for a 1:1 meeting comes around, the employee has an easy overview of everything they might want to talk about.

In the below example from Saba Cloud's new Workboard view, Aaron can see an overview his active and completed tasks, a performance journal and other categories of tasks, feedback and notes that have been collected and sorted on an ongoing basis.


In the new u40 release of Saba Cloud, employees can see an overview of their recent work, learning and other notes from both themselves and their manager in the Workboard view.

By recording important topics as they happen, meeting preparation becomes a non-issue.

“I’m in enough meetings every week, I don’t need to lose another hour of my time”

We get it. Time is valuable. For some, it’s hard to carve out an extra hour every week or two to just meet and talk when that time could be spent working on projects, catching up on administrative tasks or just about anything else. For this issue, we have two solutions.

The first solution is to remind employees and managers that that lost hour could end up saving more time down the road. Constant communication is key to making sure the right things are being worked on by reducing redundancies and properly prioritizing. Imagine an employee that spends several hours researching facts and figures for a report only to discover that their manager had all that information handy. A quick mention of that project in a 1:1 meeting could potentially save that employee hours of scouring the web for that info.

It’s time to eliminate all those excuses managers and employees give for not holding regular 1:1 meetings!
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The second option is to encourage quick, less formal check-ins. If employees and managers really can’t get together on even a bi-weekly basis, they can simply hold quick 15-minute check-ins whenever an opportunity presents itself. While an hour-long meeting is often optimal, a brief meeting is certainly better than not meeting at all.

Squeezing in a 15-minute conversation in person or over the phone is better than waiting another week, two weeks or a month to hear what’s happening.

“We don’t have anything to talk about.”

In the freak event that your people are doing all of the above and still don’t have anything to talk about, remind them that 1:1 meetings can always, nay, should always include conversations about two things: goals and feedback.

Goals are the fuel that keeps individuals and organizations going, and for this reason, managers and employees should be engaged in near-constant communication about them. Every 1:1 meeting should include an update for the manager on how employee goals are progressing. This regular communication helps in a number of ways. First, managers can get a better feel for which goals are on track, ahead of schedule, or falling behind, and can therefore get a better idea of how they can best coach and support. Second, managers can better keep their finger on the pulse of whether or not the employees’ goals are aligned with those of the team, department, and organization.

Many managers and employees find it helpful to track goals along the way – a process that can be supported through the use of a talent management suite. In both Saba Cloud and Halogen TalentSpace, goal progress can be expressed as a percentage to give a snapshot view of things, and notes can be made to mark big milestones, advice on next steps on moving the needle and other relevant information concerning the goals. This ongoing process of updating goals is crucial when it comes time to reflect on successes and shortcomings during things like performance appraisals, merit pay increase processes, and promotion opportunities.


Managers and employees should also discuss feedback. Saba Cloud records “Impressions” – public digital fist-bumps anyone in the organization can give out to recognize great performance and attitude. 

Similarly, Halogen Performance allows employees to share feedback with one another. Manager visibility into the feedback that employees receive is crucial when it comes to getting a full understanding of an employee’s impact. Managers can’t possibly notice every single positive thing an employee does, so it’s important to hear from people outside the 1:1 meeting as well. That’s why Saba Cloud’s Check-In tool and Halogen’s 1:1 tool both automatically pull in all new employee feedback to ensure that it crosses the manager’s eyes. In the below example, when Jeff starts a Check-In meeting in Saba Cloud, he is immediately presented with feedback he recently received in the “active” column.


No more excuses!

There you have it! Next time the employees and managers come to you to tell you that 1:1 meetings aren’t worth the time, you’ll be able to show them how easy they can be. They’re easy to structure, easy to prepare for, easy to fit into the flow of work and have no shortage of important discussion topics.

Want your organization to up their 1:1 meeting game? Download our Ultimate Guide to 1:1 Meetings for Managers and Employees today.

Get The Tools You Need To Make Regular 1:1 Meetings a Reality

Want to learn how a talent management suite can help encourage regular 1:1 meetings in your organization? Get a hold of us!


Contact Us
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Get The Tools You Need To Make Regular 1:1 Meetings a Reality

Want to learn how a talent management suite can help encourage regular 1:1 meetings in your organization? Get a hold of us!


Contact Us


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