One-on-ones 101: With whom and how often?

As a busy leader, you may be wondering how to fit one-on-ones into an already packed schedule. Here are some best practices selected from The Watercooler, our online community for leaders.

A frequent question I receive when it comes to having one-on-ones with employees is: With whom and how often? Everyone? Direct reports? A cross-section of employees from different departments? Once a week? Once a month? Bi-weekly? Quarterly? Once a year?

One-on-one meetings can be notably time-consuming — especially if you’ve got more than 50 employees. So figuring out how who you’re talking with and the right cadence of conversations is crucial.

To get a sense of what other successful leaders have implemented at their companies, I posed the question of one-on-one frequency and structure to The Watercooler, our online community in Know Your Team with 1,000+ leaders, managers and executives from around the world.

Here’s some of their best advice about one-on-ones:

  • With more than 100 employees, this content strategy leader can’t have one-on-ones with everyone. She holds one-on-ones with direct reports every two weeks, and she meets with peers and stakeholders in different teams and departments across the company every one-to-three months.
  • One leader of a 50-person-plus organization said she conducts one-on-ones with six managers and four or five employees selected at random. This gives her a good understanding of what’s going on in the company — and not just from a manager’s perspective. The frequency is one a month.
  • With a company of about 25 people, one leader said she meets with four direct reports weekly for 30 minutes, and twice each week for an hour with two different employees. This ensures that everyone has the opportunity to voice long-range items.
  • Another leader of a small team of about 10 people said she can still conduct one-on-ones with everyone. But rather than load up everyone’s calendars with meetings, she tries to be more present and aware about what’s happening in terms of attitudes and behaviors across the team, which allows her to actively react by scheduling more one-on-ones with those who may need it most.

How often do you hold your one-on-ones, and with whom? Share your experience in the comments below, or join us in The Watercooler and read what leaders from around the globe are discussing when it comes to leadership and employee engagement. Look forward to hearing from you!


Written by Claire Lew

CEO of Know Your Team. My mission in life is to help people become happier at work. Say hi to me on Twitter at @clairejlew.

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