5 steps managers can take to have great 1:1s

Lauren Lazo

Imagine spending your entire date night running through a list of chores—such as whose turn it is to go to the grocery store and what documents you need for taxes—instead of connecting deeply with your partner.

Unfortunately, this is similar to how most 1:1s play out. Managers tend to focus on status updates, missing out on a valuable opportunity to better understand and support their people. Worse, they inadvertently send the message that they only care about pressing tasks and to-do’s, leaving their team feeling expendable and anxious. 

To better understand how people feel about their regular 1:1s we surveyed hundreds of employees. Given how overwhelmed managers are, it’s not surprising that our results indicate that 33% of individual contributors dread 1:1 meetings.

The good news, however, is that the survey also highlights that when held frequently, 1:1s positively impact employee performance, retention, and innovation. When employees have regular 1:1s, they are 11% more likely to stay at their jobs.

With a little assistance from Humu’s latest suite of features, every manager can unlock the benefits of not only frequent, but effective 1:1s. Here’s how.

1. Be prepared, but not rigid

Carving out time to prepare for regular 1:1 can feel impossible as managers are more overwhelmed—and burned out—than ever.

That’s where Humu comes in. At the start of each week, Humu reminds managers, and their reports, to add topics to their upcoming 1:1 agenda. Each nudge includes a link to the shared agenda, making it easier for everyone to quickly review and add items. Plus—by the end of  this year—managers and reports can add items to the agenda throughout the week directly from Slack and Teams, allowing important topics to be earmarked for future discussion. 

When managers prepare for 1:1s they communicate to their reports that they are valuable. However, the meeting should remain flexible enough to accommodate topics that are top of mind. In the end, the meeting is meant to be an opportunity for open, meaningful conversation.  

2. Reduce meeting anxiety

Nearly half (49%) of individual contributors feel anxious before 1:1 meetings with their manager, largely because they don’t know what will be discussed.

To minimize this anxiety, managers can use shared Smart Agendas to increase transparency, organize topics, and ensure no agenda is left empty. Giving employees insight into how the time will be used reduces uncertainty and motivates preparation.  

Another source of stress for employees is misalignment with their manager around what is important to talk about during 1:1s. For example, our research shows that ICs place a higher value on discussing what is going on in the company and personal development than their managers. But, managers don’t always have the bandwidth, or the right resources, to stay up-to-date on how each individual wants to spend their 1:1 time.

With Humu’s recommended topics feature, managers are offered relevant, impactful talking points based on employee-selected focus areas, organization-wide initiatives, and role-specific growth opportunities. That way, managers can support everyone on their team by automatically surfacing critical topics, in the moments they are most likely to be acted on.

3. Get personal 

1:1 meetings offer managers a valuable opportunity to connect with, and understand their reports on a personal level. 

Via Humu’s Employee Profiles, managers have a private, centralized spot to collect and organize the small details that make a big difference to employees. When a manager can recall the name of a report’s pet, how they like to get work done, or that they just ran a half-marathon, it goes a long way towards building rapport and deepening relationships. 

Employee’s also have the freedom to update their Employee Profile in order to foster stronger connections, inclusion, and collaboration across the team. Employees can add details such as:

  • Pronouns 
  • Where they are based
  • How they recharge
  • What they enjoy talking about
  • Their preferred communication method
  • How they like to give and receive feedback
  • What qualities they value in the people they work with

Importantly, Employee Profiles also house the results of Humu’s Work Style Assessment. The assessment results provide insight into how each employee uniquely approaches their work, handles conflict, tackles tasks, and collaborates with colleagues. Equipped with this information, managers can provide each individual with the unique support and guidance they need to reach their most ambitious goals.

4. Champion your people

What is the single most important action managers can take to retain top talent? Recognizing hard work and accomplishments. By using 1:1 time to express appreciation, managers increase motivation, performance, and creativity.

"I would love to say that my nature is always to give recognition. But sometimes we're going so fast that I forget to just stop and say, “you are all doing amazing work.” Nudges have really helped me to show appreciation for my team and all that they do." — Learning and Development Manager.

Humu empowers managers to build recognition into their weekly 1:1 habits. For example, one nudge encourages managers to reward dependable doers. It’s easy to reward heroic efforts, or praise the people who go above and beyond in a surprising way. But phenomenal work isn’t always flashy. Managers can recognize employees who’ve turned going above and beyond into a way of life. They’re often harder to identify, but are quietly and consistently doing great work.

5. Track trends

Reflecting on what was discussed, what went well, and what could be improved is a great way for managers to ensure 1:1s continue to meet the needs of each report. Doing so helps curate conversation topics that build trust and connection. 

Humu nudges managers to quickly pause and reflect—before rushing to the next meeting—with discussion tracking. By answering just one quick question after each 1:1 meeting, managers unlock trend data that highlights the topics that have recently been addressed and those that need attention. Utilizing these insights allows managers to have the right conversations, with the right people, at the right time.

Level-up your teams 1:1’s

The research is clear: When managers hold effective, inclusive, 1:1s their teams are happier and higher-performing. But how can managers build the everyday habits that lead to valuable meetings? With Humu. 

Humu’s platform uses science backed nudges to help managers prepare for, lead, and reflect on 1:1 meetings that galvanize their teams towards greatness. Bolstered by weekly reminders, shared Smart Agendas, intelligent topic recommendations, and discussion tracking, every manager can lead great 1:1s, week after week.

Request a demo to learn how your team can capitalize on the most valuable employee-manager interaction: The 1:1 meeting.