One-on-ones with employees can often feel like a waste of time for both the manager and the employee, however, they shouldn't. Instead, they are a chance to get to know each other better. It's an opportunity for the manager to find out if the employee has any concerns, to answer their questions, and to listen to their ideas or suggestions. In short, one-on-ones are a great opportunity to nurture and develop a productive and happy employee, which will ultimately benefit you and your business.

Here are a few ideas for making your one-on-ones more successful:

Let your employees set the agenda

A one-on-one with an employee is about them, not you, so where possible, let them decide what they want to talk about with you, or at the very least invite them to contribute to the agenda. Before the one-on-one, ask them to actively come up with some topics to discuss. Make it clear they can be as broad as they wish, and that you are open to discussing whatever they want.

TIP: You may also want to consider letting them choose the time, date and place for your meeting so that they feel as comfortable as possible talking to you.

Remember everyone is different

Understanding your staff, the way they work, and the way they need or want feedback is crucial in order to get the best out of your relationship with them. It can also be highly effective in motivating them to work at their best. Some people will look to you for regular guidance, whilst others will want to be left to get on with their own work. Some will need more praise and encouragement than others who are naturally more confident. Be prepared to change the way you communicate during one-on-ones to accommodate this.

Facilitate, don't dictate

It sounds counter-intuitive telling you not to manage as a manager, but as you may already know, research shows that micro-managing employees is an error many managers make. In fact, people have proven time and again that facilitating and supporting employees to manage their own time and work will lead to a more productive and happier workforce. So don't see a one-on-one as an opportunity to dictate new orders or explain in minute detail everything that needs to be done. Instead, ask your employees where they need more help, or how you can help them get their work done.

TIP: Encourage employees to ask questions at several points throughout the one-on-one rather than leaving it until the end when an employee may feel reluctant to ask questions if you both have to get back to work or go home for the day.

Prepare to take action... and follow up

Your employees may come to you with a specific question that will require you to take action. For example, they want to know about some additional training or they are interested in a new role or promotion. Being as aware as possible of what you can offer will help you answer their questions confidently, however, you should also be open to new ideas for how you might be able help them grow and develop. If you do need to do a little more research or give one of their questions more consideration be sure to get another date in the diary before the one-on-one ends so your employee knows their enquiry has been taken seriously.

TIP: Remind your employees to bring their diary or have their calendar to hand so you can both schedule a follow-up meeting. This small action shows you are keen to keep their employment and care about solving a problem or concern they may have.

Be approachable, all the time

It is important to have regular one-on-ones, but being approachable and open to talking to your employees at all times is the ideal scenario. In being so, it will almost certainly make the obligatory one-on-ones you are required to have with employees more relaxed and more beneficial for all.

About the author

Jen Lowthrop is Findmyshift's own all-star writer and a blogger. With more than a decade of experience in volunteer management and marketing, Jen also ran her own local deli/cafe. When not writing for Findmyshift, Jen blogs about her travels at She Gets Around and can be found talking about travel, branding and business on Facebook and Twitter.