1:1 meetings present one of the best opportunities to meaningfully check in with your employees—regardless of whether they’re in-person or remote. You can use this time to receive status updates about an ongoing project or chat about your direct report’s career development goals.
But you can’t just show up to the meeting and expect a seamless conversation. If you want to make the most of your time together, it’s essential to prepare. One of the best things you can do is craft a 1:1 meeting agenda.
While this creates an extra step in the process, it also leads to more effective communication and higher-quality discussions with your employee. In this post, we’ll explore why agendas are so important, review the essential elements you need to include, and share our best practices.
What is the purpose of a 1:1 meeting agenda?
Creating an agenda may seem like a lot of work. So you may be wondering why you can’t just go into your 1:1 meetings without one. Yes, it’s true that agendas take up a bit more time, but they serve an important purpose. Specifically, a 1:1 meeting agenda:
- Outlines the objectives for the meeting.
- Prioritizes the topics that need to be discussed.
- Keeps the conversation structured on track.
- Allows both the manager and employee to better prepare for the meeting.
- Serves as a reminder and record for what was discussed.
Being prepared ahead of time with an agenda ensures that you maximize the time spent with your direct report.
The elements of a strong 1:1 meeting agenda
But what exactly do you need to include in your 1:1 meeting agenda? This is a great question. While we encourage you to find a format that works best for you and your direct report, here are four elements that you can start with:
1. Personal check-in
1:1 meetings are about more than status updates. It’s a chance for you to check in on your employees and see how they’re feeling—both in and out of work. So dedicate at least a few minutes to ask your employee the following questions:
- How are you feeling this week?
- Is there anything at work or outside of work that’s causing you stress?
- Do you have anything on your mind that you’d like to discuss?
- What’s your biggest challenge this week? What are you most looking forward to?
2. Overview of ongoing projects
Of course, one of the main objectives of 1:1 meetings is to check in with your employee about ongoing projects. This is a great opportunity to hear about progress and offer your support. Here are a few questions you can ask to drive the conversation:
- How are you and the team progressing on the project?
- Do you have any concerns about your workload?
- Are they running into any issues or obstacles that I can help unblock?
- What are your plans and priorities for this week?
3. Career growth conversation
We also recommend setting aside time for employees to discuss their career goals—whether that’s working towards the next promotion or acquiring new skills to help them in their current role. Use these questions to guide your conversation about professional development:
- What progress have you made on your career goals this week?
- Do you have any new skills you’d like to learn on the job?
- What resources can I provide you with to support your career growth?
- Are there any projects outside our team that you’re interested in working on? Or any people outside of our team that you’d like to learn from?
Finally, leave a few minutes for miscellaneous items, which cover topics that don’t fall under the other categories, but the employee still wants to discuss. This may include approving upcoming vacation days, asking questions unrelated to ongoing projects, or providing company-related updates.
You can also use this time to open up the floor to your employees with more open-ended questions like:
- Is there anything we didn’t cover that you’d like to discuss next time?
- Is there anything I can help you with between now and the next time we meet?
- Do you have any general feedback for me?
We put together an example below to help you visualize what a 1:1 meeting agenda can look like. We also included recommended time allocations for each section, but you can adjust these numbers depending on your preference. Feel free to copy our template and make it your own!
[Example] 1:1 meeting agenda
Personal check-in (5 minutes)
Ongoing projects (10 minutes)
- Progress update on monthly marketing deck
- Overview of what’s going well and what’s not
- Discuss upcoming project
Career growth (10 minutes)
- Review ongoing career goals
- Identify new skills to develop in Q2
- Discuss progress with online course
- Reminder about mentorship program
Miscellaneous (5 minutes)
- Approve upcoming vacation days
- Provide hiring updates
6 best practices for using your 1:1 meeting agenda
Now that you have a top-notch agenda, let’s discuss how to use it as effectively as possible. Keep these best practices in mind for your upcoming 1:1 meetings:
1. Make sure your employee is involved in the process
Remember that these 1:1 meetings are for the benefit of your employees. This is one of the few times they get your undivided attention. Knowing this, it’s essential to make sure your direct report is involved in crafting the agenda as well.
Establish a process for how you’ll both share ownership of the agenda. For instance, you can agree that your direct report will take the lead on putting the agenda together and send it to you for review. Or, you can also create the 1:1 meeting agenda and send it to your employee for input.
Either way, make sure your employee has the chance to contribute and add any topics they want to cover during your time together.
2. Share the agenda 24 hours in advance
Make sure to share the agenda with your employee at least 24 hours before your meeting. This gives you both enough time to make changes, share feedback, and prepare for the conversation.
For example, if you want your direct report to share metrics from the latest marketing campaign, you need to give them time to pull those numbers. Or if your employee wants to discuss a challenging problem they’re facing with a team member, you may want to spend a few hours preparing your thoughts or practicing what you want to say.
Pro tip: when you do share the agenda, include it as a link directly in the calendar invitation so that it’s easy to locate and access!
3. Include thoughtful questions
One of the main goals of 1:1 meetings is to actively listen to your employees’ challenges, feedback, and thoughts. But you may notice that your direct reports have a hard time opening up.
In cases like this, it can be helpful to prepare a list of open-ended questions to drive the conversation forward. You can either write them down in a separate document or include them directly in the agenda—whichever method you prefer. We shared a few examples of questions in the previous section, but here are additional ones to consider, including:
- Last time we spoke, you mentioned that you were struggling with X. How is that going this week?
- Are there any accomplishments that happened in the last week that you’re particularly proud of?
- How are you feeling about your current work-life balance?
- What part of this project is energizing you?
- What part of this project is challenging you or not going as well as expected?
- How do you feel about the direction of this project?
Career growth questions:
- What’s one new thing you learned this week?
- Do you feel that your current responsibilities and job align with your future career goals?
- Are there any upcoming events or conferences you’re interested in attending?
- Do you have any questions about the recent announcement about X?
- Is there anything we discussed today that you want me to follow up on next week?
- How can I best support you this week?
Having these questions on hand can keep the conversation fluid and generate additional talking points. It also puts less pressure on you to think of thoughtful questions on the spot.
4. Take notes
Designate a note-taker for your 1:1 meeting—whether that’s you or your employees. Recording what was discussed during your time together accomplishes a few things.
First, it ensures that you’re both on the same page. For instance, if you discuss a deadline and your employee writes down the wrong date, you can point it out and correct the mistake. You can also use the notes to refresh yourself on what was discussed in the previous week, rather than relying on memory alone.
5. Identify action items
In addition to taking notes, write down action items in your agenda as well. Don’t forget to assign an owner for each one. This creates a clear takeaway for both you and your employee—and reminds you exactly what you need to do before the next meeting. Here are a few examples of what an action item can look like:
- [Manager name] to approve vacation days by next week.
- [Employee name] to finish a draft of the whitepaper by [date].
- [Manager name] to find a resource to help [employee name] with their project.
6. Review last week’s agenda
Before your next 1:1 meeting, review the notes and agenda from the previous week. This will help you improve the productivity of your meetings since you won’t need to waste time trying to remember what you discussed last week.
Doing a review can also remind you to follow up on action items or close the loop on topics that were discussed last time. For instance, if your employee was dealing with a problem the previous week, you may want to check in to see if it’s been resolved or if they need additional support.
Ready to have more productive 1:1 meetings? Start with an awesome agenda
Agendas are critical to having more productive, efficient, and impactful 1:1 meetings. Hopefully, the best practices that we shared in this article will help you make the most of your time with your employees. If you want to learn how to create top-notch agendas for remote team meetings, check out our article on how to create effective meeting agendas for online calls.