Ignite Employee Engagement Through 1:1 Conversations

July 26, 2023

Managers have a lot on their plates – juggling multiple responsibilities, meeting deadlines, and ensuring their teams are producing at their best.  When managers’ days are so full, one essential tool that often takes a backseat are 1:1 conversations with their employees. 


It’s easy to understand why some managers might hesitate, given they are under pressure to achieve results for the organization. However, by investing in these important discussions, they unlock a powerful way to build stronger relationships, foster trust and ultimately become more effective leaders.


The Power of 1:1s

If you have managers at your organization who have not experienced the benefits of conducting 1:1 meetings with employees,  then you have likely heard these objections:

“I don’t have time.” 

“Don’t we have enough meetings already?”

“I don’t know what to say in those meetings.”


When managers see the benefits of conducting 1:1 meetings, these objections no longer are an issue. When organizations support their managers to dedicate the time and resources to meet with their employees, the results are evident.  When employees experience the impact of participating in 1:1 conversations, they feel a stronger commitment, more alignment and valued by the organization. 


In this blog post, we will explore the power of 1:1 conversations and why these conversations hold immense value for managers, employees and their organizations.  


Creating an Environment of Trust


One of the most significant benefits of 1:1 conversations with employees is the development of trust. When a manager takes time to meet with an employee, it sets the stage for interaction and conversation. Employees feel more comfortable sharing their questions, thoughts, and concerns in an inviting environment where their manager shows empathy and care. Managers can express their expectations, provide feedback and most importantly, offer support to their employees.


Boosting Employee Engagement Through Dialogue


Engaged employees are the heart of a successful organization. 1:1 conversations open the door of communication paving the way for discussing ideas and challenges. When employees feel heard and valued, they are more likely to be engaged in their work and actively contribute to the organization’s goals. These conversations provide an opportunity for employees to voice their opinions, share their insights, and collaborate on problem solving, ensuring they feel a valuable part of the team.


Proactively Address Issues and Development Needs


Often, problems and development needs can go unnoticed until they escalate into significant issues.  By having 1:1 conversations, this gives the manager an opportunity to be preventative about addressing concerns or challenges head-on before they turn into a more significant concern. During these conversations, managers can identify performance gaps, offer guidance and provide support to employees. These 1:1 conversations can also be a platform to discuss career goals and set meaningful targets for employees, ensuring they feel invested in their professional growth. 


When to Start Conducting 1:1 Meetings


You may have heard the saying, “The best time to start was yesterday; the next best time is today.” This is certainly true when it comes to 1:1 conversations. There is no wrong time to begin, and each day you wait, you are missing out. 


Waiting until problems arise might give the impression that the conversation is merely disciplinary rather than a genuine conversation for the employee’s professional growth and development. Ideally, these conversations should start early in the employment relationship to establish a foundation of open communication and trust.


Conversation Starters for Managers


For managers who may feel unsure about where to begin, here are some conversation starters to set the tone for a productive and meaningful 1:1 meeting:

  • Check In – How is the employee feeling emotionally? Take the conversation beyond work-related matters and inquire about how the employee is genuinely feeling. Understand that overall well-being is just as, if not more important than the work to be discussed. What is going on outside of work will often impact how the employee is performing at work.
  • Recognize Achievements – Start by acknowledging the employee’s accomplishments and performance on projects and assignments. We all want to know we are recognized for a job well done, and this positive reinforcement can boost motivation and confidence. 
  • Address Challenges – Discuss any challenges the employee may be facing with their tasks and collaborate on finding solutions. By demonstrating support during challenging times, you as a manager are fostering a sense of belonging and teamwork. By inviting the employee to help solve the issue, you are empowering your employee to find solutions. 
  • Offer Support – As your employee what they need from their team members or you.  This could be help on a project, resources or assistance either from someone inside or outside of the organization. Simply asking gives employees a sense of comfort knowing you have their back. 


Customizing Conversations for Your Organization


To ensure your 1:1 meetings are relevant to your organization, consider customizing conversation starters based on your business objectives, strategic goals, or specific needs. Additionally, referring to findings from your employee engagement surveys can help dive deeper into issues or areas that require attention on either the employee, departmental or organization-wide level. What a great way to foster a culture of innovation by encouraging your employees to contribute their ideas of improvement for your company. 


Using Employee Engagement Surveys to Enhance 1:1 Conversations


If your organization is conducting employee engagement surveys, this opens up another layer for topics during your 1:1 conversations. These surveys provide insights into how your employees are feeling, what they are concerned about and what they are needing. As a manager, you can utilize the survey data to identify pressing concerns and follow up on these topics during your 1:1 conversations with your employees. This is another way of demonstrating to your employees that you value their feedback and you want to hear more. Integrating the survey data into 1:1 conversations helps align the organization’s efforts with the employees’ expectations and experiences. 




Establishing support for your managers to conduct 1:1 meetings with their employees is very helpful towards building a strong workplace culture, and it increases trust and engagement with your employees. These conversations create a safe space for open dialogue and empower employees to share their thoughts and ideas. With consistency and intention through 1:1 meetings, you can cultivate a culture that is supportive, productive, and sets your organization on the path to become an award-winning workplace. 



To explore more ideas and strategies for supporting a corporate culture that leads to becoming and maintaining an award-winning workplace, check my book, CULTURE IMPACT. This comprehensive resource will empower you to take steps to create an extraordinary workplace culture and unlock your organization’s full potential. 

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Hello, I’m Angie

I help business leaders and HR professionals improve their workplace culture and increase employee engagement so that they can focus on running their organization.

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