Request a demo
Back to Blog

What the best managers are asking their employees during 1-on-1s

June 1, 2021 - 5 min read
Jump to section

    As a manager, how much do you know about your employees’ professional goals? A Deloitte Survey found that two-thirds of employees believe it’s their manager's responsibility to provide them with development opportunities.

    But with the fast pace of today’s business world, it’s common for managers to opt for a project-focused weekly, bi-weekly or sometimes monthly check-ins with their direct reports.

    Showing an interest in your employees’ advancement demonstrates their value to the company and fosters loyalty. A 2015 survey found that managers who know their employees’ strengths are 71% more likely to have employees who are engaged and energized. It will also help you maximize their potential and assign tasks that best fit their skills. Employees who have strengths discussions with their managers are 78% more likely to feel their work is valued and appreciated.

    Even if you’ve encouraged employees to come to you with concerns, taking an active and vested interest in their professional development is one of the keys that will set you apart as an effective manager. We know it can be time consuming, but it will pay off in the long run as you and your team are increasingly aligned, and individuals are satisfied in their jobs.

    Knowing how to ask the right questions can help you both inspire, and lead your employees in a constructive dialogue about their professional development. We’re here to help, with some example questions you can ask employees during your 1:1.

    Learn how to ask the right questions

    Different types of questions can be used to help you get to know your direct reports better, and in turn give you the answers you’re looking for. Closed questions (with a yes or no answer) can be useful if you need to get straight to the point. But the key to a good 1-on-1 is being open-minded, ready to listen, and let the other person do the talking. Ask open-ended questions to glean further information and encourage more thoughtful responses. This is the best type of question to use when you want to lead your employees to a deeper reflection about setting up their goals for professional development.

    Questions To Inspire and Motivate:

    Encourage employees to think deeply about their current performance

    When coming up with a professional development plan, it may be challenging for your employees to set goals if they’re not fully aware of their strengths and interests in the workplace. Get them thinking with these questions:

    • What do you enjoy most and least about your job?
    • What project have you enjoyed working on recently, and why?
    • What other strengths or skills do you have that you feel are not being utilized?
    • What would others on the team be most likely to come to you for help on?
    • What do you like to do in your free time, that could be reapplied at work?

    Help them identify ambitious yet attainable career goals

    • Which new responsibilities would you like to take on in the next few months and years?
    • Which skills would you need to refine to help you achieve these goals?
    • What kind of projects would you like to be involved in more, to help you with the above?

    Give them food for thought

    • If you were in charge of our next team project, what would you do differently?
    • What do you see as our team’s greatest strengths and weaknesses?
    • What could we do to address them?

    Help them to align their goals with company objectives

    • Where do you think your skills would add the most value?
    • How do you think you can best contribute to company objectives?
    • Do you have any ideas of how the team can contribute to company objectives?

    Understand how you can help

    • What tools and resources help you the most in your daily work? Is there anything missing?
    • Are there any learning opportunities you’d like to pursue?
    • How can I help you achieve these goals?

    Next steps

    Another great way to find out how your employees feel about their performance and role in the team, is by keeping a record of the feedback they receive from you and their peers, for which there are purpose-built platforms available. Using feedback reports as a reference can help you refresh and prepare beforehand for an engaging and personalized conversation with each team member.

    Published June 1, 2021

    Maggie Wooll

    Managing Editor

    Read Next

    Employee Experience
    8 min read | May 3, 2021

    1 out of 4 of your employees feel they don't fit in. Here's why that matters, and what to do about it.

    1 in 4 of your employees feel they don't fit in. Learn why employees with a high sense of belonging have higher levels of satisfaction and engagement at work. Read More
    Professional Development
    12 min read | May 6, 2021

    The 11 tips that will improve your public speaking skills

    No matter what your career path, most employees will at some point have to present, train, lead, or participate in a public forum. All require public speaking skills.... Read More
    Well-being
    18 min read | February 3, 2021

    Improve your focus and concentration: 15 ways to build your skills

    Knowing how to improve your focus and concentration are key to excelling in all walks of life. Learn how to improve them and factors that may affect them. Read More
    Professional Development
    16 min read | June 14, 2021

    What is corporate learning (it’s not what you think it is), and why is it important?

    Already wondering how early you can check out and still get credit for attending during corporate learning? Learn how to define untapped potential and create an environment... Read More
    Well-being
    18 min read | June 1, 2022

    Make the connection: 10 effective ways to connect with people

    Learning how to connect with people can help you create more meaning in your career and personal life. Here’s how to strengthen your ability to connect. Read More
    Culture

    The Connection Crisis: Infographic

    Connection matters. It affects the performance of your people and your business. Learn why leaders need to build community in the new world of work. Read More

    Stay connected with BetterUp

    Get our newsletter, event invites, plus product insights and research.