5 Questions Managers Should Ask Employees During One-on-Ones

We know through various surveys and studies (Gallup is one of them) that one of the most important reasons why someone stays or leaves their job is the relationship they have with their boss. Although recent studies show that career advancement is another reason employees leave, many times, managers aren’t even aware that an employee is looking or may not consider whether or not their current organization is providing them with enough opportunity. Therefore, meeting with individual employees in a one-on-one setting is critical to retaining the very best employees.

Then why aren’t leaders doing this?

Blame time and poor planning.

Battling the Time Bandit

Issue – I get it. You have the best of intentions to spend some quality time with your staff but then spend the entire day putting out fire after fire. Ugh.

The challenge is to carve out time consistently to meet with employees across multiple shifts, schedules, and ongoing, unpredictable patient care demands. Although these challenges may take precedence over these meetings at the moment, the key is to make one-on-one meetings an equal priority. But how?

Solution – Don’t get mad at me for saying this but the recommendation is for leaders to meet individually with employees once a week. Yes – once a week. Okay, I understand that’s not realistic in our worlds. However, once a year isn’t realistic (or smart) either!

Follow this guide to help you consistently meet with your employees:

If you have more than 25 direct reports – meet at least quarterly

If you have less than 25 direct reports – meet monthly

If you have a leadership team (manager, assistant manager, supervisor) and let’s say you have 200 employees – split everyone up among the leadership team but then rotate.

Protect time on your calendar once a week for your one-on-ones.

Solving the Planning Problem

Issue – Okay. You’ve decided to start meeting with your employees individually, once a month. Great. Your first one-on-one is a nurse who has been in your department for 15 years. She sits down in your office and looks at you. Now what? What do you say? What will you talk about?

Many leaders avoid one-on-ones because they don’t really have a plan.

Solution – Start with an intention to build a relationship with this person. To help you do this, here are 5 questions to ask:

  1. What matters most to you right now?
  2. What would have to happen for you to leave at the end of your shift and say you had a great day?
  3. What do you think you’re really good at here?
  4. What is something that you’d like to work on (to improve)?
  5. What is one thing I can do to support you while you’re here?

If you’re new to one-on-ones, just start by asking the first question – What matters most to you right now? And then be quiet. See how the conversation goes and then…determine if asking a second question makes sense.

The key is for you to engage in a conversation with your employee with the sole purpose of building a relationship and showing that individual that you care.

I recently had the privilege of hearing John Maxwell talk and he said something that was quite profound.

“People will do anything for you if they know you care about them.”

One-on-one time with your employees is one of the most valuable uses of your and your employee’s time. Once employees trust that their leaders value them enough to spend time with them, in addition to patients and department functions, they will be more engaged, will be less likely to leave, and become more involved in creating and sustaining a healthy workforce culture.


About Renee Thompson

Dr. Renee Thompson is a keynote speaker, author and professional development/anti-bullying thought leader. Renee spends the majority of her time helping healthcare and academic organizations address and eliminate bullying behavior. To find out how you can bring Renee to YOUR organization or nursing event, visit www.healthyworkforceinstitute.com

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