First One-on-one Meeting with Employee: Nail It in 7 Steps
first one-on-one meeting with employee

First One-on-one Meeting with Employee: Nail It in 7 Steps

Ranee ZhangNov 23, 202211 mins
Why Does the First One-on-One Meeting Matter?

One-on-one meetings are the best management tools in a dynamic organization as they provide uninterrupted time for managers to connect personally with employees and have effective discussions.

According to a Gallup study, employees who meet their managers regularly are more productive and engaged. So, it is crucial to get the first one-on-one meeting right.

The first one-on-one meeting with the new employee is an excellent opportunity to learn more about the employee and familiarize them with the organization and its culture. When done correctly, it sets a good tone for future relationships and employee performance.

Read this guide to learn how you can fully utilize this meeting! We’ve also included an agenda template at the end.

Why Does the First One-on-One Meeting Matter?

Did you know that 72% of employees believe one-on-one meetings with their reporting manager are essential to good onboarding? It is because a new employee is often overwhelmed during the first few days of work and communicating with their manager helps them feel comfortable and gets them off to a good start. 

The importance of the first one-on-one meeting with new employees shows in different ways:

  • It is an opportunity to make the employee feel welcomed and to create a sense of belonging to the organization.

  • This meeting lays the foundation for honest and meaningful communication in the future, which is one of the main ingredients for success in an organization. 

  • It can be used to build rapport with the new hire and thus boost engagement.

  • The first one-on-one helps you communicate your expectations with the employee so that both of you are on the same page.

  • Having a conversation with the manager provides the new hire with the necessary support and guidance during their initial days in the organization. 

It is a good practice to meet the new employees during their first week to understand how they are getting oriented with the team members, company, and new surroundings. And the length could be 30-45 minutes, depending on the topics covered.

What to Discuss in the First Meeting With Staff?

As a manager, it’s essential to be prepared for the discussion beforehand. Also, you should have the right questions to help the new employee open up. 

Here are some pointers for your first one-on-one conversation with new staff.

Personal touch

Wouldn’t it be intimidating if you walked into the first one-on-one meeting with your new boss and got asked about the work updates immediately? As a manager, you should never do so. 

The first one-on-one meeting is an opportunity to get to know the employee personally. Ask them questions about their hobbies and motivation, and get some insights into their personality. This helps to create a friendly environment and lets you know how to motivate them in the future.

Remember that the focus of this meeting is to connect better with the new employee and to take their feedback, not update them on work.

The people who make the best impressions aren't aiming to impress others. They're focused on connecting with others.

 -Adam Grant, Organizational Psychologist and Author

Here are some questions that will help you learn more about the new hire:

  • What do you like to do in your spare time?

  • What’s something that you’re looking forward to this week? 

  • Which is your favorite hangout in the city?

  • What makes you feel valued at work?

  • Which is your favorite sport?

Communication preferences

First, inform the employee about the standard communication methods in your team. For instance, what’s the instant messaging platform in daily work your team use, or do you all like to hop on the call for an early morning huddle to address concerns? If you have a remote team, things get even more complicated; therefore, it is essential to clearly define the communication method for future effective communication and collaboration.

Then you should ask how your new hire feels comfortable communicating and getting feedback — some employees may like open and direct feedback, while others prefer receiving feedback privately. This can help create a better employee experience and inclusive working environment.

Apart from communication preferences, it is also necessary to understand the employee’s overall working style. For instance, do they like to work in a team or individually? Getting insight into the new employee’s behavioral traits will help you know what works for them and build a powerful team.

The following questions will help you gauge the employee’s preferences for communication:

  • Is your communication style more direct or indirect?

  • How would you like to receive feedback on your work, and how often?

  • How do you like to receive recognition and praise?

  • What should I know about your working style to help us work effectively together?

Orientation with job and team

In the first one-on-one meeting, you should orient the new hire with their new role and the team by clearly explaining the new employee’s job responsibilities and the shared goals of the department.

Let them know how often you are expected to meet and mention any routine tasks. For instance, if you want them to send you a weekly report of the accomplished tasks, tell them to do so.

Don’t forget to ask if they are facing any issues or have any lingering questions about their work. A conversation about these aspects will help them transition into their role smoothly.

Ask questions such as

  • Do you have clear expectations for your new role?

  • Is there anything that surprised you or made you feel overwhelmed?

  • Do you have the necessary resources to accomplish your tasks?

Career aspirations

Although the first one-on-one meeting may not be a good time to talk about performance and goals, you should get an insight into their long-term plans. Knowing their career plans will help you develop their talents and ensure they grow within the organization. 

For instance, if the employee expresses a desire to step into a leadership role in the future, you can provide them with the necessary opportunities for growth. 

Below are some questions to gather an employee's career goals:

  • How do you see yourself in the next two years and five years?

  • What areas of advancement are you looking at in the company?

  • Is there anything that you are keen on learning?

  • How can I help you achieve your goals?

How to Have a Successful First 1-on-1 with an Employee? 

Now that you are familiar with the topics to touch upon during your first one-on-one with the employee, it is good to invest some time preparing for this conversation. We have some great tips for you if you are wondering how exactly you should go about this meeting and how to use your time wisely.

#1. Prepare the agenda

Outline an agenda for your first one-on-one meeting with the employee ahead of time. It helps you prepare for the discussion and guides you through the conversation topics. So, spend some time brainstorming the items while focusing on the purpose of the meeting. 

The following are the objectives of the first one-on-one meeting:

  • Introduction with the new team member

  • Addressing questions and concerns regarding onboarding and orientation

  • Familiarizing them with their role and the team

  • Knowing their career expectations

We have provided a ready-to-use agenda template below that includes all the necessary items to help succeed in this one-on-one. Continue reading!

#2. Send out an invitation

The email invite should clearly mention who will be attending the meeting, its purpose, where it will take place, and when. You need not elaborate on the purpose of this meeting in the email, as it can be explained in detail at the start of the meeting. However, it is essential to mention that you would like to know them better and connect with them.

Keep the invite simple and casual, so the new hire is not too worried about the first meeting with their boss. 
Here is a sample e-mail invitation that you can share with the new team member:

 Hi (Name of the Employee),

Welcome to the team! We are thrilled to have you onboard.

I would like to schedule a one-on-one meeting to discuss how things are going on your end. It will provide us an opportunity to have open communication and share feedback.

Please find attached the agenda for the meeting. You can make changes to the agenda and add topics you would like to discuss. However, please update it at least 24 hours before the meeting.

The first one-on-one meeting has been scheduled at (date and time). 

Kindly let me know if you have any questions or concerns. Looking forward to meeting with you.


Thank you,

(Your name)

#3. Research the teammate in advance

Invest some time in doing a little research about the person. Go through their LinkedIn profile to know their background and the skills they bring to the team. It will help you relate to them personally and inspire you to ask questions about their skills and experience. 

Also, make sure you pronounce their name correctly, as it is not just a common courtesy but also an effort to make the workspace inclusive.    

#4. Share the context for the meeting

Although the email invitation does highlight why you are having this conversation, you can elaborate on the context at the start of the session

Moreover, there is a chance that the new employee hasn’t attended a one-on-one onboarding meeting in their previous organization, and it is a new practice for them. So, it is helpful to let them know how they can benefit from this meeting and lay down some ground rules.

For instance, let them know they are expected to come prepared for future meetings and show up on time. Setting clear expectations at the very start is the key to having more successful engagements in the long run.

#5. Maintain a record of your conversations

You should take notes during the meeting as they help track all the critical points discussed, such as deadlines, action items, or new ideas that come up during the meeting. Moreover, recording conversations from the very start provides you with data for future one-on-ones and performance appraisal meetings. 

To do so in an easy manager, we recommend the Airgram meeting notes tool that allows you to take notes collaboratively and leave comments. It also helps you organize all the meeting notes in one place for future reference. These notes can even be integrated into the workflow by exporting them to MS Office, Google Docs, Notion, and Slack messaging. 

collaborate on meeting notes

#6. Keep the conversation flexible

As this is your first one-on-one meeting with the new employee, it is good to keep it casual. Although the meeting requires a structure, you can be informal as the idea is to understand them personally. You should make the new hire open up so that they share their thoughts and concerns.

#7. Be an active listener

Listen attentively to the new team member as they share their thoughts about the new people and environment. 

Make them feel comfortable so they can talk about their feelings: what is confusing them, how they are navigating their way, and if there is anything they are overwhelmed about.

Keep the momentum going by asking the right questions and encouraging the employee to speak. As it is the employee’s first meeting, let them drive the discussion while you focus on listening and responding to improve mutual understanding. 

“I only wish I could find an institute that teaches people how to listen. Business people need to listen at least as much as they need to talk. Too many people fail to realize that real communication goes in both directions.”

 — Lee Iacocca, Chrysler Corporation

#8. Come up with an action plan

Another essential task during the first one-on-one meeting with the employee is creating a plan for the first month

After addressing the employee's questions and concerns, you need to list the steps they need to take before your next meeting. For instance, if you want the employee to get familiar with the other members of the team, mention this in the action plan. This plan is a blueprint for the new hire that helps them transition smoothly into the new role. 

First One-on-One Meeting with Employee Template

Instead of starting from scratch, you can take advantage of a meeting agenda template and customize it to your needs.

👉 Get this one-on-one meeting agenda

first one-on-one meeting template

This template covers the general talking points when meeting first time with your new hire: personal introduction, role and the team, expectations, and career aspirations. It also has action items where you can list the next steps that the new hire will take and follow up quickly.

You send this template in advance to the employee and ask them to make edits in accordance with the topics they are keen on discussing. 

Final Thoughts

Remember that great leaders regularly spend time with their employees to facilitate healthy work relationships. The first one-on-one meeting with the employee is the beginning of more such interactions.

It takes time to get things right, and you will have ample opportunities in the future. As the new employee gets the hang of things, you can address any issues or gaps in other one-on-one meetings. 

Ranee Zhang

Ranee is the Head of Growth of Airgram and has rich experience in the SaaS field. She developed a passion for writing as a young girl and believed the written word could unlock doors as well as the imagination.

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