Important one-on-one questions to ask your remote employees

Naveen Kumar

Naveen Kumar

Product Marketing
Remote one-on-one questions

A one-on-one meeting is a dedicated, unrestricted conversation between a manager and an employee. This is conducted more casually with the purpose of creating and maintaining a rapport between the manager and their team members. One-on-ones are integral to team building and this meeting has become more important in the remote workplace where team building is done virtually.

A key difference between a one-on-one meeting and any other meeting is that one-on-ones do not include conversations about project status or job task updates instead, these meetings  focus more on building rapport between the manager and the team member, and involve activities like charting out career growth goals with the team member, addressing concerns, gathering feedback, and other candid conversations. Additionally, one-on-ones are an opportunity for managers to understand the well-being of the employee and how they can best support their teams.

A highlight of the one-on-one meeting is that it is also a safe space to have difficult conversations regarding bottlenecks or concerns with tasks, teams, or processes that animate the work environment. 

One-on-ones, like every other meeting, require diligent preparation and managers are encouraged to maintain a shared note of meetings that have actionable points that can be revisited in subsequent meetings. 

It goes without saying that a carefully thought out agenda that’s prepared and shared with the team member is essential to give both the manager and the team member the clarity of what will be discussed and allow the required time to prepare talking points.

In this regard, here are the top questions to ask in a remote one-on-one meeting:

First remote one-on-one

Remote meetings

The first one-on-one in a remote team is a crucial call a manager has with the team member to primarily discuss the remote working model and to talk about short and long term goals, employees interests, and about their expectations of the company and the team. It is important to understand that the  employee might not have worked remotely before and it becomes the responsibility of managers to support the employee and help them ease into the remote style of work while making sure their productivity and growth aren’t hampered in the process. 

Questions to ask in the first remote one-on-one should include their past experience working remotely and their style of working that would let the manager structure work for the team member. Some important questions to ask are:

  1. “Do you have experience working remotely? If yes, for how long?”
  2. “What are the biggest challenges or surprising conveniences you face working remotely?” 
  3. “How do you manage time? How, when, and where do you feel most productive?”
  4. “What has been your past experience with one-on-ones and how can we do it better now?”

Communication and Collaboration 

Remote 1:1s serve as a platform to directly assess employee engagement and communication levels. Questions should aim to understand how the employee is accustomed to connect with team members in the remote setting and how they’re managing collaboration and teamwork which becomes essential to building a cohesive team.

  1. “Are you able to communicate with your team members as much as required? How do you connect with others in the company?”
  2. “Do you feel comfortable discussing and contributing ideas, opinions and contradictions?”
  3. “What tools or processes used for communication and collaboration do not work for you?” or “What new tools or processes do you recommend we try out in the team?”

Employee well-being

Employee wellbeing

1:1s in a remote workplace are an excellent tool to build rapport with each team member that can help in creating a safe and judgement-free space to talk about physical and mental well-being. Simple questions that build connectedness can create, enhance, and nurture the rapport between the manager and the employee which inturn aids immensely in facilitating important conversations regarding well-being. Following are a few examples of such questions:

  1. “How do you recharge each day?”, “What are your hobbies?”, or “What outside of work do you do to disengage and be a part of your community?”
  2. “Are you able to fully disconnect when on vacation or at the end of the day?”
  3. “What’s one thing we could do at work that could improve your personal life?”
  4. “What do you do over the weekends to engage otherwise?” or “Remote work can be isolating. How are you managing your life outside of work?”

Engagement and Employee Retention

A study by Gallup shows that a stunning 73% of actively disengaged employees and 56% of employees who are somewhat disengaged are actively looking for new job opportunities. This makes engagement all the more important in retaining employees. One-on-ones can be a great tool to build engagement, and renew a sense of purpose amongst team members. This meeting helps the manager understand whether the employee is working on tasks aligned with their individual interests and goals and if teammates are adequately engaged in their projects. This knowledge can also come in handy when managers build new teams with diverse capabilities.

  1. “Are you happy with your current set of tasks?”
  2. “Are there any other projects or tasks that  you’re interested in but haven’t  gotten the opportunity to work on yet?”
  3. “Do you feel included in the team’s decisions?” 
  4. Is the job engaging and challenging enough?

Career Growth

Good managers  nurture the talents of team members, mentor them, and create an environment of growth and learning. One-on-ones provide the perfect environment to understand the ambitions of team mates hence, the questions should be structured to help managers understand the expectations and professional aspirations of employees. 

  1. “What tasks do you enjoy working on and is there anything else you’d like to do in the team that aligns with the teams’ and your personal goals?”
  2. “Where do you see yourself in 5 years, 2 years, and 1 year?” or “What are your long and short-term goals?”
  3. “Are you able to resonate with the team’s values and vision?”

Goals and progress tracking

Career growth

Teams use several metrics to understand employee performance and growth trajectories.  OKR (Objectives and Key results), for example, is a widely used framework to help  teams focus on top priorities and align the team’s results with the objectives of the company. One-on-ones can serve as a platform for managers and direct reports to discuss goals, growth, and performance.

  1. “Are there any blockers preventing progression in your current set of tasks?”
  2. “How is your progress towards your goals?”
  3. “Are you happy with your progress on your OKRs? If not, how can I help? ”

Information and Idea exchange

One-on-ones help mitigate the problem of work silos, where managers can get an understanding of whether enough idea exchange occurs amongst their team members so they can help nurture free-thinking, creativity, and ideation.

  1. “Are there enough non-task-specific discussions with the team to help you spur on ideas?”
  2. “What about our team/company do you want to learn more about?”

Give and get feedback

In remote settings, it can be challenging to get a pulse on employees’ experiences and emotions, hence one-on-ones become crucial to facilitate  an honest 2-way exchange of feedback between the manager and the employee to aid building long-term cohesiveness. One-on-ones can also become the tool leaders use to understand whether the processes adopted to aid remote and asynchronous work are helpful, being used, and how they can be improved. In this regard, a manager should have the following questions in their toolbox:

  1. “What are your thoughts on the current process tracking and communications framework we have in place?”
  2. “What do you like and dislike about 1:1s?”
  3. “Are there any tools, processes, or tasks that are not working for you?”
  4. “If you can do one thing differently with regard to  managing the team, tasks, or processes, what would it be?”
  5. “Is there anything I can do better to support you and your work?”

Get the right tools

Digital tools are the foundation on which the company’s work, processes, and communications are built on. One-on-ones can be the perfect time for managers to understand the tools and infrastructure that is available to employees and find ways of helping their team members thrive in a remote setting. 

  1. “Are you digitally well-equipped to successfully complete your work? Are there any tools, or IT infrastructure that can be adopted  to help you work better?”
  2. “How can I or the company improve IT or digital support effectively?”

Conclusion

Asking the right questions opens the door to meaningful dialogue and it requires the manager’s active involvement to make the one-on-one effective by way of listening with empathy and following up with the necessary questions and actions when appropriate.

Being armed with the right set of questions to ask in a remote one-on-one is one part of managing a remote team. The other part is relying on a data-driven understanding of a teams’ work activities, collaboration patterns, productivity signals, and burnout signals to structure productive and empathetic conversations that prompt action and lead to individuals thriving in a team. 

💡 Engineering managers use Hatica to track these metrics alongside personal and team goals to drive effective 1:1s that build performant engineering teams. Interested in building a data-driven meeting culture for your organization? Learn how Hatica can help. 

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