How to Make Your Next Manager 1:1 Meeting Productive

When well-planned and executed, meetings between managers and direct reports can be meaningful and transformative experiences

November 15, 2022
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How to make your next manager 1:1 meeting productive

When well-planned and executed, meetings between managers and direct reports can be meaningful and transformative experiences—particularly for millennials, who represent the largest share of the American workforce.

As such, regularly scheduled 1:1 meetings—as opposed to annual or quarterly performance reviews—can as much as double levels of employee engagement. These meetings allow for private conversations about career goals and professional roles while providing opportunities to give and receive feedback, a major plus for more reserved direct reports.

Regular 1:1s can strengthen the manager-employee relationship while helping to reduce employee turnover. Assembly used data from various sources to curate a list of five tips to make your next manager 1:1 more productive.

The trick lies in making smart use of meeting time. Generally speaking, more than seven in 10 senior managers find meetings to be unproductive, according to a 2017/2018 survey from Harvard Business Review. In March 2022, the same publication noted that a 40% decrease in the number of meetings resulted in a roughly 70% increase in employee productivity. But while certain meetings like status updates may be unnecessary, 1:1s may be among the most important productivity tools available to managers and reports.

Keep reading to learn more about making your next 1:1 more productive.

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Set a meeting cadence that works for everyone

Aim for a cooperative approach to ensure both parties will be fully engaged. Plan to have your meeting in the peak of the "productivity zone," those times of day when individuals are most likely to be free to chat. YouCanBookMe analyzed more than half a million appointment invitations and found that the optimal time for 1:1s was Tuesdays at 2:30 p.m.

Consider meeting weekly and skipping every once in a while to prevent meeting fatigue and promote ongoing communication and timely feedback. Harvard Business Review recommends scheduling weekly meetings for 30 minutes and biweeklies for 45-60 minutes. A hybrid plan, whereby certain team members meet weekly and others biweekly, can also benefit managers with too many meetings and employees who may need more or less communication.


Access a free team engagement tool to help improve your one-on-one meeting structure, strengthen your team’s skills, and drive career development.

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Before ending a 1:1, confirm discussed action items that need follow up

Action items are the individual steps or tasks involved in completing a project, typically associated with a deadline and priority level. In a 1:1 meeting, action items function as talking points and threads that provide continuity from one appointment to the next; as such, they should be well-documented at the end of the meeting.

If your current 1:1 communication and record-keeping tools consist of a pad and pen for taking notes, it might be time to update your meeting toolbox. For example, management software programs can provide managers and direct reports with a shared, central platform for preparing collaborative agendas before the meeting, taking notes and tracking talking points during the conversation, and documenting action items. 

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Set an agenda for every meeting so it stays productive

A well-crafted agenda prepared in advance can help you make the most of meetings, especially if it's a collaborative effort. If you haven't in the past, consider asking them what they would like to discuss beforehand, and update the agenda accordingly. In concert with the direct report, decide on a theme or objective for the meeting. New hires may benefit from an agenda guide or template.

Once you both have decided on an agenda theme and items, assign a certain amount of time to each component. For example, a 45-minute meeting might unfold as follows, with time allotted at the beginning and end for icebreakers and personal questions that put the direct report at ease and let you know that you hear and see them as an individual:

  • Check-in (5 minutes)
  • Direct report feedback and items of concern or interest (10 minutes)
  • Manager feedback and items of concern or interest, including coaching and professional development (15 minutes)
  • Free time devoted to long-term career or company goals (10 minutes)
  • Action and accountability items and closing personal questions (5 minutes)


Discover a free collaboration tool to provide your team members with visibility into project progress, empower team communication, and streamline task management.

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Fill out the agenda early to give each other adequate time to review topics

Aim to email or share the meeting agenda at least 24 hours before the meeting. If your meetings are biweekly, you may want to give more time to review the items and suggest additions or changes, as you'll be covering more ground with less frequency.

When emailing your meeting reminder, include the URL for the agenda and any other documents that might be discussed. Or, as previously mentioned, consider using a scheduling software program that allows managers and direct reports to work on a common platform, allowing for a faster and more efficient approach when updating meeting documents.

If you haven't already done so, be sure to establish a permanent videoconferencing link, even for an on-site meeting, to avoid having to cancel if and when one or both parties can't speak in person.


Use this free employee recognition software to enhance your employees’ experiences and engagement while building a team culture aligned with your values.

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Know when to cancel

Harvard Business Review cautions against canceling regularly scheduled 1:1s whenever possible because missed meetings may give direct reports the impression that your time together is not a priority and can negatively affect project and team progress. Legitimate reasons for canceling can include illness, a scheduling conflict (such as attendance in an earlier meeting that's running late), traffic and transportation issues, or an unforeseen family or personal emergency.

If you must cancel, send the cancellation email as soon as possible, preferably at least 24 hours in advance. Apologize for the inconvenience and briefly explain why you have to cancel. Emphasize the importance of the meeting and provide a few rescheduling options, and be open to the direct report's proposed alternative should you encounter any time-related conflicts. When closing the email, express your appreciation for their time and understanding, and let them know you look forward to meeting with them in the near future.

Browse our Free Employee Recognition Guide

Get the foundational knowledge on creating an employee recognition program that boosts employee engagement and helps them feel valued.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is Assembly SOC 2 compliant?

Yes, at Assembly, security is a top priority. Each quarter, we have ongoing security work that is everyone’s responsibility. While we maintain a strong security posture, it was important for us to prove to our customers that we do everything we claim to do. This led us to pursue a SOC 2 Type II report that would provide evidence of our compliance with industry gold-standard security practice.

What's the ROI for employee recognition?

There is study after study showing that employee recognition leads to increased engagement. This in return creates an environment where employees are happier and more motivated which increase productivity and reduces voluntary turnover significantly. In order to filled critical roles, companies tend to spend nearly twice the value of an annual salary. Assembly is an investment in your employees that supports your bottom line.

Does Assembly offer longer-term contracts?

Yes, we will offer contracts for companies with longer-term agreements to help larger customers have more certainty around future costs.

The minimum agreement term is a 12-month subscription.

Does Assembly offer onboarding support?

We do and for FREE! Any new customer needing further support to get started with Assembly to ensure you're set up for success can request custom onboarding support. Improving your employee experience is about much more than just using our amazing software; it’s about transforming your business to create a workplace that people love. That’s much easier to do with the personal support and advice from our passionate people experts.

Is there a free version of Assembly?

Yes. We offer a completely free plan for up to 50 team members. This plan is intended for teams or organizations that are looking to get started with an employee engagement tool. Keep in mind, this plan is limited in features.

All customers can open an Assembly account for free and get started without a credit card. Then you can change plans as necessary.

How much do rewards cost?

At the time of redemption (when your employees exchange their points for a paid reward) you'll pay face value. If a reward is a $10 Amazon gift card, your cost will be $10. All paid rewards are billed for on a monthly basis.

The good news is that you don't have to pay for rewards upfront because we only charge you when points are redeemed, not when they're earned.

Does Assembly offer discounts?

We offer discounts or educational or charitable organizations. In order to secure a discount, you'll first need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

For all other organizations, we are willing to consider longer-term agreements in exchange for discounts. To set up annual plans or longer, you will need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

How do I cancel my plan if needed?

If you're on a month to month plan, you can go here and cancel anytime. If you're having concerns or need help setting up your account for success, you can always book a demo with a customer support specialist.

If you're on a longer-term custom plan, you'll need to reach out to your customer support specialist to cancel your account or email us at

What customizations are available?

Great question! You can customize your core values to match your organization's to boost and track alignment. You can change your currency from the 🏆 emoji (our default) to any emoji of your choice. You can swap our logo for your own. You can also set up company culture rewards such as, "Lunch with the CEO," "Buy a book on us," and so much more!

Who can give or receive recognition?

While we recommend a peer to peer set up where anyone in your organization can give or receive recognition, you can set up Assembly however you want. If you need to limit the people who can give or receive recognition, that's perfectly fine and can be done from your Admin, here.

What integrations are available?

Assembly connects to the tools your employees use every day to offer an easy, seamless experience with minimal change management.  

Assembly has integrations with HCM/HRIS systems like ADP, Google, Office 365, and Slack. We also integrate with communication tools like Slack and Teams so you and your employees can access Assembly wherever they work now.

What's your average adoption rate?

That depends on the company's permissions set up. That said, over 90% of the employees on Assembly's platform are recognized on a monthly basis. That means nearly every employee across all of our customers are receiving regular recognition from their peers, managers, or leadership. We're extremely proud of this.

Must rewards be set up to use Assembly?

They are not required. You can use Assembly without having rewards set up. However, we don't recommend it if you intend to have a high adoption and usage rate. You can always keep the costs down by offering internal culture rewards that are fulfilled by you internally.

Are points required to use Assembly?

No, you can remove allowances from anyone or everyone. It's up to you but we do recommend using points whether they're worth a real dollar value or not. Companies that use points have a much higher engagement rate even if those points don't exchange for real dollars.

Could find the answer you are looking for?

Please schedule time with an expert and we will help you to get all your questions answered