A groan or a sigh, butterflies or sweaty palms.
It’s no secret that meeting request notifications don’t always elicit the response you were hoping for as a manager.
While you may not be able to single-handedly transform business culture to the point that all meetings will be eagerly anticipated, learning to ask the right questions can go a long way in terms of changing one on one meetings–especially with brand new employees.
These are not just more generic meeting scripts or HR icebreakers.
These questions will dramatically improve your overall team culture surrounding meetings and add an air of positive productvitiy–from the first one on one meeting with a new employee.
They will help you structure one on ones in a way that new employees will leave feeling heard and valued and you can walk away from them with a true pulse on your team and their progress.
What Should You Ask a New Employee In Their First One on One Meeting?
Before you go about planning any specific questions, it is imperative to remember one thing:
These free-form meetings should keep the focus on your employees. Always.
While you want to value both your time and the time of your direct reports, trying to carefully script these meetings can be disastrous. Instead, craft a general structure that allows your employee to do the majority of the talking, allowing feedback and coaching to unfold more organically.
This isn’t a performance review–it’s an opportunity to build rapport, boost morale, and invite peak performance.
So what exactly do you ask to do just that with a new employee?
Get A Little Personal
To begin building rapport with a new employee, you want to show that you value them as an individual, not just as a worker.
(You also don’t want to play 20 questions to the point that you learn the name of their kindergarten teacher.)
Instead, focus on questions that drill down to the ways in which someone’s personal life overlaps with and influences their work. Once you have a better sense of who they are as individuals, look for ways to return to these points later in this meeting or in future meetings.
Try these questions for starters:
- What are you passionate about? (outside of work, please)
- What or who motivates you to be the best version of yourself?
- What is one thing you would love to do more of in your spare time?
Uncover Their Goals
Once you have a sense of what makes them tick, it is time to uncover their goals.
Though you are still likely getting to know your new employee, you want them to understand that the role they are performing now really is part of their career development. Expressing an interest in their goals and asking questions about their work habits is an important way to communicate that. As an added bonus, you walk away from the meeting with a better sense of what tasks to delegate to them in order to capitalize on their strengths and ambitions.
After your initial conversation with a new employee, it is important to return to their goals consistently in future one on ones. This follow-up will help you keep a pulse on the progress they are making. It will also give you a better understanding of the degree to which you are encouraging career development for all of your direct reports.
Start here to learn more about their goals and growth:
- What career did you envision for yourself when you were younger? Why?
- What skills would you like to develop? How can we support that development?
- If we turned you into a superhero based on one of the skills you use in your current role, what would it be?
Ok, maybe a little bit of fun ice-breaking 😉
Focus on Feedback
Though you may not have much feedback to give a new employee, you do want to gauge their preferences surrounding feedback.
And let’s get one thing straight…this isn’t about sugar coating.
Instead, you want to determine how exactly you can deliver future feedback in a way that spurs your employee to action and takes their goals into account.
You also want to let your employee know that you recognize the give-and-get nature of feedback and that you welcome their thoughts on your management.
Open the channels for feedback with these questions:
- How have past managers delivered feedback in the past? Was it effective or not?
- Is there some aspect of work where more input from me would be helpful?
- How do you envision me or others best supporting you?
Ask About Their Vision
What could a new employee know about improving your company? Well, a lot, it turns out.
New employees often bring with them a sense of the market as a whole and a much broader vantage point. They also have fiery ambition for days that is important to tap right away.
Get a sense of their vision with these questions:
- What is one thing that we should do right away to stand out in the market?
- Which aspect of our mission or values are most important to you?
- What is one thing that you noticed right away about our team?
One of the biggest criticisms of meetings, in general, is the lack of follow-through. (oh hey, somebody should make a product for this).
To counteract that, every single one on one—especially the very first one—should end with a conversation centered on accountabilities and action items. Both you and your new employee should have a sense of the next steps to take in order to turn the meeting’s words into actions.
Take action with these questions:
- What is the first thing that you will do based on this conversation?
- What is one thing that you hope I will do this week based on our conversation?
- What is the next step that you would encourage your teammates to take?
Final Thoughts on First One on Ones
Speaking of taking action.
The goal is to have every new employee leave their first one on one with a feeling that they will be heard and valued.
But this isn’t just about your new employee; it’s about you, too. After this meeting, you should have a better sense of the individual’s level of happiness and motivation, as well as a sense of how things are getting done on your team.
Your goal is to set the precedent that your one on ones is not status reports or performance reviews.
Instead, asking these questions in a first one on one meeting with a new employee will showcase how much you value that individual’s goals, growth, and development with both parties feeling energized and productive. Take these scripts and flip the switch on the general hatred toward meetings–and do it from day one
Related reading: 5 Goals To Make Your 1:1’s More Purposeful