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36 Questions To Ask Your Employees in 1:1 Meetings

At Ento, we put a huge amount of importance on our fortnightly 1:1’s. We use them to facilitate conversation between employee and manager, providing a regular opportunity to check in and recalibrate on shared goals and overall happiness.
1:1’s are also an important forum for discussing changes in the business and to gather the ideas, inspiration and expertise of our team to help inform and shape the future of Ento. To facilitate this, we set a company question every fortnight and spend the second part of every 1:1 discussing them.
Asking these questions allows us to stay true to our values of transparency and open communication. The feedback we collect is used to constantly improve our work environment through refining processes, shaping policy and informing culture initiatives.
The questions we ask are super varied and we’ve pulled together a list covering our last 18 months. Hopefully they inspire you to ask your own! Read on below the questions for more info on how we talk about happiness at Ento.

Company products, processes & performance

  1. What’s your number one innovative idea for Ento? We’re talking internally focused innovation such as process improvements / new processes / new initiatives / different ways of working etc.
  2. Performance reviews. Do we need them? Do you like them? Why/why not? How often do you think would be helpful? What should be discussed in one? What have you seen done well? What have you seen go wrong?
  3. What would you change if you were running our team?
  4. What would you change if you were running the company?
  5. If Ento had 2000 development hours to build something (anything at all!) what should it be? For reference 2000 hours is equivalent to one developer working full-time for one year. Feel free to run your ideas past the product team to see if it’s realistic in that timeframe!
  6. Have you seen something recently and thought “I wish we’d done that”? It could be product or process, cultural or operational – any opportunity or idea you’ve seen that you think we should be doing.
  7. What do you think works about the current format of the 1:1’s and what would you change? What are your ideas for future 1:1 topics?
  8. If you were our CEO, what are 1 or 2 things you would do differently? And, if you were your manager, what are 1 or 2 things you would do differently?

Teamwork, communication, learning & knowledge sharing

  1. Are there any meetings or discussions you feel you should be a part of that you’re not? Are you included in any you don’t want to be a part of? Are there meetings we don’t have that we should be having?
  2. What can I do as your manager to make you even happier this fortnight?
  3. Cross-team knowledge. What do YOU wish you knew more about within Ento?
  4. Working from Home – How do you think it could be improved in a way that works for all teams and is fair? What are the challenges of making your changes work in your team?
  5. Share your thoughts on agile as you know it? Whether you are currently able to get value out of it? And if you have any questions on it’s usage outside of what your team currently practices?
  6. What kind of topics and info do you want to hear about in the upcoming town hall?
  7. Where do you think our communication styles are mismatched? How can we work around any mismatches?
  8. What do YOU know a crazy amount about? What could you write a book (or at least, a blog post) on?
  9. What books / blogs / podcasts / subreddits / email lists / etc do you read and watch to stay up to date and continue learning? We’re talking about work related stuff rather than your favourite TV show!

Culture, perks & office environment

  1. Do you think Ento has a culture that values and inspires high performance? What could we do to improve?
  2. What 3-5 qualities do you think are essential in new hires to ensure they are a successful team fit at Ento? Please don’t “cheat” and refer to our culture and values! We want to hear what you think.
  3. Which of our perks do you value most? What would you like to see added or changed?
  4. Events! We’re about to start thinking about the 2018 event calendar and would love your input into what you’ve enjoyed this year, what you’d like to do again, and suggestions on what we could do next year.
  5. What meetups do you think we could throw to better integrate into the local community & tech scene?
  6. What do you think makes a meetup or event good or bad?
  7. As we prepare to move to the new office, what changes are you excited about and what do you worry about?

Role, tasks & tools

  1. What parts of your role give you the most satisfaction? And what parts give you the least? We’re asking so, where possible, we can optimise your role. Plus we might be able to help you see the value, and get more satisfaction, out of other parts of your role.
  2. What’s holding you back from successfully completing your tasks/work? Are there any roadblocks? Gaps in your knowledge? Tools you need? How can we help you be better at your job?
  3. If you could work in a different role in the business for one day, what would that role be, and why?
  4. Do you feel your work is planned far enough in advance? What would be ideal for you?
  5. How do you feel about the level of detail you get your work in?
  6. If how far we plan in advance is the balance between agility and stability, what do you think we gain/lose by changing the current balance? As a team/company?
  7. What is your dream job and how could we help you get there?

Rapport-building & conversation starters

  1. What would you like to spend more time doing outside of work? Things you currently don’t do or don’t spend enough time doing?
  2. What did you want to be when you grew up? And what happened to make you realise it wasn’t going to happen?
  3. How would you explain Ento to your mum?
  4. What’s your plan for surviving a zombie apocalypse?
  5. How do you like to be described? What’s your elevator pitch?

1:1s at Ento – The what, how and why

Our 1:1s are a little different to what some might be used to and before we get into what our 1:1s are and how we run them, here is an overview of what they are not:
1:1s are not scary, they are not one-way and they are not used to discuss major issues or have an impromptu performance review (we don’t really do those anyway – read more here).
Instead, they are an informal conversation between employee and manager around happiness at work, project progress and (potential) roadblocks. They offer an opportunity to ask for input or a helping hand, or to simply chat, reconnect and refocus on shared goals. Last but not least they are also a great opportunity to stretch our legs and explore the local area – we prefer walking meetings!

Ento happiness score

We have already introduced you to the second part of our 1:1s, the fortnightly question. However, we don’t just dive straight in – for the first 15 minutes, we talk about what is happening at work, good and bad. We use a ‘happiness score’ to guide this conversation.

Happiness score

The happiness score is a number between one and five that reflects the employee’s work-happiness over the past fortnight.

One – Miserable Not enjoying the work, stressed to the max, communication breakdown between team members, frustrated with decisions being made, struggling to see a path to happiness at work.
Two – Pretty bummed Pretty frustrated with some elements of stress/team/project situation but isn’t completely miserable. Suffered some major setbacks. Probable high stress levels and feeling the pressure.
Three – Meh Not unhappy but not exactly loving work either. Some setbacks but nothing they see as insurmountable – any challenges are viewed with perspective and the knowledge that there is an end in sight.
Four – Great Feel like things they are working on are progressing, challenges are welcomed and stress levels are manageable. Enjoying the work they are doing, getting along well with their team.
Five – Awesome Loving the work, stress levels in the golden zone for that person, work/life balance is good, team are working well, flying high and feels truly happy with where things are.  

Factors that influence our scores are things like stress levels, relationships and communications within the team, as well as current projects. While we deeply care for one another, and things happening in our personal lives can influence how we feel at work, they are not generally considered in the work-happiness score.
There are a couple of steps to the 1:1:

  1. The manager starts, giving their best guess as to what they think the employee’s happiness score might be and the up and downward drivers influencing it.
  2. The employee then give their score and explains the drivers behind it.
  3. Together, they come up with ideas on how to maintain high scores or improve low scores.
  4. Post 1:1 notes are shared with the People & Culture team so we can monitor trends and make changes to move the needle where appropriate

The scores are used to give us a better understanding of how we can support our employees and to avoid little roadblocks turning into big ones. They in no way affect development reviews and we understand that everyone can have a bad day or even a bad week. What’s important is how we deal with these and what we can do to make sure the next week is a better one.
We believe that we can actively shape our culture and that the best way to do this is through open communication and employee feedback. The happiness score and fortnightly questions as part of our 1:1s are an important part of how we bring this into our everyday.

How are 1:1s run in your company? We’d love to hear your ideas and what you think of our questions!

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