The Road Ahead

Our analysis of the major opportunities and challenges facing the voluntary sector in 2024. Learn more

One-to-ones and appraisals

This page is free to all

Use this series of pages to help you support your team to maintain and improve their performance at work.

Regular one-to-ones and appraisals are key to managing performance effectively. This page shares tips to help you plan and run them well.

One-to-one meetings

One-to-one meetings are regular check-ins between a manager an individual they line manage. They can help employees feel their work is noticed and valued – and can also help to keep work on track.

A one-to-one should focus on:

  • reviewing progress: what has gone well, and what has not gone so well
  • addressing any obstacles and or concerns
  • reviewing any planned learning and development
  • planning future objectives.

One-to-ones can be held at a frequency and duration that suits your organisation and the experience of the person you manage. For example, you may wish to meet fortnightly with a new employee and monthly with more experienced employees.

It’s a good idea to keep a record of one-to-one meetings, to ensure both parties are clear on what is discussed and agreed. It can also help you follow up at the next meeting.

Download our editable one-to-one record template:


You may be familiar with annual appraisals and mid-year reviews.

But increasingly organisations are using a more agile approach to managing performance. This typically involves:

  • meeting yearly to review work done during the previous year and set short-term objectives for the next few months
  • using regular one-to-ones to review existing short-term objectives
  • setting a new short-term objective after each existing goal is achieved.

The thinking behind this approach is:

  • this more agile approach can reflect the changing needs of the organisation
  • the pace and momentum allow more opportunities for feedback and development
  • workload and performance challenges can be spotted and addressed more quickly
  • achieving more objectives, more frequently, is more motivational.

Download our editable appraisal form template:

Preparing for the appraisal meeting

Ahead of an annual appraisal meeting, read through the notes of the previous year’s one-to-one meetings.


  • progress against the objectives set
  • training attended
  • learning and development achieved
  • feedback received from others
  • your observations on what has gone well and not so well.

It’s a good idea to have copies of relevant documents with you during the appraisal, such as:

  • the individual’s job description
  • one-to-one notes taken during the year
  • last year’s appraisal form.

Think carefully about the areas in the appraisal form and make notes. Remember, these are your initial thoughts and you’ll need to hear what the individual says first, before confirming your view about any area.

Prepare the room and ensure that you won’t be interrupted. Try to make sure you’re in a relaxed and open frame of mind – you could avoid accepting or arranging another meeting immediately beforehand, for example.

Give the individual at least a few days’ notice of the meeting so they have the time to prepare too. Ask the employee to look at their previous appraisal form and one-to-one meeting notes, and to consider what they feel has gone well and not so well since the last appraisal.

Appraisal meeting format

A useful format for the meeting is the ‘WASP’ format:

  • Welcome
  • Ask
  • Supply
  • Plan and part


Welcome the person you manage and explain the format of the meeting. Try to create a relaxed atmosphere, so the individual doesn’t feel you’re trying to rush things to get to something more important.

If you already hold regular one-to-ones, where you’re used to reviewing progress and giving feedback, the appraisal should feel like an extended one-to-one.


Ask the individual to give their views on:

  • their progress since the last appraisal meeting
  • how they think they’re doing against their latest set of objectives.

You could ask them to consider what they think their main contribution has been to the work of the organisation.

If you’re concerned about any aspect of their performance, they might be too. Give them time to share their concerns first.

Use phrases that encourage the individual to talk about their work, such as:

  • Tell me a bit more about that.
  • I can see that’s a challenge, but what do you think might help?
  • What support do you think you need to become more familiar with that?

Avoid phrases which may discourage them from talking, such as:

  • It’s quite easy when you get the hang of it, it won’t take long.
  • If I were you…
  • You’ll be ok, don’t worry.
  • Everything’s going fine.


Once you’ve given the individual full opportunity to talk, you can supply your comments.

Confirm anything you think went particularly well, explaining what the individual did that made things go well. This will help them replicate these steps in future.

Discuss the areas the individual’s identified that could have gone better. If there are work performance problems, raise these now. Give specific examples of your concerns and try not to be judgemental.

Jointly consider the possible reasons for problems and consider how the situation could be improved in the future. Make clear:

  • how you want their performance to change
  • what good performance looks like.

You can also discuss:

  • whether they’re clear about all the responsibilities of their role – you could use the job description as a basis for these discussions
  • if they feel that any aspects of their role should be changed
  • whether they feel there’s adequate opportunity to discuss they’re work with you
  • what they feel you could do to further assist them in their role
  • training and development activities they’ve undertaken since their last appraisal or one-to-one
  • any further need for training and development
  • whether they have skills and knowledge that your organisation could use and is not currently using.


The next stage of the meeting is to plan for the short and long term.

Jointly agree what follow-up actions should be taken, by whom and by when. You should also confirm any newly identified objectives for the weeks, months or year ahead (depending on the frequency of your objective check-ins).

Before you close the meeting, ask the individual if they have anything else they wish to raise. Thank the employee for their time and let them know:

  • that you’ll write up the key points from the discussion
  • that you’ll give them a copy to sign and keep, and a copy will be put on their personal file
  • when they can expect to receive the written document.

After the appraisal meeting

Following the appraisal, you should finalise the appraisal form as soon as possible and share a copy with the individual.

If they disagree with what you’ve recorded on the form, listen carefully, and try and come to an agreement.

Keep a copy of the form in a confidential file and refer back to it in one-to-ones meetings throughout the year, so you can check in on progress.

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 01 August 2022

Back to top

Sign up for emails

Get regular updates on NCVO's help, support and services