When it comes to improving employee development and performance, enough can’t be said about the effectiveness of regular meetings. If as a manager, you’re not checking in regularly with employees to track their progress, you can’t expect members of your team to overcome roadblocks, repeat successes or grow.

Monthly one-on-one meetings should be mandatory and nonnegotiable. Even if an emergency crops up on the day of a one-on-one, managers should immediately reschedule the meeting. When you make regular monthly meetings a priority, your employees will see that you care about their growth and development, and they’ll begin to perceive those meetings as extremely important, as well.

To make monthly one-on-ones more effective, frame them as vehicles to develop and improve employee performance rather than just as a time to run down a list of items and observations. In addition to outlining specific scenarios where things went well (or not), you’ll also discussing goals and growth plans for each team member. You’ll get a lot more from employees if you show a genuine interest in helping them achieve their long-term goals.

Don’t be afraid to go casual.

Another way to get better results from these monthly meetings is to mix up the format. They don’t always have to take place across a desk or conference-room table. Yes, there’s a time and a place for formal discussions. But every so often, shake things up a little bit and make the meeting a bit more casual.

When you step outside of the confines of an office, you can get to know an employee on a more personal level, and vice versa.

When you and an employee become better acquainted as individuals, this can improve the quality of the monthly coaching session. You’ll gain valuable insight into how and why that individual does his or her job a certain way. Breaking down formalities can also provide clues and cues about how to best to coach the employee to success.

Here are some creative ways to shake up your one-on-ones:

  1. Go out to lunch.

A conversation over a burger and fries will have a far different tone than a one held inside a closed office. Inexpensive alternatives for managers of large teams might be going out for coffee or ice cream.

  1. Stroll outside.

Take advantage of a bright, sunny day by walking with an employee during a one-on-one. This will get the blood flowing and the vitamin D will aid everyone’s health. If walking isn’t your thing, stake out a picnic table or bench outside.

  1. Lose the table.

If leaving the office isn’t feasible, remove the desk or table that typically separates you from the employee. It can help create a more casual environment right inside the office.

  1. Do it on their turf.

If your direct reports have their own offices, hold meetings there once in a while. This slight change in venue can change the dynamic and help break down the barriers between the leader and team member.

  1. Let the employees decide.

Ask team members where they might like to meet for a one-on-one. You’ll collect some interesting new ideas and asking for their opinions shows you care about their personal preferences.

Regular meetings don’t have to be just about what an employee is doing right or wrong. When they are approached and executed well, monthly one-on-one meetings can improve employee development, boost engagement and have a positive effect on productivity.