What Is A Skip Level Meeting?
Great managers care deeply about their employees and their needs. Good, and smart, organizations will continue to promote great managers into roles which allow them to utilize their managerial skills effectively. But sometimes, some great managers may be a level or two removed from their employees. That’s why skip level meetings are a great way to continue to interact and communicate with all employees under a manager’s purview. Butt, what is a skip level meeting and why is it so important?
In its simplest form, a skip level meeting is where a manager’s manager meets with employees. For example, let’s say the Manager of Marketing has a team of direct reports of 7 and this manager reports to the Director of Marketing. A skip level meeting would be when the Director of Marketing meets with the 7 direct reports of the Manager of Marketing.
Why They Occur?
Skip level meetings are an important management tool. They should be used and should occur to maintain or increase communication, build and promote rapport, and establish stronger relationships between the parties.
Skip level meetings should occur on a semi-frequent basis to continue to foster the relationship. They should be scheduled well in advance to not surprise the employee and worry them surrounding the nature of the meeting.
What They Are Not
Skip level meetings are not an appropriate time to solicit feedback or critique on the mid-level manager. Feedback and critique on the manager or an employee should be done in a different situation and should never be included in the skip level meeting.
Skip level meetings should be a point of trust and openness. By soliciting negative feedback on a manager, you place the employee in a defensive situation and in an uncomfortable predicament. Furthermore, you erode trust between yourself and the manager if word comes out that you are soliciting feedback, whether positive or negative.
What To Do Before Setting-Up A Skip Level Meeting?
The most important aspect of a skip level meeting is trust. This trust should flow from the top-level manager, through the mid-level manager, down to the employees. This means that no skip level meeting should be set or conducted without a discussion between the top and mid-level managers.
This discussion is important for a number of reasons:
- The top-level manager needs to maintain trust and confidence in their mid-level manager. By including them, the two can discuss what points should be addressed and how to approach certain employees
- The top-level manager should be honest and transparent with the mid-level manager on why they would like to meet with the employees and what will be discussed. Together they can come-up with a plan of action to improve or enact on a task.
- The top-level manager should get the mid-level manager’s support before meeting with their employees. Otherwise, they risk letting the mid-level manager believe the meetings to be about their own performance.
In-addition, before meeting with employees, you should begin having regular, informal levels of communication with them. Stopping by their desks to chat, sitting with them at lunch, and attending department meetings will help you build rapport and trust.
You shouldn’t simply jump to a skip level meeting without enacting those changes beforehand. Employees will find your intentions disingenuous and will be less likely to open up to you.
What To Discuss At A Skip Level Meeting?
The skip level meeting should revolve around the employee and the department. You want to build rapport and trust, but in a meaningful and actionable way. You don’t want to simply get the information you want. Rather, you will want to build a long-lasting level of trust and encouragement.
- What is or isn’t working well in the department?
- Follow-up, how can you help make things better?
- What improvements can be enacted to increase efficiency and time-spent?
- Follow-up, what obstacles are they facing day-in and day-out that you can help with? Is it technology access, knowledge, more headcount?
- What is something as a department that we need to start doing right now?
- What is something as a department we need to stop doing?
- How can you help foster their growth and career?
- What will make the employee and the department as a whole happier?
A lot of advice will tell you to veer away from discussing individual employees and their needs. I disagree with this. You should utilize your position to help your employees and come to a resolution on their issues.
Do they have long commutes? Can you enact a work from home policy?
Do they work long hours? Do you have additional headcount?
Do they have the knowledge needed to succeed? Can you get training scheduled for them?
By working with the employees and taking their feedback, you can promote and lift the department as a whole. While taking feedback on departmental needs, never forget about the individual employee.
Take their feedback seriously and discuss it with the mid-level managers. Find a way to tackle the issues they presented and always follow-up with the employee. This will show them that you really care and are listening.