If you’ve been feeling out of sync with your department, you should get back on track with your staff by scheduling regular skip-level meetings. Whether you have a new manager amidst your ranks or plan to hire new employees, dealing with new people in a business organization requires time, effort, and diligence.
Since you can’t keep an eye on the entire department or workforce all the time, organizing a skip-level meeting is the best way to get precious feedback and learn what’s on your staff’s mind. Senior management frequently resorts to these meetings as they give the leaders an opportunity to engage their workforce in a constructive and productive conversation.
The insight a business leader can get from such communication can lead to determining priorities and developing better business strategies. With that in mind, here are the best practices to make the most of your next skip-level meeting and improve employee engagement.
What is a skip-level meeting?
A skip-level meeting is a conversation between a superior and an employee. In most cases, this type of meeting doesn’t require the presence of direct managers. The goal is for upper managers to learn about the latest events in the company from the employee’s point of view.
Skip-level meetings give a senior leader of the company insights into direct reports from the employee’s perspective. On the other hand, employees can gain actionable insights into the latest developments and ask essential career questions.
This type of meeting turns your employees into individual contributors to advancement opportunities in your company. It can be a powerful leadership strategy for increasing communication and employee productivity across all verticals of your company.
In addition, your employees get an opportunity to build a personal connection with upper management and establish a stronger bond with senior leadership.
When to hold a skip-level meeting?
You should organize skip-level meetings to address the issues that may concern a particular employee or his or her manager. Since this meeting format doesn’t require the presence of upper managers, a skip-level meeting is an excellent moment for an employee to talk to their superiors openly and freely.
Whether they want to outline their career goals, consider career progression opportunities, or simply express their career aspirations, a skip-level meeting allows employees to say what’s on their minds without any fear or intimidation from their manager in attendance.
On the other hand, an employee could have a problem with a bad manager. A one-on-one meeting might help them express their thoughts and explain their concerns regarding departmental leadership.
In turn, senior managers get an assessment from employees on their direct reports that can help them pinpoint specific issues and solve touchy situations through constructive discussions. The best practice is to hold quarterly skip-level meetings.
Why are skip-level meetings important for employees?
It’s not that often that your employees get a chance to gain new perspectives on their managers’ way of thinking. While many will find chatting with superiors a bit daunting, skip-level gatherings offer insights into the events across the entire organization.
Your workforce needs to learn about what happens at the higher level, and executives have little to no knowledge about essential tasks, routines, and procedures taking place within their teams. Learning as much as possible about the organizational hierarchy might be an ideal way to mitigate departmental issues and tackle workforce challenges.
That aside, skip-level meetings allow your employees to express their ideas that might contribute to the company. It happened so often that an employee had a brilliant idea but never got a chance to take it to higher management. A skip-level meeting might help your employee to voice their opinion and make a difference.
Put simply, skip-level meetings matter for both your employees and management. Employees can speak their minds, while senior management gets direct insights into what’s happening with their workforce.
10 tips to prepare for a skip-level meeting as an employee
You should prepare for this meeting just like you would for a job interview.
Follow these tips to prepare yourself for a skip-level meeting as an employee.
Get to know your skip-level manager
Learn everything you can about your superior to prepare for the conversation ahead. Check their LinkedIn profile and go through their company bio to understand their approach to work, leadership style, and personality.
Talk to your colleagues who met with this person to understand their principles, priorities, and personal philosophy. Nowadays, some apps allow you to manage multiple tasks from a single place. Use an app to write down the top questions you’d like to discuss during the meeting.
Create a list of priorities
Since this is your opportunity to say what’s on your mind, create a list of your priorities that you’d like to point out to your manager. Start by prioritizing the things you love about your company, team, and role.
This list should include everything you can think of regarding what makes your work easier. Whether it’s seamless administration, two-way communication with your teammates, or something else, communicate these qualities to your superior to get the conversation going.
Do not criticize
Instead of complaining or criticizing your management, think productively about what you would like to improve. Note down a couple of ideas and mention them to your senior manager to help them see things from your perspective.
Talk about potential problems and offer solutions that could help tackle these challenges. Since most leaders want to improve employee satisfaction, productivity, and efficiency, managers will appreciate your efforts to bring out valuable suggestions.
Outline clear goals
Define your personal objectives and key results with your skip-level manager to determine the best course for the future. Outline short and long-term team career goals and the factors that have helped you progress thus far. Talk about what you’d like to accomplish as an employee and mention the career progression experience you want to obtain to climb the corporate ladder.
Talk about the challenges you face
Sharing your thoughts on everyday challenges can help your leadership take a proactive approach to overcome workplace obstacles. Your constructive feedback might help with your future career development efforts.
Talk about life in general
A regular skip-level meeting shouldn’t only be about work. You can talk about life and other things with the manager of managers. Ask your superior about their career direction to enhance communication flow.
Their experience could give you coaching opportunities and an alternative view of company goals. This additional feedback might be all you need to align your career journey with the company culture and vision and become a team leader.
Talk to your teammates to set your expectations
If someone from your team has already gone through a skip-level meeting, their experience might be helpful to you. Talk to your colleagues to find out what they talked about and the questions they asked. Feel free to delve deep into copious details of these conversations to determine the best approach.
Prepare your questions
Since a skip-level meeting is a unique chance to have a meaningful conversation with a senior leader, think about what you would like to ask the big boss.
Here are some ideas to spice up the flow of communication:
The skills and techniques that could help your team improve;
The progress of the company;
Feedback on your work;
How the company can help your career growth;
The career growth benefits in your company;
Your satisfaction level and professional goal.
Write down your answers to potential questions
The big boss will want to hear about what’s going on with your team. The conversation with you gives them a meaningful insight into internal affairs across departments. So, prepare yourself to answer their questions with confidence.
Ask for feedback
Don’t be afraid to ask the big boss for feedback on your overall contribution to the company. Ask them how they feel about your efforts and whether there’s anything you can improve.
Benefits of skip-level meetings
Skip-level meetings should benefit you as the manager of managers and your employees. These meetings allow you to leverage your senior management position to gather valuable information that can help you improve your managerial decisions.
You can embrace a more diverse work environment perspective to build trust with employees who don’t report to you directly. On the other hand, your employees get a chance to speak their minds and share valuable insight into your organization and managerial workforce.
More importantly, you’ll get feedback on your leadership team and their efforts. Since your position puts you at a senior level, you have the power to change things for the better within your organization.
How to organize a skip-level meeting
There are three phases to organizing a skip-level meeting. Read on to learn more.
1. Set up the meeting
The first step is to let your managers know about your plan to hold a skip-level meeting. Communicate your intentions to your managers to satisfy their curiosity and discuss the desired outcomes.
Prepare the questions you want to ask in the meeting and invite your employees to check those questions. Your straightforwardness will help to ease the tension between your managers by addressing their concerns.
Send an invitation email to the employees you want to meet with and explain that it will be a meeting without their managers. Include the questions you want to ask them in the email and invite your employees to share their thoughts.
2. During the meeting
Invite your employees for a drink, breakfast, or lunch. This effort will show them that you care. Since most of them will be cautious at first, this gesture will help to put them at ease and get the conversation flowing. Use the moment to communicate important points and ask critical questions.
Pay attention to what they have to say, take notes, and try to spot patterns in their feedback. If you encounter a complex issue or a systematic problem that could impact the entire organization, tell them you’ll do everything possible to find a mutually beneficial solution.
Questions to ask during the meeting
Building relationships and rapport
What made you seek employment with this company?
Gathering feedback on managers
Are you satisfied with your manager’s work?
Gathering feedback on the company
Is there anything about the company you’d like to fix?
3. Follow up
Reward your employees for being honest and open with you with a proper follow-up. Send an email of appreciation to thank them for their efforts and time.
Assure them that their ideas and thoughts will greatly contribute to improving things around the company.
More importantly, provide an estimated schedule to let them know when they can expect to get answers and see results.
Tips for conducting a successful skip-level meeting
Here are some tips to get you through a skip-level meeting successfully:
Try to include everyone – choosing specific teammates for a skip-level meeting might create division between managers and employees. Try to meet with everyone on your team to ensure everyone feels included.
State your intentions clearly – be open and honest with your employees regarding your intentions. That could help outline complex problems hindering productiveness. Your honesty will motivate others to share ideas for improvement.
Establish meeting consistency – inform your workforce that you plan to hold meetings regularly.
Talk about concrete talking points – consider the topics in advance and include recent events in the discussion. Take meeting notes to drive actionable insights.
Provide feedback – as a company leader, provide your workforce with valuable feedback to bring them together under employee-centric leadership.
How is Ayanza helpful with skip-level meetings?
Ayanza is a project management platform that helps business teams streamline communication and processes related to team collaboration, strategy development, objective progress tracking, and OKR creation. As a centralized solution, Ayanza allows you to manage your business needs from a unified platform.
Ayanza offers numerous advanced, AI-powered features for taking your business team organization and management to the next level. However, the team spaces are an ideal solution for holding skip-level meetings and keeping everyone in the loop with the latest updates, team structure changes, new ideas, and more.
The tool allows you to create an always accessible and available knowledge base to organize your departments in a hierarchical structure. Aside from versatile databases and collaborative virtual spaces, you can rely on Ayanza to get a unified overview of all the teams in your organization.
You can keep your teams organized with easily shareable online spaces where you can open discussions, hold meetings, and share your thoughts with all teammates within your organization, just like you would on social media networks.
When you want to hold a skip-level meeting, simply send the link to your space to the selected employees, and they will join you. Schedule a free demo to get a personal onboarding session and better understand things Ayanza can do.
Why is it called a skip-level meeting?
The name comes from the fact that both attendees are skipping a level within the organizational hierarchy. A junior employee is skipping a level above their direct manager, and senior managers go beyond their direct reports.
Is a skip-level meeting good or bad?
Skip-level meetings are the perfect tools for maintaining consistent communication between the management and the employees. They help reduce top-down communication within departments, allowing your workforce to communicate their ideas, concerns, and so on.
Who initiates a skip-level meeting?
It’s usually the top-level manager who initiates a skip-level meeting to better understand the events across departments from an employee’s perspective.
When should you do a skip-level meeting?
The frequency of skip-level meetings in your company would depend on the size of your organization. Smaller companies should do it every 30 days, while bigger organizations should hold skip-level meetings quarterly.