The power of skip-level meetings
Skip-level meetings are exactly how they sound: those who manage managers “skip” over their direct reports to hear from other team members. According to SHRM, these appointments happen for two main reasons — to address problems within a team, or to check in with colleagues.
Why host skip-level meetings?
A skip-level meeting can be hugely beneficial. First, it creates a safe space for employees to speak openly about all aspects of their job. While not intended to be a “venting session,” skip-levels are an opportunity for employees to communicate any roadblocks they’re experiencing, whether related to their supervisor or not. This helps all colleagues feel seen, heard, and engaged at work. It can also help address issues of burnout, which can stem from feeling unacknowledged or unseen.
Second, it creates an environment of trust. This meeting allows every employee to get a 360-degree view of their job, department, and the company at large from someone other than their manager. Hosting a skip-level meeting also communicates that upper management values the work of every employee. This one-on-one time with decision-makers can also be an important part for career growth and mentorship.
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Third, skip-level meetings create an opportunity for improvement for the management team. Managers of managers get constructive feedback from team members on how their direct supervisors — and those above them — can best support cohesion, collaboration, and productivity moving forward. Additionally, skip-level meetings can help minimize micromanagement by keeping everyone in the department up to speed and on the same page.
According to Harvard Business Review, HR executives want to hire managers who are poised to be great coaches and teachers, in addition to completing job tasks. In other words, being good with people is more important in a leader than even the daily tasks and meetings. Skip-level meetings can help coach the coaches and teach the teachers.
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Prepare for a productive skip-level
People managers may be willing and eager to talk to team members — but are those team members empowered with trust, confidence, and autonomy to participate? Even the healthiest company culture can’t eliminate hesitation when it comes to talking to your boss’s boss.
Here are some simple steps to encourage employees:
Tell your team it’s okay
If you’re the manager, encourage your team to provide honest and open feedback. Reassure them that it’s productive and healthy to participate and that you, the manager, value their opinion and plan to act on it in a positive way.
Come with an agenda
If you’re the one hosting the skip-level meeting, set an agenda. This helps keep the conversation on task and away from aimless venting. That said, do leave space for open dialogue at the end of the meeting.
When connecting with team members, explain that their feedback is confidential and will be provided in an anonymous way. That said, sometimes facilitating a conversation between employee and manager is necessary to resolve conflict. If that is the case, walk through those steps with the employee before scheduling any additional calls.
Don’t leave the meeting as a one-and-done appointment — follow up! If there are opportunities to improve working relationships, organizational structure, and/or workflows, loop back with both the manager and employee on next steps.
Self-reflect on feedback
Skip-level meetings are most effective when managers are open to self-reflection and course-correction when necessary. In other words, don’t take feedback personally. At the end of the day, everyone wants to succeed, love what they do, and build better relationhips at work.
Just like one-on-ones between employees and managers are an integral part of healthy working relationships, skip-level meetings are also key in promoting healthy company culture. If you work with a wellness solution, these types of programs can also help ensure ongoing engagement beyond these meetings, especially when managers promote them and empower employees to take advantage to better their own workplace wellness!
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