Skip level meetings bring together two members of an organization who don’t meet on a regular basis or, perhaps, have never met before at all. They provide incredible insight for both parties, help to humanize all members of the organization, and ensure all voices — no matter their position within the business — are heard.
In other words: They provide numerous benefits, and they are not a meeting to be skipped. 😉 Let’s dive into the ins and outs of skip level meetings.
In this post, we’ll discuss:
- What is a skip level meeting?
- What are the benefits of skip level meetings?
- How to run effective skip level meetings.
What is a skip level meeting?
A skip level meeting is a type of meeting where an employee meets with their manager’s manager. It’s called a skip level meeting because both participants are skipping a level within the hierarchy of the organization. Senior managers are skipping a level below their direct reports, and junior employees are skipping a level above their direct manager.
A skip level meeting is not a performance review; it’s a chance for a senior manager or business leader to evaluate company morale and familiarize themselves with the daily operations of the business. It’s also an opportunity for lower-level employees to meet their boss’s boss one-on-one, sometimes for the first time. These are people who rarely have the opportunity to interact beyond seeing a small box in a Zoom window or a polite nod at an all-hands meeting.
It’s easier to grow frustrated with people if you only know their job title and Slack profile picture. Skip level meetings allow both participants to put a face to a name and recognize that no matter the other person’s rank, you’re both just people working a job. You both have families, hobbies, dreams, and plenty to offer each other.
What are the benefits of skip level meetings?
Skip level meetings help build rapport across all levels of a company by making every voice heard, prioritizing feedback, and cultivating a trusting workplace.
The benefits of running skip level meetings include:
- Reaching cross-organizational alignment on the company’s goals
- Providing all team members with a chance to have one-on-one time with senior leaders
- Fostering better relationships at all levels
- Promoting transparency and preventing gossiping
- Improving decision-making by understanding the daily operations of the business at a junior and senior level
- Helping both junior and senior employees navigate roadblocks they may have been unaware of
- Increasing employee engagement by making all employees feel seen and heard
- Building a collaborative work environment where everyone feels important and valued
- Helping managers within the company become better leaders
- Removing silos and establishing a communication flow across the whole organization
How do you run effective skip level meetings?
Now that you understand the incredible benefits, let’s discuss how to run skip level meetings effectively.
1. Collaborate on a skip level meeting agenda 📝
Both senior managers and junior employees have important jobs to do, so it's vital to prepare a skip level meeting agenda ahead of time.
It’s also understandable for an employee to feel a little apprehensive when meeting with their boss’s boss, which is why it’s important to make the purpose of the meeting abundantly clear well ahead of time.
Create a skip level meeting template that can be adjusted as needed depending on who is meeting to ensure preparing an agenda is simple and straightforward for both participants. And in the interest of ensuring all voices feel heard, ensure the agenda template is collaborative.
Building a meeting agenda collaboratively will help the more junior employee feel more relaxed and involved. What concerns do they want to address? Is there something they would like to learn from the senior manager? Send them a meeting prep polly so you can use their notes to plan your meeting.
2. Prepare skip level meeting questions 💬
Prepare formal questions, but also ones that will help break the ice. Icebreaker questions are an absolute necessity in a skip level meeting, as the participants probably don’t often interact. If you launch straight into formal questions, the conversation will be stilted and awkward, which can keep the meeting from being effective.
At Polly, we love breaking the ice with a hot take, which is a controversial statement or question designed for good-spirited debate, such as:
- Pineapple is the best pizza topping.
- Leaving pizza crusts on a plate is an affront.
- Muffins are basically an excuse to have dessert in the morning.
- You can wear denim on denim.
💡 Looking for more ideas? Here are 36 Hot Take Questions to Spark a Friendly Debate.
After you break the ice, it’s important to have some more formal and specific questions prepared that can help you get to know one another and share thoughts about the business.
Here is a list of questions you might ask at a skip level meeting:
- What do you like most about your current role?
- If you could change anything about the company, what would you change?
- How has your role evolved since you first started working here?
- What do you like to do for fun outside of work?
- What’s a book you'd recommend to anyone?
- What’s the latest movie/show/podcast you watched or listened to?
- What personal goals are you trying to meet this year?
- What do you like most about our company culture?
- Is there anything you would change about our company culture?
- Where do you see the company in 5 years?
3. Note any action items or next steps 💫
There won’t be as many action items to check in on as with your regular one-on-one meetings, but you should still keep track of any possible action items that come up. Who is responsible, and what’s the deadline for each action item? What are the key takeaways from the meeting?
It’s also a good idea for both the junior employee and senior manager to make a note of some of the other person’s answers so that they can follow up on them later. For example, if your boss’s boss mentions they have children, try to remember how many. If your junior employee recommends a book or a TV show, make a note to check it out and, if possible, get back to them about what you thought of it.
4. Ask for and provide constructive feedback 📈
Skip level meetings are a key opportunity to gather general feedback on how things are running across the company. How do regular employees feel about the direction of the business? What would they improve? What do they enjoy most? Do they feel valued and appreciated by the organization and its members? Do they feel they have adequate work-life balance? Do they feel they have room to grow within the company?
For senior managers, it’s important to offer feedback to the junior employee as well, but ensure that it is constructive feedback, which is practical and focused on helping someone grow. Are you aware of any issues they are having? What guidance can you offer as a senior manager?
Want more frequent feedback? Learn How to Get Actionable Feedback With an Employee Suggestion Box.
Run better meetings with Polly
Skip level meetings bring together a junior employee and a senior manager for a one-on-one meeting that’s focused on getting to know one another as well as the daily operations of the business. They are an excellent opportunity to collect feedback and build cross-company rapport and collaboration.
When you plan a skip level meeting, have both participants collaborate on an agenda, come up with questions both fun and formal, note important next steps, and provide each other with relevant, constructive feedback.
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