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HR Guide: Understanding the Skip-Level Meeting

HR Guide: Understanding the Skip-Level Meeting

Skip-level meetings are a nontraditional way for organizations to garner additional employee and managerial feedback. Meetings between employees and high-level managers provide advantages to business leaders, such as improved communication and greater transparency. But these meetings may also present their own challenges and limitations. 

Continue reading to learn about skip-level meetings, their advantages and limitations, and how to implement them effectively in your organization.


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What Is A Skip-Level Meeting?

Skip-level meetings are a type of communication strategy organizations use to bridge the gap between employees and higher-level management. In a traditional organizational structure, employees communicate with their immediate supervisors, who then report to higher-level managers. However, with skip-level meetings, employees have direct access to upper management without going through their immediate supervisors.

These meetings usually involve a manager at least two levels above the employees, hence the term "skip level." They allow employees to express their concerns, share feedback, and ask questions to senior management. Skip-level meetings are not intended to replace regular meetings between employees and their direct supervisors but rather to supplement them.

Skip-level meetings are often used as a tool to increase employee engagement and improve communication within organizations. By providing employees with direct access to upper management, they feel valued, heard, and appreciated. 

Additionally, skip-level meetings can help to identify issues and challenges within the organization that may not have been brought to the attention of senior management otherwise. This type of communication can lead to a more transparent and collaborative workplace, where all employees feel like they have a voice in the organization's direction.


What Are the Advantages of Skip-Levels Meetings?

Skip-level meetings offer several advantages for organizations, including promoting employee engagement and empowerment, improving communication and collaboration, and increasing organizational transparency and trust.

Firstly, skip-level meetings provide employees with a platform to voice their opinions, share ideas, and provide feedback directly to senior management. This direct interaction can empower employees, as it demonstrates that their opinions and ideas are valued and taken seriously by the organization. This sense of empowerment can lead to increased motivation, job satisfaction, and a stronger sense of loyalty toward the organization.

Secondly, skip-level meetings can improve communication and collaboration between different levels of the organization. When senior management engages with employees from different levels, it creates a more open and inclusive communication culture. This increased collaboration can lead to more efficient problem-solving, better decision-making, and improved overall organizational performance.

Lastly, skip-level meetings can increase transparency and trust within the organization. When senior management engages directly with employees, it shows that they are committed to being transparent and accountable. This increased transparency can lead to more trust within the organization, resulting in a more positive work culture and higher levels of employee engagement and satisfaction.

Kim Scott, author of Just Work and Radical Candor, says in a recent article:

“One of the most important things any manager of managers can do to foster a culture of Radical Candor is to have so-called “skip-level meetings. I don’t love the term “skip level” because it reinforces hierarchy, and the whole point of this process is to put hierarchy to the side so that people will actually “speak truth to power.” 

“What I propose is a simple process of “speak-truth-to-power” meetings. They can take place instead of a regularly scheduled 1:1 meeting once a year, so the process does not add meetings to your calendar. However, it will take a good deal of emotional discipline.”

Regardless of what you choose to call them, making time for these meetings will create a more honest communication pattern within your organization. By promoting employee engagement and empowerment, improving communication and collaboration, and increasing transparency and trust, skip-level meetings can lead to a more inclusive, collaborative, and effective workplace.


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What Are the Limitations and Challenges of Skip-Level Meetings?

While skip-level meetings can be an effective tool for promoting employee engagement and communication, HR professionals should also be aware of the potential limitations and challenges associated with this approach.

One major limitation of skip-level meetings is the potential for negative impacts on employee morale and trust. If employees perceive these meetings as an attempt by senior management to bypass their immediate supervisors, it can create tension and mistrust within the organization. To avoid this, HR professionals should clearly communicate the purpose and goals of skip-level meetings and emphasize that they are intended to supplement, not replace regular communication channels.

Another challenge of skip-level meetings is the time and resource constraints they can impose. Holding these meetings can require significant time and effort from senior management, which may not always be feasible or practical. HR professionals should carefully consider the costs and benefits of skip-level meetings and weigh them against other communication strategies.

Lastly, resistance from managers and employees can be a challenge. Some managers may feel threatened by skip-level meetings and resist their implementation, while some employees may be hesitant to speak openly with senior management. HR professionals should work to address these concerns and ensure that all parties involved understand the benefits of skip-level meetings and are willing to participate.


What Are Best Practices for Conducting Skip-Level Meetings?

Skip-level meetings can be an effective tool for HR professionals to gain insight into the concerns, ideas, and feedback of employees at all levels of the organization. To conduct these meetings effectively, HR professionals should follow the following best practices:

  1. HR professionals should clearly communicate the purpose and goals of the skip-level meetings to all parties involved. This can include the senior managers conducting the meetings, the employees participating in them, and the immediate supervisors of those employees. By clearly communicating the purpose and goals, everyone involved can understand what is expected of them.

  2. It is important to establish a structured and consistent approach to conducting skip-level meetings. This can include developing a standardized list of questions or topics to cover, setting clear expectations for the length and format of the meetings, and establishing a process for collecting and analyzing the feedback gathered.

  3. HR professionals should ensure that skip-level meetings are conducted in a respectful and confidential manner. Employees should feel comfortable speaking openly and honestly about their experiences and concerns without fear of reprisal or negative consequences. HR professionals should also ensure that the information gathered in these meetings is treated with appropriate confidentiality and is only shared with those who have a need to know.

  4. It is essential to follow up on the feedback gathered in skip-level meetings. HR professionals should communicate the findings to all parties involved, including senior management, immediate supervisors, and employees. They should also develop and implement action plans to address any issues or concerns that are identified.

By following these best practices, HR professionals can conduct skip-level meetings effectively, gain valuable insights into the organization's strengths and areas for improvement, and create a more engaged and collaborative workplace.


Additional Resources

You can also stay informed, educated, and up-to-date with HR strategies and other important topics by using BerniePortal’s comprehensive resources:

  • BernieU—free online HR courses, approved for SHRM and HRCI recertification credit

  • BerniePortal Blog—a one-stop-shop for HR industry news

  • HR Glossary—featuring the most common HR terms, acronyms, and compliance

  • HR Guides—essential pillars covering an extensive list of comprehensive HR topics

  • HR Party of One—our popular YouTube series and podcast, covering emerging HR trends and enduring HR topics 

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