The Skip-Level Meeting
If one of your direct reports were to leave your team, do you have the bench strength to replace them quickly? If you aren’t sure, the next question is Why not? This is just one of the reasons that skip-level meetings are a powerful, if often underused tool in the workplace.
Skip-level meetings, discussions with employees who report to a member of your staff, give managers and employees a unique opportunity to learn more about each other.
From the employee’s perspective, it’s a chance to share their background, experience and career aspirations. For a manager, skip-levels offer a closer look at the people in their broader team, identify high-potential employees and gather unfiltered feedback on key initiatives and day-to-day operations.
Make your skip-level meetings time well-spent by:
Setting a schedule. The larger your overall organization, the more rigorous your scheduling needs to be. Shoot for at least one skip-level each month and, if possible, two a year with each employee. Avoid canceling or rescheduling these meetings. Employees will be skeptical of your commitment to them if you’re regularly backing out.
Doing your homework. Before the first skip-level, review the employee’s resume and career path within the organization. Not only will you know what you want to ask about, but you’ll show the employee you’re not merely going through the motions.
Asking direct questions. Find out what the employee’s goals are. Do they aspire to manage a team? Remain an individual contributor? Move eventually into a new career altogether? Don’t forget to ask about their interests outside of work.
Following up. As soon as you can, send a handwritten note to the employee thanking them for the meeting. Some might be nervous about meeting with their manager’s boss, so a note of thanks from you will convey your appreciation and interest.
Finally, be sure to take notes that you can refer in the future. When the time comes to fill an open position on your staff, thanks to your skip-levels, you might not have to look as far as you think to find a qualified replacement.