In a nutshell, it's a variant of a 1-1 meeting. It's a meeting where the manager's manager meets with the direct report, hence the phrase "skip level." For example, in a startup, a CEO may conduct a skip-level meeting with a writer from the marketing team without the presence of the marketing manager.
Before scheduling your skip-level meeting, it's best to discuss this process with the managers first. You don't want them to feel like you’re undermining their leadership or spying on them.
It's also best to communicate that the company will start doing skip-level meetings so employees don't get surprised that they have an appointment with a VP or CEO. Some employees might think, "Is there something wrong? Why do I have a meeting with the big boss?"
What do you say, and how do you exactly start? You can never go wrong with breaking the ice. You can start with a simple question: Are you reading an interesting book or watching a TV series this week? Or how are you feeling this week? Once you've built rapport, you can then get to the heart of the discussion. Ideally, you want to focus on three things: career goals, company vision, and concerns or feedback.
We've created a template so that you don't have to start from scratch every time. You can even use this to co-create the agenda asynchronously, so the employee can prepare and know what to expect.
This section includes questions about their current role and their career path in the company.
It's a great time to discuss personal or team wins and feedback about the company.
Discuss concerns about the future of the company or recent challenges they've encountered.
Note that in this meeting, you’re not supposed to make any promises or decisions. You can always have a separate discussion with the manager regarding all the insights you’ve gathered and how you’ll turn them into action items.
It might sound like a logistical nightmare to do skip-level sessions, especially for companies with more than 100 employees, but it's doable. You can spread out your skip-level meetings in a quarter or even a year or dedicate a whole week in a year. Ideally, your meeting should be between 30-45 minutes long.
Ready to get started your skip-level meeting? You can get this free template, complete with suggested skip level meeting questions. It’s the easiest way to co-create the agenda together and have a productive and enjoyable meeting.