Your employees are not just invaluable for their ability to be productive on your company’s behalf. They also have perspectives on company operations that can be utilized to make meaningful improvements. Developing a solid employee engagement intelligence program is certainly key to gaining, assessing, and utilizing these insights to their full potential. This could include a range of survey formats throughout the year, composed of longer employee experience questionnaires and more targeted pulse surveys. However, it’s also important for leaders to take the time to engage face-to-face with individual employees.
This is where skip level meetings can come into play. These involve higher level executives or members of leadership sitting down with entry to mid-level workers to discuss various elements of their experiences with the business. These aren’t conducted by employees’ direct line managers, hence the term “skip level.”
However, it’s not always easy to know what types of questions can be impactful in these situations. So, let’s take a look at a range of skip level meeting questions.
Why are Skip Level Meetings Valuable?
The questions you ask during a skip level meeting shouldn’t necessarily be standardized. Certainly, there will be some elements that are repeatable. Nevertheless, you tend to get the most benefit if your questions are led by clear intentions. Part of this can be influenced by a better understanding of the benefits of skip level meetings, which can allow you to select questions that lean into these aspects.
Some of the reasons skip level meetings can be valuable include:
In some ways, requesting direct managers to get information from their staff is not the most effective approach. The information you receive at the executive level may not be quite as reliable or as accurate as you would like. This is because the flow of information may be interrupted by various hurdles. The goals, intentions, and indeed unconscious biases of the managers’ questioning approaches can impact the responses received. The interpretation of results may also be skewed by the intervention of managers.
Skip level meetings tend not to have this issue. You are forming a direct line to insights from individual employees. Your questions should focus on making the most of this. Be straightforward. Avoid potentially leading questions.
One of the issues with employees having meetings with their direct line managers is that there can be filters involved. Your workers know they have to spend every day with their direct supervisors, so they may be less willing to be honest out of fear of retaliation or a disrupted relationship.
Skip level meetings can often provide opportunities to bypass such filters. The result of this is that you can gain more honest and therefore more accurate responses to questions. You need to ensure that the questions you choose encourage openness. You should also take the time to emphasize that the meeting is a safe space to talk frankly.
An effective skip level meeting isn’t just about launching into your targeted questions. Yes, efficiency is important for both you and the staff members involved. But how you begin the session can have an impact on their overall engagement.
Your approach here should aim to be as conversational as possible. Meetings with leaders can hold a certain amount of anxiety for employees. So, seek to put them at ease. Set the tone for how you mean to go on and start to build a rapport.
Some of the questions in this section of the skip level meeting could include:
- Tell me a little about yourself
- Why did you initially want to work with (company)?
- What do you like to do in your spare time?
- What book are you reading/what TV show are you watching at the moment?
- What’s the most fun or interesting thing you’ve done in the past year?
These introductory questions should all be open in nature. This isn’t just because it avoids the potential for simple “yes” or “no” answers. Most importantly, it provides a basis for a conversation with each other. When the employee is given space to talk, the meeting can be more relaxed and less like an interview or interrogation.
Your company culture is one of the most important aspects of your operation. It contributes to various aspects of your business. This includes employee retention, long-term productivity, and both customer and employee experience. Not to mention that the strength of your culture can be an influencer of your diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts.
Getting data and insights from managers tends to only be effective in a limited capacity when assessing company culture. Rather, your front-line employees are more likely to be the best sources of information here. After all, they live with the culture in a particularly intimate way. They’re also expected to be the most visible representatives of the values your company leaders have decided should underpin the culture.
Some of the cultural questions you should ask during a skip level meeting can include:
- What are the primary values of (company)?
- What do you feel are the positive/negative aspects of company culture?
- How does the company celebrate the success of employees?
- How inclusive do you feel the company is?
- How do employees influence the company culture?
- How well can you maintain a work-life balance?
Maintaining productivity is a priority for any business. It helps to ensure that the company runs efficiently and profitably. In turn, operational efficacy in this regard bolsters the public view of the business and empowers leaders to invest meaningfully in growth. As such, it is in everyone’s best interest to ensure that productivity performance is consistently at peak levels.
While line managers have a key role to play in ensuring their teams are productive, it is the employees themselves who most directly influence company productivity. Asking questions in this area during skip level meetings is essential. This is also a way to gain insights into elements that have knock-on effects on productivity, such as employee satisfaction, manager behavior, and worker development.
Some of the productivity questions you can ask during skip level meetings include:
- How does your manager motivate you and how successful are these efforts?
- What resources do you feel could improve your productivity or that of the wider company?
- How has the pressure to perform positively/negatively affected you?
- What mentorship or development opportunities are you engaged in?
- What do you feel are the biggest hurdles to productivity at (company)?
- How does your manager help resolve disruptive conflicts in the team?
- What feedback channels can you use to offer ideas for productivity improvements?
Skip level meetings can form an invaluable part of your employee engagement intelligence program. By understanding the value of these meetings and how they relate to your goals, you can better tailor a range of queries to focus on. That said, it’s important to ask some open, getting-to-know-you questions as an introduction to put workers at ease. Questions about company culture can provide vital perspectives on elements that affect workers and the wider business. Productivity questions are an opportunity to examine the actions of management and what resources workers need to thrive. By giving your employees the chance to provide honest feedback, you’re empowering them to cultivate a mutually positive relationship with your company.