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How to build trust at YOUR workplace

Last updated on: August 10, 2011 15:12 IST

How to build trust at YOUR workplace

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HR professional Brillian SK tells you why skip-level meetings are essential for every organisation and offers suggestions on how to conduct one in the right manner.

We have heard of organisations talking about an open and transparent work culture. Have you wondered what makes these organisations different?

Why are some the best places to work even though they have limited resources? Does your organisation value open, honest communication and believe in creating a trusting, ethical, and efficient workplace?

There are multitudes of activities that you may undertake. We look at one of the most important aspects of building trust and an open and transparent workplace,viz to organise a Skip Level meeting.

What is a Skip Level meeting?

A Skip Level meeting is a meeting between manager/s and team members who are one or more levels below them. It is essentially organised in large organisations where the interaction between members of the higher level of management and the members of the lower level are relatively minimal.

Skip-level meetings are a means to get first hand information about your team and its members.

While you may be interacting with your direct reports on a regular basis, it is important to meet your sub teams (teams working under your direct reports).

Skip-level meetings are not for resolving issues, it's all about listening to your sub team's challenges and letting them know that you care.

While conducting the Skip, you must ensure that your direct reports are not present. Plan your skip meetings well in advance, give the team members a chance to collate information and issues that they wish to share with you.

It is ideal to have a skip meeting at least once in a month. Keep in mind that skip meetings are not for blaming or public humiliation of an individual or group, or resolving existing issues.

Brillian SK, is an HR Professional with experience in Education, IT and BFSI sectors and an avid Public Speaker. He can be reached on brillian@gmail.com ohttp://in.linkedin.com/in/brillian

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Photographs: Rediff Archives
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Attendees must be selected randomly

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The First Skip Meeting

Breaking ice is important as many team members may be sceptical about the concept.

As the Business Head you must ensure that everyone is at ease during the meeting. While informality is advised, a standard format must be followed to ensure that you get the right responses.

Attendees must be selected randomly from different teams. At the start of the meeting, explain the purpose of the meeting and tell the group that you are here to listen, not to solve problems or even to answer questions.

Be clear that this is not a meeting to check on their supervisors, or discuss compensation and other personal matters. It is an information and problem identification meeting. Have your HR partner or HR SPOC attend the skip meeting regularly.

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Image: At the start of the meeting, explain the purpose of the meeting

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Get to know the participants and their background

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How to break the ice?

Begin the meeting in a very informal mode.

Get to know the participants and their background.

Spend some time on general discussions.

While there are no rules governing participant numbers for a skip meeting, it is recommended that the number be kept to a maximum of 10 participants per session.

This would ensure that you get time to speak to everyone and get to know their concerns.

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Image: Get to know the participants and their background

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Do not commit to anything during the skip meeting

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Skipping the right way

Have a simple agenda for every skip-level meeting. For your first interaction a major part of the meeting agenda would be to know the team member, subsequently it would move to a focussed but informal session. Formal sessions tend to be intimidating and employees may not open up.

The following outline would assist you in ensuring that skip meetings help build a stronger team and enhance trust levels across your team.

Plan your skip meeting. Decide the duration of each meeting and the questions you plan to ask. Your discussion should revolve around the individual team member, the team and overall management. Keeping questions handy is useful so that you do not digress.

Send invitations. Invite the employees you intend to meet. Let the team manager know about the skip meeting, so that they are aware. Your communication may state that the purpose of the meeting is to get a feel of how they fit within their team and to understand the day-to-day activities.

Review information collected. Information and updates collected during the meetings are critical and provides important feedback about your team and team members. It is advised that you analyse and identify improvements and corrective action.

Communicate your action plan. After the meeting, inform employees that you will contact them shortly to discuss thoughts in depth concerning the meeting and to offer suggestions and necessary changes. If you are unable to resolve, communicate, let them know that you cannot resolve it under the current circumstances.

There maybe an urge to resolve small transactional issues then and there itself, however, do not commit anything during the skip meeting.

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Image: Do not commit to anything during the skip meeting

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Always stay in control of the meeting

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Every bit of information gathered during the meeting is confidential and should not be held against anyone. It would be appreciated if you can focus on gathering feedback from employees on their aspirations, needs and desires on their jobs.

Understand obstacles and challenges that prevent them from achieving their targets. Always stay in control of the meeting, do not let groupism or bias shift the focus of the meeting.

Skip meetings provide critical information about the employee's relationship with their immediate manager, the appreciation and performance feedback they receive or don't receive from managers.

Skip meetings act as a sounding board for employees seeking your suggestions for a positive change in the organisation. Remember once is not enough, you need to reach out to every employee and ensure that you meet them as frequently as your schedule and team size permits.

However do not make it trivial by having the skip meetings like normal business meeting too often and without any purpose. You have a commitment towards a larger goal, the betterment of the organisation and hence your actions would have a direct impact on the employees and their perception.

If you have not had a skip meeting yet, go take that first step towards building the bridge. You can make a difference by reaching out. start skipping now!


Image: Always stay in control of the meeting

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