Do Your Workers Feel Valued & Included? Just Ask Them!



plant-workers-(1).jpgHow well does your company communicate? In the current business landscape, effective communication plays a major role in determining organizational success as this directly contributes to employee engagement and inclusion. Without proper communication, employees are left feeling undervalued, unmotivated and uninterested in supporting the business overall.

To improve the flow of information in your facility, while making employees feel heard and valued, conduct skip level meetings. In a skip level meeting, upper-level management bypasses mid-level management to talk directly to non-managerial employees. These meetings are one of the best ways to keep a pulse on the inner workings of the facility and to gather insight that would otherwise be unattainable. 

Additionally, skip level meetings:

  • Increase transparency in the business and provide a more open environment for sharing ideas
  • Create a more universal understanding of your company vision and priorities
  • Gather feedback and insight to help managers, and their teams, improve
  • Build trust with all levels of the organization, inspiring workers to stay engaged and productive
  • Identify areas of dysfunction, insufficient communication or confusion within the organization
  • Demonstrate that everyone in the organization is valued

To realize these benefits, skip level meetings must be done the right way. To ensure your meetings are effective, follow these key steps:

  • Inform all mid-level managers about the meetings. Explain why you are holding these meetings and address any concerns they might have. Some managers may feel undermined by these meetings if they assume they are being checked in on. Make it clear that these meetings are positive, and state the true intention: to build relationships, understand team members’ perspectives and evaluate the effectiveness of the business.
  • Share expectations of the meetings with team members. Eliminate the risk of workers getting the wrong idea by informing them of all expectations and intentions ahead of time. These meetings are to help everyone work more effectively, not to go behind supervisors’ backs and second-guess their work. The goal is to get to know each other better and talk about what is and is not working in the company to ensure everyone is happy and satisfied.
  • Have questions ready to break the ice and build trust. A little rapport goes a long way. Conversations are made easier once you find you share a hometown, have common interests, have kids the same age, etc. Learning more about workers’ personal lives will demonstrate that you care about them as individuals, building an essential layer of trust going into the meeting. Team members are much more likely to come forward with problems and ideas when they do not fear management.
  • Ask the right questions. How and what you discuss will determine the effectiveness of the meetings. Some sample questions include: 
    • How do you feel about work lately?
    • What’s blocking you from being more successful than you already are?
    • What’s one thing we could improve on?
    • What would you do differently if you were in the role of your team lead? Why?
    • What do you think are the current goals of the company?
    • How do you feel your role contributes to these goals?
  • Praise team members during the meetings. Nothing puts a smile on someone’s face faster than genuine, specific praise from a leader in the organization. Additionally, ask team members to identify other workers who are doing a good job and recognize them. Giving praise has a profound impact on both employee retention and the company’s bottom line.
  • Don’t leave anyone out. All workers deserve a chance to speak with upper management. Avoid appearing like you’re playing politics by listening to all perspectives.
  • Take notes. Jotting down something a worker said demonstrates you value their input and care about what they have to say. This also implies that their idea could lead to change or action, building confidence that it’s worthwhile to bring things up with you.
  • Take action. These meetings will be meaningless if nothing happens afterward. Once all meetings are complete, establish an action item register to assign tasks. Involve every level in making changes to show that all people are integral in improving the company. 

How upper and mid-level managers communicate with their teams is essential to everyone’s success. When you take the time to hear from all levels of the organization, you will understand more of what’s happening across teams and within the company, thus empowering you to make more targeted, informed changes to improve the business. At the same time, aspects such as employee engagement, retention, motivation and loyalty will be stronger than ever before.


Tomlinson_R.jpgRoger Tomlinson, Lean Program Manager
Roger has been a Program Manager at The Center for 18 years. He has trained and mentored hundreds of Michigan manufacturers in the entire portfolio of Lean strategies and methods (e.g., Kaizen events, Standardized Work, 5S/Workplace Organization, Value Stream Mapping, Total Productive Maintenance, Culture Change, Team Building, Operations Management and Process Re-Engineering). In addition to his training and consulting work, Roger has more than 20 years of experience in manufacturing management.

Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at

Categories: Leadership/Culture