Promotions: They’re part of the American Dream. The mail room clerk who became the CEO tells us that if we work hard and remain loyal to an organization, we will be rewarded and rise in the ranks. Yet, a promotion is more than an indicator of the passing of time; it is the selection of your organization’s next leaders.
Part of being an exceptional manager is being patient and diligent enough to find the perfect talent for your department and organization. If you hire great people, you will have plenty of exceptional performers to choose from when more senior level positions open up.
When you hire people who are amazing at their job, it’s a common mistake for organizations to pigeon-hole them in their current role. When a position opens up, the most common reaction for department managers and human resources is to immediately start recruiting outside candidates. Make it your mission to begin your search within before externally posting a job. You’d be surprised at the untapped talent you likely have inside your organization. It doesn’t have to be the promotion of a junior level person to a manager role, it could be as simple as a lateral transition. Post the job internally first and give your employees the chance to dazzle.
Even in our own company, we’ve seen an accountant take on an I.T. role and excel. We’ve seen a customer service professional ask to be considered for a marketing position and rise within the ranks of that department. We’ve seen sales people in one business line have unprecedented success as the manager of another business line. Be open-minded.
It’s time to start promoting from within.
The Spreadsheet and the Corporate Ladder
Promoting from within promotes a healthy culture and budget. While an external hire can bring fresh skills and perspective, internal employees have already grown accustomed to the work environment, culture, and pace. Internal promotions can boost morale and improve employee relationships amongst your team. It is a demonstration that both you and the company believe in recognition and reward.
Promotion can be a powerful tool in motivating and retaining employees, signifying potential career growth in your organization. The last thing you want is for internal employees to think that the only way to further their career is to find a position with another company. Show them that promotions are celebrated and preferred in your workplace.
In a study conducted by the Management Department at Wharton University in Pennsylvania, results showed that external hires can be taxing. External hires take longer to “get the hang of things.” They can take up to two years for their performance reviews to equate to those who were promoted from within. External hires are 61% more likely to be fired, and are also more likely to be laid off from their new jobs. In addition, external hire positions are generally more expensive to fill when you add up the cost of job postings and the time invested into screening and interviewing.
Today & Tomorrow
Everything sturdy and tall begins with a solid foundation, promotions included. Inc.com recommends spending “the necessary amount of money on recruiting because you’re stuck with who you’re recruiting if you promote from within.” It sounds pretty obvious, but you want to assure that you have an extraordinary group of candidates who would be eligible for promotion. Don’t hire based on whether the candidate can do their initial position, but whether they will be able to handle a bigger job in the future. Hire for current expertise and future potential.
Once you’ve established a reliable hiring process, build a culture that nurtures future leaders. When they’ve demonstrated their capabilities, give your team members opportunities to learn new skills and take on new responsibilities. This will give employees a new confidence, and you a preview of their aptitude for growth. Encourage open dialogue, and work with your team members individually to build their individual career paths, showing your team members that you are equally as invested with them as they are with you. But most importantly, this indicates to them that they have possibilities. Every promotion does not have to be a giant step – you can start with little changes to their title and position to acknowledge their strengths.
Once you’ve established a reliable hiring and promotion process, take a moment of introspection. Are you considering certain members of your team based on your social connection? Workplace friendships have proven to be very beneficial, but can also skew decisions. On the flip side, a personal disliking for someone can blind you to their leadership potential and skills. If you feel as though you cannot set aside your bias, consult other members of your leadership team for insight.
Chances are if you’re considering promotions, your team has been thinking about them for even longer. Make note of employees who willingly engage you in conversations regarding their career path versus those who are simply expecting it based on tenure. Seniority and a solid skill set don’t always qualify someone for a promotion, especially if it involves managing others. Ideally, your employee will have the experience, commitment, technical abilities and leadership potential. Keep an eye out for who has been demonstrating managerial tendencies (Who has been going out of their way to help others? Who is building upon their own knowledge and sharing with others? Who is it on your team that people intuitively turn to for guidance?). Don’t forget – “promotion” doesn’t have to mean “manager.” You can promote people into positions that acknowledge their experience and expertise without placing employees under their supervision.
Be aware of your team. It is your responsibility to have a deeper understanding of your current team dynamic. (Is there someone who routinely takes the lead on group projects? Is there someone who directs the weekly pizza lunch? Is there someone who has a knack for creative problem solving? Is there someone who routinely avoids extra responsibility?) If someone isn’t cut out for managing others, find a path that allows them to feel elevated and acknowledged for their specific area of expertise and experience.
Carefully conduct and examine performance reviews based on both conduct and results. When considering a candidate, make sure you have concrete evidence/ data that demonstrates that they are excelling at their current position and going above and beyond their regular duties.
Have a clear definition of duties, expectations, and technical competencies for this new position, and compare and contrast to current positions (Do they have the education/skill set/knowledge to make this leap?). Be prepared to interview your internal candidates, just as you would external candidates.
Listen for those who use we instead of I. Getting a promotion isn’t about being a super star; it’s about those who are passionate about moving your company forward.
Don’t Jump the Gun
If your employees simply do not have the requirements for the position, do not promote from within. Promoting someone with the wrong skill set or leadership mentality can be detrimental to the process. Trying to force a square peg into a round hole can cause conflict within the organization, and employees may feel neglected if they believe they were simply passed over for the position. When this happens, be open and honest with your team. Discuss ways to grow and improve so they may have other opportunities in the future.
Be both active and mindful about promoting from within. Actively look for ways to allow top performers to take incremental steps forward in their own career path. And when a position in your department or organization becomes available, actively seek for suitability from within before opening the position externally. Whether you promote from within or hire externally, the process should be exciting, because it is all about making your business better. Allow yourself to feel excited because this change can result in a million different possibilities.