This is part 4 of a 10 part “how to” series covering the points in the infographic below.
I look at this concept of promotion or promoting employees in two different ways.
- Moving into a new job at a higher level in the organization
The first one is probably what most of us think of when we think about an employee being promoted, certainly in the context why an employee would stay at a certain organization. And why not, it can encapsulate many of the other attributes in the infographic…
When you get promoted, you:
- Get paid more (usually)
- Are challenged in your new role
- Are more involved with decision making
- Feel appreciated and that you bring a higher value to the company
- Are more closely connected to the mission
- Are likely more empowered because of increased responsibility
- Feel like there is a higher level of trust all around
Of course, that’s the optimist talking… there is also probably additional stress, pressure, and depending on the job and culture, fear of making the wrong move on a bigger stage.
But, for our discussion, we’ll say that most of that positive stuff happens and it makes people want to stay. Groovy.
Unfortunately, we all know what’s coming next, “I don’t have enough spots to promote everyone, and oh, by the way, not everyone is ready or qualified to move up.”
That’s good. It’s good that you recognize that not everyone is ready to move up. I would frankly be concerned if you said EVERYONE was qualified to take the next step. That means we aren’t taking a discerning enough look at who is truly ready, willing and able to jump into a role with more responsibility.
It’s also important to understand WHY to promote someone. Do they possess an ability to lead and are ready to move up, or are they just the best performer in their group? Not that we should discount the best performer, but just being good at what they currently do is not reason enough to anoint them with a higher title and more responsibility. I would dare say that in the situation of promoting someone who is not ready would actually make them want to leave… they are not set up for success nor do the people around them have much faith in their ability to step up and lead. Bad news all around.
For the positions you do have to fill, do you have a process that helps you determine who is truly the best candidate? Many places use a leadership application to start the process; much like applying for a job as a ride operator or security guard, a leadership application allows people to tell their story and “raise their hand” to show interest in the position.
The leadership application does a few things. First, it evens the playing field and allows anyone who is interested to apply – that way you don’t accidentally overlook someone. Second, it shows you who is actually interested in taking the next step. I have seen far too many people who fall into the “reluctant leader” role. Not pretty.
This is also a great opportunity to dust off front line hiring practices like group interviews, panel interviews, games and scenario-based evaluations and put a leadership spin on them. Like a regular applicant, it’s important to see what they are going to be like when in the new role, while also giving them a realistic view of what they are getting themselves into.
And if you REALLY want to be proactive, start the season before. Develop a list of tasks or projects that you can have people do as a trial before you put them into a leadership role or let them shadow a Lead or Supervisor for a day. Even let them know that this opportunity is an audition or part of the interview process to be considered for a promotion the next season. This will tell you if they have the long-term stick-to-it-ive-ness and dedication that you want your leaders to have.
One of the reasons that NOT being promoted may cause people to be disgruntled or leave is that they don’t know WHY they didn’t get the promotion or don’t know what they could do in the future to be ready for one. This is the most often missed or overlooked part of the process. If you want to keep the people you don’t promote, take the time, make the investment to tell them WHY. Meet with them face-to-face, give them constructive and developmental feedback about why they weren’t chosen and what they can do to develop their skills in the future. You can’t promote everyone, but you do have the responsibility to let people know why they aren’t ready for the next level. By letting them guess or fill in the blanks themselves, they will most likely create their own answer that will put themselves in the best possible light, downplaying the accomplishments and skills of those who did get promoted. It’s human nature. You can take that to the bank.
This leads us to the other definition of promotion, which is to support, encourage, and help your employees to flourish. We’ve all (hopefully) had that leader who we knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, had our back. When we needed an advocate, or someone to go to bat for us, they were there. When we needed someone to tell us honestly what we could improve in our own performance, they were there. When we needed someone to encourage us to keep our chin up, they were there. And, when we needed someone to sing our praises, they were there. That kind of support and care creates loyalty, and loyalty makes people want to stay.
It’s a reality that we can’t promote everyone into a leadership role (and again, we shouldn’t be trying). But, we can promote our employees by supporting them, encouraging them, and creating an environment where they can flourish. Communicating why someone didn’t get bumped up actually falls into this second category as well, which to me makes it as critical to your employee promotion efforts as moving people up the ladder.
Next up: Involved
Thanks for reading!
About the author – After 20+ years in hospitality leadership and human resources, Matt Heller founded Performance Optimist Consulting in 2011 with one simple goal: Help Leaders Lead. Matt now works with attractions large and small and leaders at all levels to help them improve leadership competencies, customer service, employee motivation and teamwork. His book, “The Myth of Employee Burnout” was released in 2013 has become a go-to resource among industry leaders.