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How to Effectively Promote from Within

Promoting from within provides numerous benefits for both you and your employees. For example, promoting qualified employees increases employee engagement and motivation while boosting employee effort and retention. Additionally, with internal hires, your employees already understand your internal policies, procedures, and culture, whereas outside candidates would have to be brought up to speed. 

However, promoting from within isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. It’s more than giving someone a new title with an increased salary and more responsibilities. Employers must look more holistically at who they’re promoting, understanding how to advance the right person.

Let’s look at what’s known as the Peter Principle. Here, internal employees are promoted “according to their current progress rather than the required skills and aptitude,” leading to inevitable incompetence as managers. Stated another way, if a company promotes employees based on current performance, such as achieving specific sales numbers, that employee may not have the requisite skills needed for the promotion. 

However, if a company internally promotes an employee with the skills needed for the promotion but currently has lower current performance (again, think of sales goals), incentives for employees to work hard in their current positions could be weakened, creating a quagmire. Promoting based on managerial aptitudes and not current performance can lead to perceptions of favoritism or the “impression that effort in one’s job goes unrewarded,” according to the Quarterly Journal of Economics – causing more problems for your company.

Combine the Catch-22 of the Peter Principle with how we work differently than we did ten years ago. According to Korn Ferry, “the way careers progress has changed as well.” Today, employees prefer to shape their careers around experiences instead of a predetermined track of next steps and levels. Because of this, employers must cultivate employees, effectively managing their promotion when ready.

In this article, we’ll outline how to effectively promote from within by objectively evaluating employees for the role for which they would be promoted.

Set the Stage Early

As an employer, you should set the stage early by clarifying and defining your employees’ career goals and aspirations well before considering promotions. By starting early and establishing how employees want to grow their careers, you can help them focus on their career path. This in turn allows you to know how to better support and encourage them along the way, according to Harvard Business Review

Creating and supporting a career path also increases employee retention and motivation, as it inherently allows for career development, something employees demand. According to Gartner, the lack of career development is the “key driver of employee attrition.” By continuing to develop your employees based on their career goals, you have the opportunity to upskill them, including further developing them beyond their current roles.

Boost Your Employees’ Confidence Through Encouragement and Advocacy

Encouraging and advocating for your employees to apply for new roles internally will boost their confidence and increase your odds of finding the right person for the job. According to Harvard Business Review, many employees complain that once a new internal job posting goes up, the company already knows who it will promote internally which creates a “lack of faith” in its promotion processes. 

Keep this in mind when posting a new position for hire. Don’t expect employees who may be qualified to apply. They may not feel qualified for the new position, even if they are. In these instances, you need to be that employee’s cheerleader—encouraging and advocating for them to take the next step in their career.

Through employer support as well as objectively assessing your internal top talent, you not only help your employees reach their next career level, you restore trust in the promotion process.

Keep Lines of Communication Open—Before, During, and After the Promotion

Finally, like any good leader, keep the lines of communication open at all points in the promotion process. Be transparent about what is expected for each employee to reach the next stage in their career.

Additionally, it’s just as critical to discuss why someone did not get an internal promotion as why they did. Perhaps the employee wasn’t quite ready, allowing you to establish additional career development goals for that employee. Or, if it wasn’t the proper position, you can determine what other positions are a better fit for that employee and more aligned with their career goals and aspirations.

Managing internal promotions effectively and transparently is critical to your company’s success. For help establishing effective processes for promoting from within, reach out to Cangrade to learn more.