Managing PromotionTuesday, October 4th, 2011
Promotion is a good reward for effort and of course something that ambitious employees aim for. Usually it brings status, more money and more job interest, but it has to be managed effectively. Time was, and in some places still is, when promotion comes with service, or rather the longest serving member of the team gets the foreman’s job. Too often however the elevation is not a success because the person promoted is not adequately competent, so at best stagnation occurs, and at worst the team becomes a disaster zone. Promotion requires careful management.
First, if a vacancy occurs in a job that carries some form of responsibility and that could attract employees from less demanding positions, you should take great care to ascertain the qualities needed in exactly the same way as if you were recruiting from outside. The differences in the two sources of recruitment balance out. If recruiting from outside, you will be interviewing complete strangers whereas you will know internal applicants and their track record. Conversely you may already be prejudiced towards an internal candidate because you have been impressed by some good result he or she produced a while back without recognising that it was a flash in the pan, or unconsciously harbour a grudge against a good employee who once upset you. The required qualities of course will depend upon the job requirements. Technical skills may be of paramount importance, so you need someone who consistently and successfully can resolve difficult problems. You may want someone who can plan work and use the section’s resources in the most efficient way. Or you may want a good people person to motivate and lead a team. In reality you may want a combination of several qualities, therefore list them, evaluate each according to their relative importance and assess each candidate against each required quality.
Having selected an internal candidate for the more responsible job, think carefully how different is the new job from the one the person has been doing, and to what extent he or she can cope with them. If there is any doubt, arrange training. A sudden and unexpected vacancy may mean that there is limited time for training, which is not a problem if the employee being promoted has most of the qualities and needs only minimal instruction in, say, the system operated in the section. But if there is a large gap, you have a problem. The promoted employee may have to learn quite a bit about management accounts or may be inexperienced in handling people, competencies that may take quite a bit of time to acquire. One way to learn accounting techniques would be to send him or her on a college or e-learning course, but this certainly would take time and in any case you would need to test the employee to ensure that the knowledge being gained was appropriate to the needs of the job. In circumstances such as this you may find it prudent to have an experienced person supervise, mentor and monitor the promoted employee until he or she is fully competent.
These short term difficulties may be overcome to a great extent by good manpower planning supported by formal and recorded performance appraisals. Project over the coming five years how your manpower needs may change and also who you are likely to lose. The latter may include people who have said they wish to retire at a certain age or who want to move on to more challenging work that you cannot provide, but also examine the past few years’ staff turnover to get an idea of probable future losses. Look then at the people you have, which of them might be suited to some of these vacancies should they arise, and set about training them. You need to be careful not to build up unrealistic expectations otherwise you will train up people who will become frustrated and then leave, but develop skills in them by giving `formal training as well as experience in other areas to develop their value. Make clear that there is no guarantee of promotion but that the training will put them in a strong position to apply for more demanding roles that occur. Be sure throughout to give everyone opportunity to receive this training and ensure that appraisals are conducted properly and shown to the subjects who then have opportunity to challenge comments made about them.
Good interviewing, skilful appraisal and sound training should ensure that all promotions succeed. However make sure that the people concerned are aware what will happen if they fail in the new positions. This is particularly important if you are pressurising someone to accept promotion. Ideally put them on a short trial period and meanwhile keep their old job open, but if this is not possible, you may find yourself faced with the job of trying to redeploy them. If you promote somebody, you have a responsibility to them and to your organisation to do all you can to make that promotion work.