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Promoting from within has many benefits when done correctly. Unfortunately, all too often we promote the wrong person for the wrong reasons, the promotion fails miserably and we often end up losing the promoted employee from the business. It’s easy to fall into the trap of promoting the longest serving employee in that department or the employee that is the best at their craft; the best sales person is promoted to Sale Manager, the best tradesperson is promoted to Production Team Leader. Sometimes it’s not just you as the leader who wrongly promotes the top performing employee; that employee expects to step into the management role because they are next in line and sometimes the team even just expect that the promotion of that top performing employee is a given. However performing their craft and managing people are two very different skills sets.
If you are going to promote internally there are 4 tips I’d highly recommend you implement as part of the promotion process. They sound simple but all too often are over-looked.
Clarify the role
It sounds like recruitment 101 – make sure you have an accurate position description. I find that position descriptions can be under-rated. While you might think your employee has been with you for years and years; that they know the business, they know the company, they have reported in to this manager role previously and they know all the people in the team – don’t assume they really know and understand the role. Clearly articulating your expectations of the role, what success looks like, the key responsibilities and the challenges they may face is of the utmost importance. Sometimes the employee you plan on promoting needs to have it spelt out to them that they will be moving from being a colleague to a manager and that the team dynamics will no doubt change. Let them know that you expect them to have difficult conversations with these team members when required and hold them to account. You need to paint the warts and all pictures not just let them see the role through rose coloured glasses. They might be just seeing the position title and the increase in pay; not what comes with that responsibility wise. It’s also critically important to make sure they really want the promotion and aren’t just stepping up because they think it is their turn or that it is expected. Not everyone wants to be a manager and that’s ok.
At Inspire HQ we deliver a lot of management and leadership training however we are often not called in until there is a problem. A lack of skill/s has been identified because issues are arising after the promoted employee has been in the role for 3 or 6 months plus. The challenge is that the horse has already bolted. It’s great that the business is providing training and support however wouldn’t it make sense to provide training right from the start? Often our top performing employee was promoted because they were great at their craft; at selling, or being a tradesperson etc yet they are completely green at managing people. Managing people is hard work and it is a skill within itself, not everyone is or will be good at it. Would we employ a sales person with no sales experience and send them out to sell for a few months and when they weren’t making any sales offer them training? Would we employ a tradesperson with no experience and let them operate the machines for a few months and when they keep producing scrap offer them training? No, we wouldn’t. They would be given training right from the start. Yet for some reason we tend to think differently about management training. Putting in place a training plan right from the start will help set your new employee up for success in their new role.
Regular check ins and frequent communication
Feedback is critical during the early stages of the promotion. Just as you would for a new employee joining your business, it’s important to be regularly checking in and giving and receiving feedback with the promoted employee. By doing this you’ll be able to pick up on issues early, coach and mentor to help set them up for success and reiterate those expectations you communicated before the promotion was made. You don’t want to fall into the trap of thinking because they know your business, the people, the systems and processes and your product that they don’t need the same support as a new employee would.
Set a Probationary Period
I think this step is really important and is overlooked in most instances. Again, if you were putting on a new employee you’d have a probationary period so why wouldn’t you have a probationary period for a promotion. In my opinion the probationary period isn’t about terminating the employee if they are not working out. It’s about offering a path to be able to retain them in the business. All too often I see a top performer promoted into a management position because they were such a great employee – they were a top performer. When they are promoted and it doesn’t work out, that employee often simply quits and they are lost from the business. That is the outcome you definitely want to avoid at all costs. Having a probationary period gives them and you an out if it’s not a good fit. This can be a challenge to manage if the plan is to keep their old job open for them while you wait to see if they like and are successful in their promoted role. You’ll need to give this some thought and have a recruitment strategy in place but it is possible to juggle the promotion and backfilling their original position.
Having a well thought out plan and ensuring there is plenty of support in place for your newly promoted manager will help set them up for success. When an internal promotion works it enhances culture, improves employee engagement, helps retain your employees and keeps that knowledge and business intelligence in your business. With a thorough plan and plenty of support it can be a win – win for all.
Angela Connor is the Founder and Director of Inspire HQ, one of regional Victoria’s leading recruitment, human resource and career coaching companies. She understands the significance of having the right team of people in a business and is passionate about helping business to attract, recruit and engage the right people so those people can inject their talents into the business; creating an environment where they can do great work and love what they do. Find more useful information and advice at www.inspirehq.com.au or by following Angela on LinkedIn.