4 Tips for Successful Internal Promotions

This article originally appeared on HRZone.com

Promoting from within has many benefits. Not only does it help organizations hang on to critical institutional knowledge, but it also boosts employee engagement, builds morale and leads to cross-functional skill-building and career development for staff.

On the flip side, internal promotions can also cause problems when not done correctly. Consider a top performer placed in a managerial role. That employee may have critical job-based expertise but without the appropriate leadership skills they’re being set up for failure. And what about individual contributors? Without an intentional track for promoting these critical team members, they can get left behind and become resentful of the lack of opportunity for advancement.

While creating a system for employee development is critical, here are four key factors HR professionals must keep in mind to implement them successfully.

Foster a culture that supports internal growth and movement

A recent report found that nine of the top ten drivers of engagement and turnover relate to organizational factors. This means it’s not just about loving the job you have, working on a great team, or getting along with your manager. What drives employees has more to do with how an organization is run and the leadership that runs it.

When a company’s culture lacks internal growth and movement, the ability to promote employees or develop career paths becomes much more difficult. Therefore, when it comes to implementing an internal promotion strategy, you’re swimming upstream. According to another recent report, “high internal promotion rates may indicate best-in-class employment practices, while low promotion rates could reflect organizations that are growing rapidly or undergoing change.” It is important that companies foster a culture of upward mobility. Those that don’t will lose them to another organization.

Proactively identify opportunities for employee growth

To successfully promote from within, you need to regularly think about your current workforce, their skills and aptitudes, and future roles you’ll be opening. There are a couple of ways to approach this:

  • Performance reviews ask business leaders to assess employees across the company on performance and future potential. This information can help you keep a pulse on internal candidates who may be a great fit for future roles.
  • Talent mapping is typically conducted by human resources departments. It involves finding the right talent, putting talent in the right roles and coming up with a plan to retain top performers through career pathing. Department leads can also participate by weighing in on the talent strategy you’re working on. This will ensure your plan is optimized to meet business objectives, as well as thinking ahead about ways you can support existing employees with their career growth.
  • Personal development meetings allow employees to share their career development goals. These meetings will help to ensure managers can create a plan to align  where a manager’s employee currently is and where they’d like to end up.
  • Leverage workplace behavioral assessments to collect the requisite people data to understand innate drives and needs. These insights can help you match employees with upcoming roles that fit how they like to work and their behavioral strengths.

By proactively identifying opportunities for existing employees to make lateral career moves, be promoted into more senior positions, or grow into leadership roles, you keep employees engaged and your talent pipeline healthy.

Always be developing leaders

In sales, there’s a mantra: Always be selling. You can apply that concept to employee development: Always be developing leaders.

As your organization grows, your need for leaders will too. It is important to leverage leadership principles and help employees identify areas where they need to bolster their leadership skills at every level. This will help set them up for future growth opportunities whether it be as a subject matter expert, project lead, people manager or executive.

Keep the candidate experience consistent 

Even though an internal candidate may be a proven performer, companies still need to go through the process of interviewing to ensure fit. Creating a job description that outlines the role’s responsibilities and requirements is a great place to start.

Make sure the internal candidate matches what you’re looking for. Do they have the leadership skills and competencies to move into a more senior position? Are they wired for this kind of work or will the job be like writing with their non-dominant hand?

If an employee is moving to a new department or team, take a look at how they compare to existing team members. Are they a seamless fit with the team’s current behavioral composition, or would their addition change the team dynamic? This is where a behavioral assessment could come in handy. Insights from the assessment might show while they are not a behavioral fit for one department, they would be great for a department previously not considered. Collecting behavioral data can help leaders align their talent to the specific needs of a team, ultimately setting each employee up for continued success.

The power of promoting comes from within

Sometimes the best candidate for the job is right under your nose. When employees feel that they are in a space that promotes their professional growth and development, they are more likely to be engaged in their work. Having an army of engaged employees will boost the likelihood of your company being able to fill existing open roles from within, cutting down the time and money your company spends during the hiring process significantly. But this all starts with having the right foundation in-place to ensure success.

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