Set Your Employees Up for Success: How to Handle Employee Promotions

Learn how to set up the right business processes for promotion.

Your top performers are hungry to learn and grow in their careers. That's why having strategies in place to manage employee promotions is so important.

Your top performers are hungry to learn and grow in their careers. That's why knowing how to handle employee promotions is so important. You need the right processes in place to ensure that your workforce is set up for success.

If you're thinking about promoting your top performers, you need to make a few decisions beforehand. How are you going to handle pay raises? How will you fill newly open roles? Whether you have 50 employees or 150, you should evaluate the following within your organization and teams.

Transparent Decision Making Process

A company of 50Ð150 people or fewer is small — but still big enough to experience office politics and other personnel-related challenges and be subject to state and federal anti-discrimination and other equal employment opportunity laws. That's why it's important to keep advancement decisions fair and ensure that they are adequately supported. Make sure that your company's promotion criteria is transparent so that team members have a clear goal to work towards.

When handling employee promotions, decisions should be fair and objective and should not exclude or be made based on anyone's membership in any protected characteristic, such as gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. It shouldn't be favorite employees who advance: All team members deserve a chance to reach their next career milestones.

Defined Career Trajectories

The right business strategies for promotion will help tackle one of the biggest challenges in recruiting today: employee retention. We're now in a candidate-driven job market, as contributing editor John Zappe notes in When it comes to choosing a place to work, top performers have first pick.

Promotions can give employees a reason to stay. The challenge? Top performers may not see the spectrum of possibilities that exist for them within your organization.

It's important for your managers to have regular conversations with their employees about career development. These discussions should provide opportunities to find out about the career interests of each employee, where they see themselves in five or ten years and what skills they're keen to develop. These conversations can be crucial in helping your employees develop their career path within your organization and in identifying training or development opportunities that can both help the employee reach their career goals and help you meet your business needs.

Training Programs and Development Opportunities

Some important questions to consider: Do first-time managers have the support that they need to succeed? What about senior specialists, who are expected to perform at a higher capacity?

Don't let these questions linger. Make sure that your business processes for promotion include training and development opportunities. Your employees don't learn in a vacuum: Top performers, especially, will need support systems to succeed in their new roles.

To help ensure smooth transitions, invest in the right training programs. These initiatives will likely include a mix of 1:1 coaching, as well as group-level training. You may want to consider allowing employees to choose their own programs, outside of your organization, but be sure to have an approval process in place.

Beyond specific training programs, you may want to consider other development opportunities, such as stretch assignments (projects or tasks that are outside an employee's typical duties or skill set, designed to push them to step outside of their comfort zone and learn new skills) and opportunities to lead new projects or manage another employee.

Be supportive, but encourage employees to self-direct their own growth. A small organization is a great place to advance and demonstrate significant influence.