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To help you adopt the best approach to an equitable and transparent process in promotions, we asked HR managers and business leaders this question for their best insights. From bringing a marketing approach to internal promotions to developing a clear policy that ensures the process is unbiased, there are many tips that would help you effectively deal with employee promotions in 2023.
Here are 12 tips these leaders shared on how to approach promotions in 2023.
Bring a marketing approach
Employees are discretionary supporters of the organization and fundamental to driving business objectives forward. Rather than promoting them for their tenure or consistency in meeting the requirements of their job, let’s take it up a notch.
Wearing your marketing hat means rewarding employees for their contribution to business growth. Modern Human Resources requires new and better ways of thinking. And as with marketing promotions, we reward our customers for their support and spending, and it is the same with employees. Think of how they may have demonstrated their commitment through one or more of the following examples:
- Took on new responsibilities voluntarily
- Provided excellence in building custom/client relationships
- Recommended other talented colleagues to join the organization
- Brought in new revenue streams or built efficiencies into current processes —Jody Ordioni, chief brand officer, Brandemix
Make promotions opportunities for continuous learning
Gone are the days when time in a position or tenure with an organization is the major driver for promoting employees. As employers, we need to ensure we are assessing employee potential, their state of readiness, and the necessary support needed for their success. When considering promoting employees, I want to see employees who see the opportunity as continuous development and are committed to excellence in all areas of performance.
Based on the multitude of challenges we have all experienced in the workplace, employees have made it clear they want learning opportunities that will align with career growth and development. As employers, we need to be sure we are being agile in the promotion process and not constrained by traditional means. —Cecil Hicks, talent development executive
Be clear on what the company is able to offer
As employees climb the corporate ladder, opportunities for promotions are fewer and less frequent. That kind of advancement should not be the keystone for an employee’s career development. Begin by asking, “Why a promotion?” Get insight into their intrinsic motivators and personal goals. This should lead into a useful coaching conversation about ways to grow and expand their career.
Be clear on what the company is able to offer: internal learning and development, company-sponsored learning, professional memberships and conferences, and tuition reimbursement are a few common examples. Work with people leaders to up their game in setting stretch goals and challenging assignments, even within other departments. —Jimmy Rose, VP, employee experience, Cotiviti
Find the overlap between personal and company goals
You tap a high-performing employee on the shoulder and invite them to apply for a promotion or offer them one on the spot. You succumb to the demands of a go-getting employee who’s been angling for a promotion since they joined. Or you lay out a structured career ladder with every hoop an employee has to skip through and the next 30 years of their working life mapped out for them. These typical promotion practices are either unfair or outdated in today’s world of work.
My one top tip for approaching employee promotions in 2023 is to facilitate regular development conversations with every employee. Through these conversations you want to understand an employee’s personal goals and you want to keep them abreast of the company goals. You’re then in a position to craft development and promotion opportunities that work for both the employee and the company—that’s when the magic happens. —Bee Heller, cofounder and managing director, The Pioneers
Promote those who are 70% capable and develop them
A successful strategy is to promote employees that have 70% of the capabilities you are looking for and then put in place a robust development plan to grow the remaining 30%. It’s a win-win for the leader and for the promoted employee, giving them the ability to grow into the role and having their leader as a coach.
In order to identify promotable employees who have 70% of the capabilities for their next role, the leader must engage in regular coaching conversations with the employee to help align the employees own development needs and those skills needed by the functional team to execute the goals and objectives for the year.
This alignment between the company needs and those cited by the employee requires the leader to collaborate with their HRBP and the learning and development department such that both the leader and the employee are fully supported. Using this strategy of promoting those that are 70% ready increases employee engagement scores and drives a learning culture. —Shefali Mody, senior manager, learning and development, iRhythmtech
Create growth opportunities with actionable plans
A promotion is not to be seen as the final destination but as part of a development journey. The development journey to achieve a promotion has to be an exciting discovery exercise for the employee and the leader, to know about what employee’s drivers are, expectations, and career desires. To guide employees in this journey for growth, companies should be open to create routes of development that will trigger an actionable plan.
These routes can be seen in the shape of quick challenges to allow them to demonstrate potential, impactful learning experiences to acquire new and relevant knowledge, accelerator experiences to have a firsthand interaction, and exposure with the desired role and/or a multifunctional project to develop crucial collaboration skills.
Everyday experiences along with planned development interactions offer tremendous learning opportunities; the key is to identify the proper route to support the employee development plan and foster the opportunity for growth. —Elsa Zarate, associate director, development, talent and learning, Clip
Clearly outline employee expectations at every level ahead of reviews
For many companies, the end of the year is performance review time. When an employee approaches leadership to talk about a promotion now, they’re too late! Many organizations have their budgets decided, along with what’s been allocated for salary increases, determined in parallel with the end-of-year review cycle.
Decision makers will want to see individuals demonstrating next-level performance for at least 6 to 12 months before they would determine readiness for that promotion. So I encourage individuals to have the conversation now, get clear on what is expected for that next level, make a plan to get there, and get to work. And don’t forget to schedule time to check in to share your progress and wins. —Claudia Germeshausen, executive coach, A Career For You
Factor in colleague feedback when making decisions
Before making any decisions about promoting employees in 2023, it’s important to look at their colleagues’ feedback. What do those who work with them actually think about them? Furthermore, knowing what you know about your staff members from preemployment testing, how might other employees’ performances be affected; especially when there has been competition for that promotion and some inevitably losing out?
It’s important to promote on the basis of job performance, of course, but never lose sight of the fact that one employee’s promotion has the ability to affect all your other employees. —Linda Scorzo, CEO, Hiring Indicators
Promote those who gain new skills
Upskilling represents the search for knowledge and improvement of skills for professionals and organizations. In times of employees’ shifting priorities and a tight job market, acquiring, retaining, and promoting talents is vital to being competitive. Technology, AI, and others are accessible for most companies, from SMBs to big corporations. All of these make me think that knowledge will be the difference in 2023.
Upskilling will continue to grow, encouraging organizations to promote those who are always bringing and contributing new knowledge to the business. In other words, upskilling should be considered when approaching employee promotions in 2023. —Ricardo von Groll, manager, Talentify
Use promotions to fix hiring problems
Research has shown that job switchers receive bigger salary increases than loyal employees. This creates a poor cycle for companies. Good employees are forced to leave a job they like in order to receive a promotion or a raise. This adds to the recruiting challenges of companies that are already behind on their hiring goals.
A portfolio company to a private equity firm I worked for thought about using a different approach. They looked at using some of their recruiting budget to fund a portion of their early promotions. This would, in turn, help them retain good talent, which would take off some of pressure from their recruiting team. —Atta Tarki, founder, ECA Partners and author of Evidence-Based Recruiting
Use micropromotions for greater impact
Employees want to feel like they are taking regular small steps forward rather than one leap forward every two to three years. These small steps give employees regular bursts of motivation and appreciation for their work. We realized that companies should restructure their promotion strategy to break their promotions into micropromotions.
Employees can receive a micropromotion for milestones, new skills, and increased responsibilities every 8 to 12 months. This strategy doesn’t have a dramatic impact on cost, but it does dramatically improve how an employee perceives their ability to grow within your organization. —Melanie Wertzberger, CEO, Shaka Culture Software
Develop a clear policy to ensure the promotion process is equitable
Diversity and inclusion continues to be a focus in most workplaces, however, strategies end at recruitment. Research shows us that historically marginalized groups tend to stay at the lower level of companies, resulting in low leadership diversity, so it is vital to consistently reinvest in your diverse talent as they grow. Developing your talent is just as crucial as recruiting diverse employees.
Research shows that when marginalized groups are considered for promotion, employers can factor in superfluous details and unconscious biases, which are considered and weighted against them.
Managers should work to focus solely on needed skill set, performance level, and complementary skills when considering promotions so that diverse talent has equal opportunity. Simultaneously, employers can retain talent by setting them up for future success through development initiatives so that they will be completely prepared for a promotion in the future. —Jon Starling, VP, talent development, Integral Ad Science
Promotions took a pause during the pandemic in 2020. The Great Resignation gave employees promotions at other companies in 2021. As 2022 comes to a close amid economic uncertainties in the workplace, promotions in 2023 are taking on a sense of the traditional “promote and develop,” while blending in innovative solutions, such as micropromotions.
The bottom line? Employees need to see growth in themselves and their careers. Use these tips to help guide how your organization approaches promotions in the new year.
Brett Farmiloe is the founder of Terkel, a decentralized Q&A site that connects brands with expert insights.