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When handled well, employee promotions create opportunities to celebrate success, make employees feel appreciated, and have the added bonus of motivating other employees to mirror their colleagues’ upward career trajectory. But when handled poorly, promotions can foster feelings of rivalry and even demotivate other team members.

The good news – there are tried-and-true ways to help make sure promotions have the intended impact!

Establish transparent and consistent policies and practices around promotions. This will tie in with your recruitment processes, so if you don’t have a policy on internal job postings (or whether they’re not going to get posted), now’s a good time to create one! Once you’ve defined your procedures, communicate it, and follow it consistently to avoid headaches later on. Include language on promotions in your policy manual, outlining what criteria must be met to be eligible for promotion (performance, tenure, experience, personal motivation, skill set, etc.). Creating transparency and a consistent process around promotions goes a long way towards lessening any hard feelings.  

Tie promotions into your career path conversations. Promotions can be one of the best parts of managing employees, but they still need to be handled thoughtfully and intentionally. Develop individual career plans and ensure managers are clear on the criteria for promotion and how to keep those not selected engaged before advancement conversations happen. 

Give employees the tools to succeed in their new role. Too often, when employees are given a promotion, there’s a brief period of celebration and congrats, and then they are left to flounder and “figure it out”. Not surprisingly, this creates additional stress and anxiety that just isn’t necessary. Treat an employee moving into a new position as you would any new hire, and ensure the supports and check-ins are in place to create a framework for success in the role.  

Make it official. Especially with long-tenured team members, it can be tempting to shuffle employees up the ladder without much ceremony, but it’s wise to properly document all shifts in the employment relationship. Ensure promoted employees are provided with an amended letter of employment, and take the time to walk them through their new job description, giving ample opportunity for questions.

Prepare for the social implications. Promotions often mean a move up the corporate ladder, and a new manager may now oversee a colleague they used to work with on the same level. The shift in social dynamics that occurs when former friends and peers become manager and subordinate is a tricky one and requires extra attention and transparency during the transition period. Support newly promoted employees by communicating to all affected what any changes will look like, what the expectations will be, and help them gently create healthy boundaries that reflect shifts in working relationships.   

Career growth doesn’t start and end with promotions! The reality is that promotion won’t be a possibility for every employee who feels up for the task. A team member may be itching for a promotion before they have the skills, or may even be ready, with no suitable position available to put them in. In those scenarios, nurture engagement by providing regular opportunities for continuous skills development. Continue career progression conversations with those not selected to move up the corporate ladder and strengthen your future team by continuing to invest in employees who aren’t due for promotion yet (or aren’t yet ready). 

Your Engaged HR Assignment:

Do you intend to promote any employees in the near future? To maximize the changes of a smooth transition, take the time to ensure your policies and criteria around promotions are consistent, transparent, and well-articulated before you communicate the changes!

Need help defining your promotion policies? We’re always happy to support a policy revamp!

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