The practice of promoting capable staff members to management-level positions – rather than hiring someone from outside the firm – is a powerful motivation and retention tool. Using this strategy sends a clear message to your current employees that you reward talent, hard work and loyalty. Your top workers will be less likely to look elsewhere for new challenges if they believe opportunities for growth exist at your company.
Promoting from within also benefits your bottom line by decreasing or eliminating the costs associated with candidate searches and training new hires. Internal advancement reduces the learning curve for a given position, since existing staff members are already familiar with corporate processes and policies. In addition, promoting from within creates job opportunities at all levels; as one person moves up, someone else must step in to his or her role, and so on.
To fully realize these advantages, you should handle promotions as you would an external candidate search – with thorough planning, evaluation and follow-through. The steps outlined below can help you avoid many of the common pitfalls associated with promoting from within as well as match the best employees with available positions.
Step 1: List required skills and abilities. Review the job description for the vacancy you’re attempting to fill to make sure it accurately reflects the current demands and responsibilities of the position. Be sure to include the competencies specific to a managerial-level opening. These could include the ability to strategize, plan, lead work groups, coach and mentor junior staff, develop budgets, build interdepartmental teams, problem-solve and evaluate job performance of direct reports.
Step 2: Identify prospective candidates on staff. Compare your employees’ skills and attributes with those outlined in the job description to find those who most closely fit the profile you’ve created. It’s possible that no single employee will perfectly match every aspect of the description. You may decide two or three individuals should be considered for the position.
Step 3: Narrow the field. After evaluating candidates based on skills and abilities, you may still find a clear choice of whom to promote is not obvious. In this case, you’ll need to take into consideration other criteria to pinpoint the best choice. Be careful not to place too much weight on a single factor. For example, individuals with the most seniority might not be the best choice if they lack some of the attributes you consider mandatory for a management candidate, such as the ability to inspire and motivate others. Aptitude in one’s current position isn’t always a reliable predictor of success as a manager, particularly if the person hasn’t had an opportunity to develop leadership or communication skills. You will also find you can narrow the field simply by speaking with prospective candidates about their professional ambitions and goals. Not everyone is interested in a management position, particularly if they most enjoy their non-management responsibilities. You should build in the flexibility for employees to feel they can build a career track that doesn’t necessarily involve supervising others. Top salespeople, for example, may enjoy work in the field so much that the idea of a management job holds little appeal.
Step 4: Test the waters. Once you’ve identified your top two or three internal candidates, test their management potential with assignments similar to, on a smaller scale, the type of duties they would handle if promoted. For example, give them full authority over a project, delegate some aspect of budget preparation to them or involve them in a planning meeting with senior-level staff. Pay close attention to how these employees perform. Do they demonstrate confidence and initiative? Are they able to use the resources and information you provide with minimal direction or supervision? Are they accountable for the consequences of their decisions? The answers to these questions will help you identify high potential candidates.
Step 5: Support the new manager. Assuming the finalist meets your criteria, passes every test and accepts the promotion, be prepared to support the new manager during the first few months. Begin by making a formal, public announcement not only to your own staff, but also to other departments with which your team is regularly involved. Explain the scope of his or her responsibilities and how this person will now work with the rest of the group. This will ease the transition for everyone, since the individual you’ve selected will likely be supervising former colleagues. As the employee settles into the new role, hold periodic meetings to discuss challenges and provide guidance.
Promoting current employees to positions of greater responsibility and authority can be a beneficial situation for everyone. Talented staff members will continue to make valuable contributions in their new roles, while your firm will benefit from having managers who, by virtue of direct experience, understand the business and are committed to your company’s success.
Robert Half International Inc. was founded in 1948 and is traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Its financial staffing divisions include Robert Half Finance & Accounting, Accountemps and Robert Half Management Resources, for full-time, temporary and senior-level project professionals, respectively. The company has more than 350 offices throughout North America, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, and offers online job search services on its divisional websites, all of which can be accessed at www.rhi.com.
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