How to manage promotions in your business

The May coronation of King Charles III was effectively the biggest promotion in the UK.

How to manage promotions in your business

Of course, in business promotions work a little differently. While they may not come with the same pomp and ceremony as the monarchy, they can still be tricky to get right – particularly for busy franchise owners.

Managing promotions, great or small, can be an important element in the smooth running of a business.

At times, you may find a promotion essential to maintaining the integrity of your operations, for example when you are growing, or when someone leaves.

The prospect of a promotion can be a useful tool in recruitment and retention; important for team morale; and in helping you save time and money compared to hiring externally.

On the flipside, if you get a promotion wrong it can be costly: from alienating a promising member of staff to disrupting the balance of your team; or simply choosing the wrong person – promoting someone to their level of incompetence, as the saying goes.

From identifying people who may be ready for promotion to managing the process, here are some tips so you can get promotions right in your business.

When is an employee ready for promotion?

Sometimes they’ll just ask you for promotion, but that does not mean they are ready. Here are some signals they will give that demonstrate they are ready for the next step:

  • When they consistently go above and beyond – doing their current job well is a given, but you know some employees are destined for better things when they take on extra responsibilities (maybe without even asking) and do those well too.
  • Being resilient and flexible – how do they react in adversity or if asked to help out a different team temporarily? Someone who takes such challenges in their stride and with good grace is showing that they have greater capabilities.
  • They have become a technical master – they can do their day job without thinking and are ready for more. Be careful that this is not your only consideration though, particularly if you will have them doing less of what they have proved good at in their new role. You could be promoting them out of their depth.
  • Showing genuine alignment with the business – this is a great endorsement of both you and them – they talk less about themselves in the singular and instead think and talk in terms of what’s good for your business.

If someone puts themselves forward but is lacking some of the above, tell them what you expect to see in a candidate for a more senior position. This way they will have something to work towards.

Managing the promotion process successfully

A promotion has got to be right for the business, too – with a suitable position open or ready to be created – and budgeted for.

There are several kinds of promotion and the mechanics of each will work in different ways.

For instance, someone leaves a senior role and needs to be replaced, or you have a structured hierarchy where people move from junior to more senior job titles or pay bands as they build experience, or a new team or division is opened up and needs staffing.

As with everything in HR, processes need to be in place to ensure that promotions are carried out fairly.

If a promotion is for a designated position, even if you have someone in mind beforehand, it would be sensible to advertise the role (although there is no law which specifically requires this).

Judge the applicants objectively and provide feedback based on fair criteria. As well as protecting yourself against any claims of discrimination, this will also help you manage team dynamics – doing as much as you can to preserve good relations with unsuccessful applicants when you want to retain them in your team.

Judge objectively, yes. But think beyond technical skills and attitude when assessing promotions. Do they have the softer skills to be a success at a more senior level: communication, emotional intelligence, time-management…?

Help with managing promotions

What’s essential is to manage the situation correctly, so that the risk of problems arising is minimised. As ever, we’d recommend that professional advice can reduced the changes of problems happening.

Sue Tumelty
Sue Tumelty