Promote An Employee Only When They Are Qualified

We believe strongly that the number one reason businesses struggle or fail is due to ineffective management. There is little doubt that most businesses do a poor job of hiring and promoting the right people into management and supervisory slots. This article focuses on promoting employees into management primarily because there is overwhelming evidence to indicate that most of these promotions are given based on improper criteria.

The most common reason businesses promote an employee into management is longevity. The prevailing attitude is that someone who is loyal should be rewarded by being moved into a management role so they can make more money and be given an incentive to stay on. The unfounded fear is that if the employee isn’t promoted they will go elsewhere. Our first rule in promoting employees is that longevity should play a secondary role in the decision to promote. In fact it should be used only in the case where two or more employees are vying for a management position and all are equally qualified to be promoted. Rewarding long-term employees by promoting them into positions they are not well-suited for is unfair to the employee, fellow employees and the company.

Another common reason people are promoted is because they are well liked. Being well liked in and of itself is not a reason to promote someone. Certainly if the employee posseses the requisite skills and profile to be an effective manager they should be considered for the promotion. However, it seems that too many owners and managers promote people because they like the person. They want to reward the individual for making them feel good and for being a good team player.

Some employees are promoted because they are doing an excellent job in their current positions. But does that alone indicate they will be effective at the next level? Absolutely not! Many employees that are effective in their current positions fail miserably as managers and supervisors.

So when does it make sense to promote from within? It only makes sense when an employee has the ability to manage effectively. That means that all of your personal biases about employees must be shelved when making promotional decisions. It means that unless an employee is an excellent fit for the job they shouldn’t be considered for the promotion.

The problem in hiring and promoting employees is that gut feelings and subjective criteria are too often used in judging whether someone can move into a management role and be effective. When promoting employees, they should be taken through a rigorous process to determine their chances for success in a management position. The employee should be expected to interview with top management and should be put through the paces to isolate behavioral tendencies that will give some indication about how they will handle various management situations. And the employee should be tested and assessed to determine the degree to which they match the profile of a manager/supervisor.

Most promotional decisions are made too quickly and without sound rationale. Putting some structure and objectivity into the process will help immensely in making the right decision. And we need to realize that some employees will be passed over for promotions into management simply because they are not qualified to manage. Will they leave the company if they can’t advance into management? Maybe. But would you rather have an employee leave or have them attempt to fill a role they are not capable of filling? If they are promoted and are not capable of doing the job, they can do a significant amount of damage and you will have done nothing more than set that person up to fail. They will ultimately be demoted or terminated. Handled properly, an employee passed up for a promotion will often stay with the company.