Promoting Current Employees: 3 Tips for a Fair Process

Promoting employees from within has a number of benefits. The learning curve for a promoted employee is shorter, and promotion can help promote retention by demonstrating that there are clear paths to advancement within the organization. 

 Yet promoting can raise trouble as well. Research indicates, for example, that fewer than half of all Americans believe that promotions are handed out fairly.  

How can your company benefit from promoting internal employees while pushing back against concerns about an unfair process? Keep these three tips in mind. 

1. Make the criteria for earning a promotion clear and transparent. 

Most workers who suspect unfairness in promotion awards do so because they either do not understand how a co-worker was selected for promotion or they believe the criteria used for selection had nothing to do with job performance.  

To solve this confusion, make the criteria for earning promotions clear and transparent, and apply them to every worker. For instance, you may decide that promotion to a supervisory role will require a minimum of five years of experience, plus participation in at least three specific types of projects. Share these criteria throughout the department and encourage staff to track their own progress toward these goals. 

2. Hold regular performance reviews, and encourage communication about performance.  

Annual performance reviews are a time-honored ritual, but they may not be the most effective way to encourage employee growth or to communicate the criteria for promotion.  

Instead, consider using quarterly reviews with a more informal feel. At each meeting, talk to your staff about how their work is going. Answer their questions, and work with them to create a plan to move toward your clearly-stated requirements for promotion. Allow team members to collaborate on the process of earning a promotion they want. 

3. Ask team members to weigh in anonymously and confidentially about promotion considerations. 

Office relationships and politics can be complex. When you’re considering a promotion, there may be a key piece of information you’re missing, but that no one on the team wants to say out loud for fear of disrupting the network of relationships that allows them to do their jobs.  

Offer a way for your team to submit anonymous, confidential feedback when a promotion is in the air. Doing so may result in a more honest review of a promotion candidate’s position. It may also give you a much clearer idea of whether your team will actually follow someone promoted to supervise them.  


At THE RIGHT STAFF, LLC, our recruiters help Minnesota employers find the right talent and build ways to retain their best team members. To learn more, contact us today. 

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