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Myth: The Key to Employee Growth is Through a Promotion 4

Jonathan Schultz
August 18th, 2021

Employees all over America feel they have hit a ceiling at their current employer. Once this feeling has set in, unless turned around, these employees often find themselves in search of a new job. A job where they may move up in their career. As a result, human resource people or managers find themselves looking for a new employee, to replace the skilled professional that left.

[blockquote-left]Whether the ceiling they feel they've hit is perceived or real, this poses a challenge for employers who depend on tenure and experience as a building block to company success.[/blockquote-left]Whether the ceiling they feel they've hit is perceived or real, this poses a challenge for employers who depend on tenure and experience as a building block to company success.

As a manager, when faced with the question, "Why don’t you do something to prevent this tenured employee from leaving?" Most employers reply, "We simply can't "promote" everyone!" They use this as an excuse to live with the problem.

Instead of living with this problem, knowing full well we can't promote everyone, let's talk about 5 ways to solve this challenge. The key objective being to give your employees the feeling that they are moving up regardless of their duration in their current job role. In doing this, you will help your team improve and stay engaged, even if they are locked in their current role for the time being.

  1. Questioning what strengths your employees are not utilizing in their current role. This will shed light on what potential responsibilities you could give a particular employee to help them feel they are growing in their career. Allowing them to start unlocking their strengths to help impact your organization positively and will help meet this crucial growth need.
  2. Create an Opportunity: After discovering which employees feel they are not moving upward you can further discover ways you could better utilize their skills. Is there potential to give them more responsibility or more duties that would allow them to showcase their talents and also help your organization? Can you work out a win/win/win where the employee, the business and the customer all benefit from the move?
  3. Set realistic expectations with them on what the new role entails. Often people want to move up but aren't capable of taking on a new role. The disconnect stems from blind spots or being unaware of exactly what the new role entails. Sitting down and reviewing what skills are necessary, what the expectations would be to move up, and what it takes to succeed in that next role are extremely important. Many times you can set them on the right path to reach their goal. Or, they may decide moving up doesn’t seem as appealing anymore. Either way, once they understand the real responsibilities they will have to face down you will discover if you are grooming the right person for the next level in your organization. The key is the employee knowing they are moving towards their goal, even if the position is not available yet.
  4. Show them another way to measure career improvement by proving to them they are moving in the right direction! Again, since career improvement is not always measured by promotions or pay raises: we can capitalize with other means. What areas of development could you track to help the employee grow that could ultimately impact their pay, their skills and the success of the company? The key being regular ongoing aspiration coaching, proving to them regularly that they are moving forward by uncovering, acknowledging, and celebrating their wins.
  5. Ensure other employee engagement needs are met or exceeded! Have you ever heard an employee say, "You know, even though I don’t get X or Y at my employer... I stay because of Z!" I'm not giving you a license to ignore the lack of development and career growth problem. I'm just adding that there are many other needs employees have to feel engaged. If you are able to meet those needs, you can keep employees engaged and essentially create an environment that is "good enough" which could prevent much of the unnecessary turnover. A great book on this topic that outlines employee engagement needs is "Nine Minutes on Monday", by James Robbins.

These 5 key tactics can certainly help meet the employee career advancement need without actually needing to promote someone. This will help you lower turn over, increase tenure, create employees that will do what it takes to succeed, and make you a hero of a leader for your organization!

There are many other ways to accomplish this that are not posted in this blog. How do you, as a leader, fill this important need, even when the structure of the organization doesn’t allow for a promotion? What tactics, skills, or means do you use to keep employees engaged who may otherwise feel frozen in their current roles?

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