How Do You Know When An Employee Is Ready For Promotion?

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Before even considering someone for promotion it is recommended that you first know the reasons NOT to promote someone.

These include; because they work hard, they need the money, you like them because they are like you or you want to stop them leaving!

In this article we look at promoting someone to become a supervisor or manager and give some suggestions for helping you decide whether they are ready.

They have shown an aptitude for the role

Although this seems obvious, too many people have been promoted to such a position because they good at the job they were doing. Just because they were an expert in their field doesn’t automatically mean they have the skills to manage a group of people.

Step back and observe how they treat people as well as reaching the objectives. Have they demonstrated an interest in helping colleagues get things done? Do they take the lead in projects sometimes and did they inspire people?

Many teams have ‘mini’ leaders who people tend to follow even though they don’t hold the title. This may be a good indicator that they already have the aptitude.

Arrange an opportunity to cover for you so you can test their skills

Rather than wait for them to show what they can do, proactively create an opportunity where they can cover you for a period or on a specific project. Before setting this up, discuss with them what you need them to do and what you expect.

Tell them that this is an opportunity to take responsibility and display their management potential without promising anything at this stage. You might also tell them that you will be asking for feedback from the team.

In companies where they have already identified potential managers for the future, there might be the budget to give them management skills BEFORE promotion. In most situations it happens after promotion and the new manager is thrown in the deep end learning by trial and error. Once they have attended the training give them an immediate opportunity to practice what they have learned.

Involve them in management decisions

One of the best ways to check whether they are ready is to involve them in management decisions. Ask for their opinions and to explain why and how they made that decision. Get them to think about the staff members it involves and how they would make sure the person was motivated to carry out the task.

This will start them thinking more strategically and like a manager. If it isn’t dangerous, you might be prepared to go with their decision even though you don’t agree. There is a strong case for people learning from their mistakes and at least you have the authority to rescue it. This is not setting them up to fail; it is just getting them to see the implications of their actions and the decisions they make. Always have a plan to save them and protect the business or without humiliating them.

They show pro-activity in moving up to the next level

Some people take their career very seriously and may even look for ways to develop their skills outside of the business.

This might be through voluntary roles or through organisations such as the Territorial Army. Others may enrol for supervisory or Management Training themselves and actively seek advice on the skills they need to develop. If you have a human resources consultant you might enrol their help in looking at the competences required for other positions in the business. Just because they are looking for promotion doesn’t mean it has to be in your department. Sometimes it is easier to manage a new team than manage people you used to work alongside. Obviously you will need to find a way to check their competence.

In summary, avoid all the usual mistakes that some managers make when deciding whether to promote. Use objective evidence and see whether they demonstrate ‘management’ competences rather than just being good at what they already do. Create real opportunities and observe them in action. If they prove they have the potential then it might be time to give them that chance.

Good luck!

Many thanks




Sean McPheat

Managing Director

MTD Training   | Image courtesy by David Castillo Dominici of FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

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Updated on: 24 April, 2013

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