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High calibre candidates will most likely ask about progression routes at interview. Even if you believe that this candidate is the creme de la creme and you’ll never find another person quite like them; you must tread extremely carefully when discussing what opportunities may be available later down the line.

The unfortunate truth is that some employers do make promotion promises with no intention of following through. Eventually, the employee finds work elsewhere, but the knock-on effect is cynicism. Even if you have every intention of making good on your word, you still run the risk of losing a valuable employee who has been previously burnt.

What are the benefits of internal promotion?

There are multiple reasons to promote from within, with benefits to your company and the employee accepting the promotion. These include:

  • Saving money on advertising costs
  • The successful employee hitting the ground running faster than an external hire
  • Saving time creating job descriptions, perusing job applications and conducting interviews
  • Encouragement for other employees
  • Reduced risk

While the responsibility to follow through on any progression plans you discuss with your employee, it is a two-way street. Therefore it’s crucial to help ensure your employee upskills so that your company benefits from any internal promotion.

So, what can you do to show your candidate or employee that you are sincere, and will do everything in your power to get them to where they want to be while ensuring that they hold up to their end of the bargain?

Be transparent about any job promotion possibilities

If there is one constant in business, it’s that things are continually changing. So, when speaking to a candidate or employee about career progression, you must specify that everything is subject to change. How you word this is important, as you don’t want to sound like you are copping out before you even get started. 

Take the pandemic, for example. Hundreds, if not thousands, of businesses have had to make cuts; and no one could foresee it happening. So, as long as your candidate or employee knows that you will do everything in your power to see them progress, you’ll have gotten off to a good start.

Discuss a workplace promotion timeline, including catchup meetings

One common tactic of businesses who make progression promises without any intention of being true to their word is that no timelines are drawn up. They may offer a vague ‘next year’ or something similar, but they put it off when the time comes. 

By drawing up a professional development plan, you’re essentially putting your money where your mouth is, and promising to discuss promotion at the next annual meeting or at some other specified time. 

But don’t stop there, schedule catchup meetings, perhaps every quarter, to update your employee on whether things are still as they were before, i.e. nothing has changed within the business that would put their promotion at risk. This constant reassurance will hold at bay any concerns or cynicism created by previous workplace experiences.

It’s also an excellent opportunity to gauge where your employee is at. Things may be happening in their private life which alters their work plans, so offering them a chance to amend, or even extend the plan will make them feel valued and involved.

Set goals for your employee to aim towards

There is a reason why you hired your employee for the role they are in now and not the position they ultimately want to be in. They aren’t ready or don’t have the right skills to jump into the role just yet. 

To help them get there, set specific tasks in their professional development plan so that they are ready when a promotion becomes available. Whether it’s training or creating a portfolio of work to demonstrate growth, the goals should be trackable and achievable. 

Not only will this ensure that your investment pays off when it comes to offering a previously promised promotion, but it will also empower your employee to take responsibility for their progression rather than wait for it to be handed to them on a plate.

Put it in writing

Making verbal promises only is a surefire way to trigger an employee who has been taken in by false promises before. If you are sincere in your plans to progress your employees, put it in writing. 

Be sure to include a clause to protect you, should another pandemic or other financial crisis occur that is out of your control. Specify that the progression is subject to your employee meeting the goals as set out in the PDP.

If you aren’t sure whether promotion or progression will be an option, don’t say that it is. Even if you run the risk of losing a candidate, making promises you don’t know you can keep will end with a disgruntled employee and a lot of friction. And if you do make promises, be prepared to follow through and do what you can to help your employee progress.

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