How Your Promote-​From-​Within Policy Can Retain Top Employees

BY Kathy Crosett
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Are you hoping to increase retention by using a promote-​from-​within strategy? Managers are increasingly using this strategy to improve employee engagement and loyalty. After all, a significant percentage of sales professionals we surveyed note that the lack of opportunity for advancement drives them to look for a new position.

Promote-​From-​Within Strategies Are Growing In Popularity

Like many managers, you may find yourself balancing the desire to reduce turnover with the need to promote from within. Sales managers are well aware of this challenge. Recently, 82% told us they are promoting more candidates internally. Giving people new positions with the organization demonstrates your commitment to career development. As a hiring manager, being able to prove that employees are regularly promoted at your company can prove to be an attractive recruiting tool.

Before you begin promoting employees, consider how and why you are making these adjustments to your team. As Christopher Wink advises, you must put some thought into what you’re doing. He says “Don’t promote an employee because they excel at their current job. Promote an employee because they’d excel at the new job.” Given that advice, you can employ various tactics to match an employee with a position that increases their skill level and visibility. At the same time, you'll prepare them for eventually assuming more responsibility.

Management Roles Are Not Always the Best Fit

Too many employees fixate on the idea that moving up the ladder means having a role that requires them to supervise other people. And in many organizations, the culture and structure reinforce that notion. But not every employee is interested in becoming a manager or is a good fit for these roles. Your promote-​from-​within policy should allow you to create a position that gives your team member more responsibilty and authority as an individual contributor. One way to keep high-​performing team members engaged is to highlight their contributions. Set up your organization to allow individual contributors to become more visible. One idea is to include having them serve on a leadership or advisory board.

When you demonstrate the importance of individual contribution in the organization, more team members will consider working in these positions as part of their career path. If you also show them how their natural skills and talents will help them to excel in these roles, they’ll be more likely to accept your offer.

Resist the Urge to Overpromote

As a manager, especially in a small business, you must balance your resources with your needs. Just because you’ve always had good luck promoting entry level employees into a beginning sales role doesn’t mean the strategy will work every time. Consider the strengths of an employee who’s been in the same job for a couple of years. Match those strengths to the current and future needs of your company. If you don’t have a good match, Daniel Kline suggests waiting. Shifting an employee gradually, perhaps on a part-​time basis, can lead to success.

Trial Run for Manager Tasks

The most dangerous move leaders make is rushing to promote a top sales rep. Your rep may demand a sales management title. And you may be tempted to agree because they have a great track record in sales. 

Managers worry that a sales manager can't earn the respect of their team members if they haven’t spent time in the trenches, facing similar challenges. That's not true. Showing empathy for the sales reps' situation contributes to a manager's success. In addition, managing people requires different skills than closing big deals with important clients. You can determine who has those skills by reviewing psychometric assessment results.

Take advantage of opportunities to give an internal candidate a test run. When people go on extended vacations or medical leave, ask an employee to serve as an acting manager. If they turn into a tyrant or have a meltdown, you’ll want to move cautiously with respect to your promote-​from-​within policy. But if they do a great job, you'll know you have a deeper bench of employees to draw from when a manager position opens up.

A promote-​from-​within policy can serve your organization well. When you combine that policy with psychometric assessment data, you'll make decisions that benefit you and your employees.

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