Employee promotion

While every manager needs to recognise when an employee is ready for a promotion, timing and reasoning are critical factors to consider. Giving a staff member too much responsibility too soon can leave them overwhelmed and undermine their confidence to handle the new role. Conversely, allowing a talented employee to stale in their current position can fuel thoughts of moving on, and could see your company lose quality professionals.

On this page, learn how you can manage an employee promotion – assessing when an employee is ready to take the next step, how to break the news of a successful promotion, and also how to explain to employees if they have been unsuccessful in achieving a promotion.

Knowing when an employee is ready for promotion

Leadership can be a valuable quality to look for when shortlisting candidates for a promotion. Employees who can motivate and energise those around them, galvanize teams, and take the time to mentor colleagues where necessary, are demonstrating qualities that will stand your company in good stead as they progress through the ranks of your business.

Another important sign to look for is eagerness to seek out more challenging projects – and handle them successfully. In particular, look at how staff members contribute to special projects, and aim to promote employees to a position where these strengths will be put to good use.

You may have staff who are already undertaking work at an advanced level without being formally promoted. These employees are often primed for promotion, and if it doesn’t happen, you could be at risk of losing them as they aren’t being given the recognition (or remuneration) they deserve.

An additional factor to consider for employee promotion is a track record of having made an “above and beyond” contribution to your organisation. This doesn’t mean looking for employees who work back late each night. Rather it’s about professionals who demonstrate initiative; who can see a better way of doing things and solve problems in a way that boosts productivity, customer service, or operating efficiency.

These employees can be a real asset to your business, and they are probably aware of this. If you believe they are ready for more responsibility, a promotion could mean securing their loyalty for the long term.

How to inform employees that they are being promoted

Regardless of the size of your company, it is important to speak first to the employee you plan to promote in person. Congratulate them on their new position and provide an overview of their new role, including a revised annual salary and what the responsibilities entail. Importantly, spell out why the employee was selected for a promotion. This feedback can demonstrate the value you place in the employee’s skillsets and their contribution to the company.

Be sure to thank your employee for their ongoing effort, but also explain how, and when, you will announce the promotion to other employees. It can help to give your staff member time to digest the news of their promotion.

Follow-up the one-on-one conversation with a formal promotion letter to the employee. This provides a written record of what the promotion involves, what you expect from the employee in their new role and the qualities, skills and achievements that led to the promotion.

In the initial weeks following the promotion, make a point of routinely checking how your promoted employee is handling their new responsibilities. With your support, any early uncertainties can be clarified, giving your employee every chance to fulfil your expectations.

Informing your team that a co-worker is being promoted

Employees work hard to achieve a promotion and while the news that they are successful in achieving a promotion should be cause for celebration, it’s important to handle the announcement with finesse.

Announcing a promotion to your team is often best done by email. Be sure to outline the reasons for the promotion, keeping the tone professional. By describing the contribution required to achieve a promotion, you also provide guidelines for other employees to follow and clarify what your company is looking for when deciding who to promote. Be sure to end the email by asking co-workers to join you in congratulating their newly promoted colleague.

If you hold regular team meetings, use this occasion to reiterate news of the promotion, explaining the employee’s new role to eliminate any confusion, and inviting your team to speak with you if they have any questions. Some employees may be either unsure or discontent about why they may have been overlooked for a promotion, so it’s important that you are available to answer such concerns in a private setting.

Informing an employee that they are unsuccessful for a promotion

Being the bearer of bad news is never easy, however there are circumstances where a hopeful employee was unsuccessful for a promotion. It is possible to let an employee know they have missed out on promotion without bruising their professional ambitions – or giving them cause to look for a new job. The key is to be direct, honest and provide guidance for the future. With the right advice, a staff member who is overlooked for a promotion today can still go on to further their career with your company.

Open the conversation by letting the employee know they were unsuccessful for the promotion but be empathetic. Explain that you understand how much they wanted the role, and provide honest feedback about why the promotion was not possible. It may be that the staff member was not ready for the role, or other factors such as tight budget restrictions or a lack of positions available to promote to.

It can also help to suggest any steps the employee can take to make themselves a more likely candidate for a promotion next time, along with ways in which your company can assist. For example, you may advise, “We will be selecting a few people to attend an industry conference later this year and I believe you would benefit by going along too.” This gives your staff member a sense that your company is actively trying to support their career aspirations.

Handling promotions is a key aspect of performance management and it is only natural that your more ambitious employees will have expectations of a promotion at various stages of their career. Understanding when a staff member is ready for a promotion calls for insights into the skills, commitment and contribution of the employee. Similarly, helping an employee become promotion-ready can call for an investment in training and professional development.