Criteria for Promoting People…

As ever, my bathroom reading proved interesting again this week. An article in Management Today caught my attention. Entitled ‘The Indispensability Trap – Why being too good at your current job is a risk’, the following quote started me thinking …

“Those who promote you make a leap of faith, a hope that you will adapt to demands.” And whilst that might be true, especially for an external appointment, it got me thinking about the decision process we undertake as to whether someone is ready yet for promotion.


Do we favour those who show clear intention of progressing their career and flying high – volunteering for additional projects and tasks and making themselves more available and more visible? Or, is now the time to re-evaluate the talent pool and consider what we can do to support everyone in the organisation to achieve their full potential, including helping them with self-worth and self-belief?

And, are we doing a great disfavor to those that we see as being instrumental to the current success and continued sustainability of the business? The very things that make them indispensable could be why it’s risky for them to move into another role – but at the same time it could also be an underlying strength that makes them perfect for the next role. Remembering that since others will follow their behaviours, their ethos will be followed by others in their team. With the right support, what is an asset in a current role – but a potential risk in a new role or a promotion – could become a significant strength that adds to the resilience and sustainability of an business.

And if, as I have said in recent blogs, we can no longer do business in the way that we have been doing, then at a grass roots level, the support we give the people in the business and how we then promote them or even encourage them to move into different roles, by dint must also change.

Are all of those who seek to move onwards and upwards within a business really the best in the organisation and the ones that will take the business forward? Do they always display behaviours of the values of the business, in so doing? And, do they take the people in their team with them or is it more every man and woman for them-self?

The article in Management Today, aimed at those already in a management role, indicated that business leaders often don’t promote people because they are too indispensable in the role they perform. Therefore it’s entirely possible that, at times, we have selfishly overlooked someone because they are too good at their job – perhaps, what we should be doing is helping to recognise that. But what about the other people in the team?

Are those managers doing the same for the others in their team, as they, too, are too good at their job? Does it suit them for those people to continue to do their role at that level because it benefits them, both directly and indirectly? And, in a way, does that promulgate throughout the whole organisation?

Have we forgotten, perhaps on a more subtle, unconscious level, of how supporting, growing and nurturing encourages people to fly? And that it’s our responsibility? Our role in supporting those people in the organisation is no different to the way in which we would support our own children in their growth and development but I wonder if, in many ways, we lose sight of that?

I have always understood the financial reason for having a training agreement with someone – where they will stay with an organisation for a given period of time after completing a professional qualification. But not necessarily agreed with it. After all, there has been a significant benefit to the business in them taking the qualification and the motivation they had, too.

To me it’s about paying it forward – I’ve usually been the one saying, “right, now you have the qualification, where next and what next?” – as there hasn’t always been the opportunity within the business. Maybe its time to change how we think about the benefits of training and what ROI really is to the business as a whole.

There has been much about the stress that people are feeling in work, created by not being able to move on or up, not being stretched enough and not feeling a true contribution is being made, especially amongst Generation Y and, very probably, the slower starters in Generation X. This has been backed up with a report issued by PwC.

The PwC NextGen survey of 44,000 workers, in conjunction with the London Business School and the University of Southern California, reveals Generation Y are more likely to stay in a job if they feel supported and appreciated, are part of a cohesive team, and have greater flexibility over where and how much they work. This contrasts with previous generations, who place greater importance on pay and development opportunities.

So, what’s the difference between supporting and appreciating vs developmental opportunities? In many ways, very subtle, in my opinion, as supporting and appreciating will lead to development and growth, even if not in the more traditional sense.

The survey points to the fact that Generation Y will make up 50% of the workforce by 2020. This has to be balanced with the impact of longer working lives and baby boomers not retiring until 67. Businesses will need to start thinking much more carefully about how they balance an ageing workforce that may start to be less effective with the needs of Generation Y and X.

So, when we say that the way we do business needs to change because the way we do it now doesn’t work, it’s not a quick fix – it’s a long term view – and all aspects are part of that ethos. The changes needed touch every part of a business and every person. So how do you support and nurture the people within the business for the future, even if it’s not a long term future in your business?

If you’d like to find out more about anything I’ve mentioned here, then call me on +44 (0) 1296 681094, click here to ping me an email or even leave a comment below.

Until next time …

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