The Internal Promotions Playbook: 10 Steps for Planning an Optimal Talent Fit

Posted in Career & Performance

One of the best ways to retain your best employees is to promote them.

Likewise, some of the best job candidates you’ll ever see are already sitting in your all-hands meetings, waiting to be tagged in! Sure, there are times when you need to contract or hire externally to bring in new skills or competencies. But if you’re not doing everything you can to build your internal promotion game, you’re doing your company — and your employees — a huge disservice. 

That said, internal promotion isn’t a slam dunk. It takes some thinking ahead and a lot of organization. Promoting internally isn’t just gathering resumes. You also need to plan for the optimal talent fit and consciously develop employees to grow into roles in your organization.

Did you know, according to 2023 Betterworks research, that three-quarters of employees would prefer to stay and grow where they are, but only 40% see a clear career path to do so? Worse, only 46% report feeling supported in their career development. Creating a clear, well-illuminated path for advancement can go a long way toward helping employees feel there are opportunities for advancement.

You probably have questions. Like, what’s the secret sauce to boosting morale, retaining top-notch talent, and strengthening your talent pipeline? How can you ensure fairness, manage unmet expectations, and identify the truly deserving candidates? And finally, how can organizations streamline this process to ensure it aligns with their strategic business and culture goals?

We’re about to dig into all of that in this post, so fasten your seat belt!

What is an Internal Promotion?

internal promotion

We always like to start with definitions, so here’s one for internal promotions: An internal promotion is elevating an existing employee to a new and higher-level role within the organization. 

But there’s a little more to it than that. Because you’re also helping these employees grow and advance. You’re offering them new challenges, responsibilities, and usually, a better title and pay.  

This is a little different than an internal transition. We define employee transitions as any change an employee goes through in your organization. That includes any kind of role change but also responsibility changes, alterations in work schedule or location, and leaves of absence, like parental leave or carer leave. There’s also internal change — which is something your entire organization goes through — like a merger or a RIF — which will mean a change for every employee.  

Although those concepts are different, internal change, transitions, and promotions all have one important thing in common: Your employees need comprehensive support to manage them successfully.

Benefits and Challenges of Hiring Internal Candidates

Unlike external hires, internal candidates are already steeped in your company culture and workflows, providing a continuity that can significantly smooth the transition. They require less time in acclimatization, thereby speeding up productivity and reducing training costs — but that doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges. 

Let’s break it all down.

The Upside of Internal Promotion:

Promoting internal candidates is a strategic move to capitalize on the investment you’ve already made in your team. Internal employees have been around for a bit — so they likely already understand and embody the core values and behaviors that matter in your organization. 

That means a smoother transition into the new role and less likelihood of churn. If you’ve got strong performance management you will know where they are strong and where they need to beef up skills — so you can start getting them ready for a move long before you actually make the change. And they bring a proven track record within your company, which can be a better alternative to the uncertainties associated with external hires.

The Challenges of Internal Promotion:

That’s not to say every role should be filled by a company insider. Leaning too heavily on in-house promotions can sometimes mean losing out on an infusion of fresh skills and perspectives that external candidates might bring. We talk more about that on our glossary page about internal candidates — so check that out. There’s also some work involved in developing employees. You may need to manage internal politics or perceived favoritism that could arise from target development — so it’s important to keep things fair and transparent.

You run the risk of developing new skills just to have an employee use them as a parachute into a different company — so it’s important to build ties and loyalty that ensure your investment pays off. And of course, you need to take the time to identify what employee ambitions are, which employees fit — or could fit — which roles, and what it will take to get them there. That means having a plan, and the tech infrastructure to see it through.

10 Steps to Your Internal Promotions Development Plan

internal promotion

How do you craft a robust strategy for internal promotions that addresses those pitfalls and reaps those benefits? Here’s a roadmap in 10 steps — along with some advice for those of you using th Enboarder platform to get the job done:

1. Establish Clear Criteria for Promotion:

Defining clear, objective criteria for promotions is essential for fairness and transparency, so be sure to get everyone on the same page and starting line. Every employee should understand clearly what it takes to move up in your org. Enboarder’s communication tools  and employee lifecycle management can be helpful here, sharing skill-building opportunities and job openings, and giving employees access to resources that clearly outline and disseminate promotion pathways and criteria across the organization.

2. Identify and Nurture Talent:

Proactively identifying and nurturing high-potential employees prepares your organization for future needs. 

3. Offer Professional Development Opportunities:

Providing tailored learning resources helps prepare candidates for future roles, so they have the necessary skills and knowledge lined up. Enboarder’s content delivery features come in handy here, letting you connect with your learning and employee training systems and provide targeted development resources to candidates poised for promotion.

4. Automate the Internal Application Process:

Streamlining the application process ensures consistency and fairness, helps remove biases, and even reduces administrative overhead. Plus automating this process with timely reminders and nudges through your Enboarder platform helps keep people on track and maintain a seamless experience for all promotees.

5. Create a Transparent Promotion Process:

Transparency in the promotion process is a necessity when promoting from within because it builds trust and ensures that all internal candidates feel they are given a fair chance. Enboarder’s customizable communication templates can help keep all stakeholders informed and engaged throughout the process, enhancing consistency, clarity, and trust.

6. Implement Regular Performance Reviews:

Regular performance feedback — whether a formal review or some other kind of performance management — provides critical feedback for continuous improvement and helps identify potential candidates for advancement. You can use Enboarder to facilitate this crucial feedback — keeping track of employee progress and aligning their goals with organizational needs.

7. Encourage Cross-Department Collaboration:

Promoting collaboration across different departments can enhance innovation, break down silos, and enhance the employee experience journey. This encourages a more inclusive culture and exposes employees to diverse perspectives and skills.

8. Promote Open Communication:

Maintaining open, two-way communication throughout the promotion process is another key to managing expectations and ensuring all candidates feel valued. It also helps address any concerns and feedback in real-time, fostering a transparent environment. Use your Enboarder platform to keep in touch or survey managers and promotees for real-time feedback and track it through your employee engagement dashboard

9. Recognize and Reward Potential Early:

Acknowledging and celebrating potential early motivates employees and reinforces a culture of recognition and meritocracy. Regularly highlighting achievements and wins as people build skills and change roles can boost morale and confidence, and encourage others to strive for growth,

10. Assign Mentors and Internal Career Coaches:

Enhance the support network for employees aiming for promotion. If you’re on the Enboarder platform this is easy peasy, as you can assign mentors easily, connect people to internal coaches or people who can help them acquire skills, and also make available Connection Cards that let employees reach out to people themselves with questions or for developmental support.

💡Curious how your peers are handing internal promotions? Check out this case study featuring Sandvik, a high-tech engineering company that’s paving the way for a more seamless internal promotion journey. 

3 Pro Tips for Onboarding Internal Promotions into a New Role

Transitioning to a new role within the same company requires thoughtful planning. How do you ensure a seamless switch for your promoted employees? Here are three pointers to consider:

Craft a Detailed Transition Plan

  • Entering a new role should never be done as an improvisation. Unfortunately, many organizations overlook transition plans — and leave employees to juggle the remnants of their old job while scrambling to grasp their new one, which is a recipe for a productivity nosedive. A solid transition plan will be a strategic approach that preserves knowledge, maintains productivity, and supports the demands of the new role. 
  • By defining clear goals, setting a detailed timeline, assigning roles, planning for knowledge transfer, and keeping communication transparent, organizations can smooth out the bumps of role transitions. This ensures continuity, reduces stress, and fosters a supportive culture, making transitions way more successful. You can read more about how to create a great transition plan, here

Foster Key Relationships Early:

  • When moving people into new roles, and sometimes new teams, it’s important to connect them with critical stakeholders to align their efforts with broader organizational goals. That starts with fostering human connection and creating supportive environments even during the development period. Strategies like pairing new hires with mentors, encouraging cross-departmental projects, and facilitating diverse social interactions are crucial. 
  • Pay special attention with remote or diverse workers, because inclusion is crucial to success in promotions — ensuring the newly promoted worker feels part of the new team. Connection should already be a top focus for you, as promoting a culture of connection is a business strategy that enhances engagement, productivity, and overall workplace morale. So extend that same philosophy to reintroducing a promotee into the workplace, in their new role. Check out our recent post on how to build a culture of human connection in the workplace.

Provide Necessary Resources:

  • In the same way that we need human connection, we also need to ensure we’re connected to the organizational  resources and tools that will help us do our jobs well. This is very true for people in new roles — but can be challenging when everyone assumes you already know the ropes. 
  • Ensure that newly promoted employees have access to essential tools and training to support their new responsibilities and that you provide those resources in an orderly, consistent, and digestible way — such as through the workflows and journeys available in the Enboarder tool.  Check out this recent article on knowledge transfer and handovers for those taking on new roles

Strengthening Internal Promotions with the Four Cs of Onboarding

As you design your development plans for internal promotions, be sure to be mindful of our four Cs of onboarding. They matter all the way along the promotion pathway:

Think of your workplace as a party where everyone’s invited. In-house promotions are the perfect moment to introduce your rising stars more deeply into this social mixer. Using tools like Enboarder, you can ensure that these potential leaders don’t just know the ropes — they’re also part of the crew, creating bonds that stick and fostering a supportive vibe all around.

Clarity is king! Clear and crisp communication about promotion paths cuts through the noise, ensuring everyone knows what’s up and how they can climb up. Enboarder lights the way, making sure no one’s left in the dark about how to sprint towards that next big opportunity.

Keeping things above board is totally the way to go. Ensuring your promotion practices play nice with the rules not only keeps things fair but also keeps the scary legal woes at bay. 

Last but not least, let’s talk culture — the secret sauce that flavors every aspect of your organization. Internal promotions stir this pot beautifully, letting those who live and breathe your company values lead by example. And with Enboarder cheering these moments, you’re not just filling roles; you’re celebrating the very essence of your workplace!

By mixing these 4Cs into every stage of your internal promotion strategy — from skill-building to settling into a new role, you’ll be crafting a more vibrant, engaging workplace journey that will help new promotees thrive.  

Nurture Employee Engagement and Internal Promotion with Enboarder

One last piece of advice: If you aren’t already, consider using Enboarder for your internal promotion strategy. Enboarder is designed to facilitate seamless transitions of any kind within the organization. Our platform elevates the right information at the right time, which can help illuminate pathways for growth within your organization and help people feel confident and supported every step of the way. From managing complex logistical requirements to fostering human connections, Enboarder ensures your internal promotion strategy is effective and inspiring.

Ready to transform your approach to internal promotions? Talk with us to tour the solution and learn more about how Enboarder can revolutionize your employee experience journey and help employees grow and develop within your organization.

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