Let’s face it: promotions are great motivators in the workplace. However, they are subject to a number of variables – team size, the available vacancies at senior levels, organisational protocols, and so on. There may be instances where you, as a leader, will have to disappoint some of your colleagues who were hoping to get a title or salary upgrade in a given year. In such cases, you will need to work doubly hard to retain your best talent and keep them motivated.
Here are a few strategies to make sure your employees feel secure and engaged, even when a promotion is not on the table.
Strategies for leaders and managers
Have open conversations
Sit down with your subordinate to talk about the latter’s long-term career goals. Understanding their career plans can help you figure out how to support them with opportunities within the organisation. Let them know that while a promotion may be ruled out in the present, there will be other chances down the line. What’s important is to convey the message that you are invested in their career and will keep looking at ways to help them achieve their goals. At the same time, give them a clear picture of what their growth path may look like, in order to prevent misunderstandings or unrealistic expectations.
Encourage a growth mindset
Promotions are overt and obvious indicators of career advancement. But they only happen now and then, and they’re not the only signs of a person’s growth. In discussion with the employee, figure out other growth indicators that can eventually translate into a title and salary hike for them. These can include going in for skill development, executing high-value projects, or taking risks and challenging themselves more frequently. You can also teach them how to position their work better to the management, so that their chances of getting promoted are higher the next time around.
It’s one thing to be denied a promotion in a given year; but quite another to be denied opportunities to succeed in the future. Appointing the employee as an informal lead of a team or project or giving them exposure to managerial activities, like coaching junior employees, or sending them on onsite assignments can be some ways to create such opportunities.
Celebrate your employees
We all want to be acknowledged for our work. Hence appreciation needs to be a part of your organisation’s culture. Every time your team succeeds, make sure to recognise the effort and applaud the people involved. Go beyond just verbal appreciation; consider giving out rewards like larger roles or financial incentives to well-performing employees, as these will do a better job of validating their efforts.
Building a system for career growth is primarily the job of the organisation. However, there are some things you can do if denied a promotion.
Know your worth! Your potential and the value you offer is not characterised by your salary or title. Take the time to understand what success or growth could truly mean to you, and ensure you are working towards that. This will help you in prioritising your work goals.
Allow yourself to feel disappointed
Losing an opportunity to be promoted can lead to a mix of emotions, including sadness, anger and disappointment. Take the time to go through these emotions; seek support if you need to, and know that it is okay to feel that way.
Embrace the growth mindset
A part of redefining success and career advancement is to have keep your growth mindset alive. No matter the experience, there can always be a new way to do something, or more to learn. Speak to your manager and colleagues to explore other positions, skillsets to develop, or projects you can take up that can keep you going.