Promotions (2/2)

So how do you decide when to promote someone? A debate you’ll often hear is how much of the promotion-role level (i.e., the next level) skill and competency should a candidate be demonstrating in their current role before they receive a promotion (i.e., should they essentially already be DOING the next role to earn the promotion?).

The reality is nuanced because skills and competencies follow a more continuous path, whereas promotions represent step-function changes. (see image below).

My belief is you want someone to demonstrate mastery of ~80%+ of the required skills and competency in their existing role, and to have begun to demonstrate basic evidence of the skills and competencies required to succeed in the next role level. Another way to think about it is I like to have an 80%+ confidence level that if someone is being promoted, they will succeed in their new role. The more junior the role level, the more comfort I might have in someone being a bit more of a ‘stretch’ candidate (i.e., for a junior promotion with a relatively limited impact to the overall organization, I might accept a bit more ‘stretch’ in that promotion). Some ‘stretch’ is natural as there should be some portion of additional responsibility that you’re asking someone to perform, which will put them outside their comfort zone.

Another reason I like this visual is it’s a reminder that expectations for someone day 1 after their promotion should be different than for someone who’s been in that role for several months or years; it’s unreasonable to expect someone to demonstrate full mastery of their new role immediately post-promotion as they will need to continue climbing the skills and competencies curve even once they’ve received the new title.

I’ll add that promotion decisions tend to be fairly nuanced, and I find this to be a helpful framework but not a hard and fast rule. Depending on the role, scope of responsibility, expectations, performance history of the candidate, etc. etc., it may make sense to flex your judgement.

Merry Christmas!