When promoting employees, you need to ensure you’re working to the fairest policy possible. This includes being completely open about promotion criteria, announcing the promotion in the most appropriate way, and keeping clear records of the entire process.
When done well, promotions can not only be morale boosting and motivating for the promoted employee, but for the whole workforce, too. However, done incorrectly, and quite the opposite can be true.
How to recruit for promotions fairly
Setting and sharing criteria
Decide on the selection criteria as early on as possible, and then ensure each and every staff member is aware of the criteria that the promotion will be based on, i.e. the criteria cannot be kept a secret
Be consistent, as far as possible and relevant, with how you have managed criteria and procedure for promotions previously.
And even where you make changes from past practice, ensure that you always apply this round’s identical criteria to all relevant candidates (unless there’s a case for positive discrimination, e.g. disapplying a particular criterion so as not to disadvantage a less able worker.)
Solicit appropriate help
Ask employees’ line managers to assist in the recruitment process, as well as others that will be working directly with the employee
Ensure you are impartial at all times
Watch out for any unconscious bias that you may experience. This is when we base decisions on associations rather than fact. For example, assuming that someone who lives further away will be less suitable for the job (even if they have turned up to work on time everyday so far), or even warming towards a certain employee because you’re a similar age or both previously worked in a similar sector or business, for example
Include all relevant details for assessors/decision-makers
Make sure that everyone involved in the decision-making process has a copy of the criteria, the job description, and has all of the facts about the applicant (e.g. their CV, application form, covering letter, previous appraisal results, etc.)
It’s often helpful for those involved to independently score the candidate(s) against your criteria and only then get together to compare and discuss results
Keep good notes
When considering an employee for a promotion – whether that’s on paper or in person – keep good notes of how you consider they do (or don’t) fit the criteria. These records will be helpful in justifying your decision-making and demonstrating that it was fair and impartial, if you’re ever accused of unfair hiring practices by a disgruntled employee.
Keep these notes secure and do not allow them to be accessed by those not part of the promotion decision-making process.
Bear in mind also that anything you note down and which will be held on the employee’s HR file must be accessible to that employee, on their request. Failure to produce the full record on request will breach the employee’s data protection rights.
The promotion announcement: how to announce the decision sensitively
Telling the successful candidate
Before you make the promotion announcement, have a meeting with the successful candidate and go through the job elements in detail to ensure they are completely happy to accept the role. Ask the successful employee, as a matter of respect for other candidates, to keep the communication confidential until you have spoken with those other candidates
Agreeing any announcement wording
Give the successful candidate the chance to see and comment on the promotion announcement (if written)
Discussing your announcement plans
Once they have accepted the new role, advise them of how and when you’ll be announcing the promotion to the rest of the staff
Letting unsuccessful candidates down sympathetically
Let each other (unsuccessful) applicant know of your decision as soon as possible, give them constructive feedback, and explain the reasoning behind your decision. Make and keep notes of these discussions.
Making the announcement
If you have a modest workforce, you may well prefer to announce the promotion in person rather than through email, for example. There are no rules about how you choose to do this.
Handling follow-up questions
Ensure that those who have any questions about the promotion know to whom they can address those questions and how they should raise them
And of course, invite the team to congratulate the promoted employee on their achievement!
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