Happy Monday. Those of you reading the blog via my WordPress site will likely notice it got a facelift over the weekend. I’m trying a new theme with the goal of making the blog more readable and the content more accessible. I welcome your feedback: Better? Worse? You’d prefer purple stripes, perhaps? (The latter is not happening.)
I recently was involved in a conversation with someone trying to figure out how to navigate the murky waters of internal politics surrounding an internal promotion opportunity at their company. In an ideal world, enlightened managers and their HR partners would work together in monitoring high performers who are ready for a different challenge and work with recruiting to identify the right new role.
Unfortunately this rarely happens. Why?
- Most companies suck at managing talent. Most of us know this by now. It still has to be said, as it’s the primary reason.
- Too many companies are the equivalent of the Fast and the Furious: they live their lives one resignation or new job req at a time. This leads to zero thought about how to develop internal talent for different roles–or in many cases even considering existing talent for open positions in different areas.
- Many managers don’t know how to properly develop ALL of their talent–so they rely on their stars and tolerate their average to mediocre employees. When you don’t have a consistently strong bench, you rely on your starting lineup to take you through the game. But what if one of those players wants to be traded? If a GM of a pro ball team managed so poorly that losing one key player would devastate the team, they’d be fired. But it happens all the time in corporate america.
- Money, politics, and anxiety block a lot of internal promotions/transfers. Money (in the form of headcount budget), politics (“Why would we help out THAT division/business unit by giving them one of our best people–right in the middle of this big project?”), and anxiety (“There’s no way I can give up this employee right now! The team would never make their project deadline!”) are all too common reasons that internal movement gets stopped dead.
Yeah, this is a depressing list. It’s not all-encompassing, either. Unfortunately, it often results in a lot of high-performers leaving the company to find their next move. So if you like the company and want to stay–what can you do about it?
- Have a regular, ongoing dialogue with your manager about your career goals and options. It’s critical to talk with your manager about what you want to do now–and do next–but also how you’re going to get there. Gain agreement–in writing–that you are on a path to your next career move, and attainment of specific goals/completion of training/certification/taking on & completing a stretch project/etc will get you there.
- Ensure you know your internal promotion/hiring policy. Most companies that are 250+ have a policy in the employee handbook regarding internal movement which will outline eligibility requirements (ex: minimum performance rating, minimum time in current role) and process steps. Ensure you know and understand the policy before considering a new role.
- Make yourself known to key leaders in your target teams/departments. Look for opportunities to demonstrate your capability and skill: Ask to be on a cross-business project or committee involving that team/leader, for instance.
- Help cross-train other members of your team so that you’re not indispensable. If you are the only person on the team that can do one mission-critical function? You’re screwed when it comes to looking for roles outside your current team. Cross-training others benefits everyone; you get the training experience, they learn, your manager thinks you’re a hero (and since you wrote this training into your annual goals, will reward you appropriately), and most importantly–you set yourself up for a stress-free transition.
- Present your manager with a potential transition plan to help ease their “oh !$@% what do we do now?!” reaction. While not always a silver bullet solution, it’s a big step towards easing their anxiety–and making it less likely that they will block your internal move–if they see you’ve thought through how, who, and when to transition your duties.