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Updated Apr 05, 2024

Look Inside: Identifying Employees You Should Be Promoting From Within

People with the skills and talents you need could be right in front of you.

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Jennifer Dublino, Senior Writer & Expert on Business Operations
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Table of Contents

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The best candidates for open positions are often internal, but it’s not always easy to identify team members with the talents and skills you need. However, finding excellent internal candidates is crucial to building and strengthening your team. We’ll examine how to identify promotable employees and explore how promoting from within benefits your entire organization. 

How to identify internal employees who are ready for a promotion

When a supervisory or managerial position opens up, evaluate your internal resources first. Here’s how to pinpoint employees who may be excellent candidates to promote from within your company.

  • Post the open position internally. Let ambitious employees apply for the position before posting it to the general public. Internal job postings will bring motivated professionals to your attention so you can evaluate them further.
  • Peruse performance reviews. Examining recent performance reviews will show you who excels in their current roles and exceeds performance goals. Additionally, performance reviews contain employee data that may reveal who has expressed interest in a higher position. These individuals have indicated they’re willing and able to handle more responsibility.  
  • Solicit peer and manager feedback. Talk to managers and team members and see who’s consistently referred to as a good leader and excellent team member who’s diligent and conscientious. If the opening is in a specific department, gather feedback from those individuals. You may be able to promote someone with expertise in that area. Additionally, if a respected manager is leaving the company, ask them if they have a successor in mind.
  • Look for voluntary self-improvement efforts. When employees spend their own time and effort improving their training and certifications, taking advantage of professional development opportunities, or volunteering for projects that involve more work, they’re likely building their skills for a better position. These employees often prefer an internal promotion. However, if that’s not available, they may end up looking for a job with another company.
  • Conduct a stay interview. When you notice a high-performing employee, consider conducting a stay interview. In this interview, you’ll get to know the employee by asking what they like or don’t like about their job and where they see themselves in the short and long term. In addition to identifying qualified internal job candidates, stay interviews can improve employee retention and satisfaction.
Did You Know?Did you know
According to research from Nectar, almost two-thirds of employees believe their employers are actively invested in their professional growth.

Signs employees should be considered for a promotion

Employees who are ready for promotion will likely exhibit the following characteristics: 

1. Promotable employees take responsibility proactively.

Employees ripe for promotion are often the ones who volunteer to spearhead projects or ask for more responsibility. They’re your staff members who consistently do what it takes to get the job done. They don’t come up with excuses.

These employees don’t necessarily skip lunch and stay late; it’s more about individuals who consistently choose to go beyond a task’s exact specifications. Also, keep an eye out for employees who refer to things as “ours” versus “mine.” This phrasing is an excellent indicator that they think about shared organizational goals, not just their own agenda. 

Employees who are ready for promotions demonstrate a consistent ability to take responsibility for themselves and their team even before they’re officially in charge.  

2. Solution-oriented employees may be ready for a promotion.

Leaders focus on solutions. When identifying employees who can handle positions of great responsibility, look for solution-oriented people. Employees who consistently approach you with problems without brainstorming solutions aren’t ready to be promoted.

While it’s OK — and even healthy — to share concerns, someone with leadership skills will begin the brainstorming process independently to identify a solution to the problem. 

In your performance management process, look for team members who bring and offer answers alongside questions or problems. They may not always have the right answers or solutions immediately, but they’re always willing to try to resolve issues without looking to others for all the answers. 

TipBottom line
According to LinkedIn, the most important consideration in a job offer is the employee compensation package.

3. Co-workers already respect promotable employees.

Promoting from within isn’t just about finding people your team likes. Instead, focus on people the team respects. While being respected and well-liked often go hand in hand, there are crucial differences between respect and popularity.

Respect is the foundation that makes workplace collaboration and teamwork possible. Without the respect of employees, a leader won’t be able to foster teamwork or collaboration with other departments. 

Employees respect level-headed and professional peers who don’t shirk work and often go above and beyond.

4. Potential internal hires support others.

Good leaders help others grow and develop. Most successful leaders attribute some of their success in life to mentors and helpful managers who shaped their experiences along their career paths. 

Your excellent internal candidates are likely known for being helpful to others and effective at developing talent within the organization. They take the time and have the desire to improve other employees’ performances through feedback and coaching. You can see this directly when the candidate proactively offers to help others or when other employees seek out this person for help and advice. 

5. Promotable employees handle stress well.

Stress is an inherent part of managing and leading. Whether you’re filling a management position or promoting an employee to a more significant role with more responsibilities, consider their ability to handle ambiguity and stress in their current position.

A ZenBusiness survey found that nearly 25 percent of managers reported extreme stress and 62 percent reported moderate stress due to the effort involved in maintaining a work-life balance, managing employee conflict, shouldering increased responsibilities and more. Even more challenging is that managers reported feeling the need to hide their stress and emotions. 

When assessing potential internal hires, look at how they handle conflict and stress, and consider how increased responsibilities would affect them. 

6. Promotable employees consistently overperform.

If an employee consistently exceeds challenging goals or benchmarks, it’s probably time for a promotion. High performers demonstrate that they’re ambitious, interested in the company’s success and have high standards for themselves.

If you don’t promote this high performer, they’ll likely grow dissatisfied with their current position and may look elsewhere for career advancement opportunities. 

Did You Know?Did you know
Research commissioned by cosmetics company L'Oreal found that up to half of employee engagement comes from being a good fit with a company's culture.

Benefits of promoting from within

Promoting from within brings many benefits to an organization, including the following:

  • Promoting from within can save money. The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania found that external hires get paid nearly 20 percent more than internal employees for the same job but consistently get lower performance reviews. Additionally, an organizational science study found that internal hires drastically outperformed external hires. 
  • Promoting from within boosts employee retention. Organizations experience higher employee retention and lower turnover when employees are engaged and happy, which promotions can foster. Outside hires may be fired more often because their personalities and abilities are largely unknown. However, existing employees have already demonstrated their skills, and upper management has had a chance to get to know them and their work habits and personality.
  • Promoting from within means less onboarding time. In the hiring process, internal hires are already familiar with the company and its goals and mission. In contrast, new hires are starting from scratch. While you must train internal hires in their new responsibilities, the onboarding process is much quicker because you’ve already invested in your employees’ training.
  • Promoting from within ensures a cultural fit. Existing employees have already figured out the company’s culture and unwritten rules. They’ve carved their niche and are comfortable operating in this environment. They also are familiar with the other employees and managers and how everyone operates, so they’re much less likely to be a bad hire.
  • Promoting from within boosts morale. When employees see their peers getting promoted, it lets them know the organization values its internal talent and shows them they have an opportunity to advance. This realization can motivate them to work harder and take on more responsibility.

When is it better to look externally for new hires?

When you have an open position, it’s always a good idea to consider your internal talent pool first. However, you may decide to recruit new employees when your company finds itself in need of the following.

  • Fresh ideas: It’s easy for employees to get into a rut. If you want to shake things up and fire up creativity, a new hire might bring a different perspective to the team.
  • New skills: You may be transitioning your company to advanced technology or a new way of operating. Outside hires may have experience and specialized training, helping jump-start your transition.
  • Decreased workload: Your company may be growing quicker than it can support, causing overwork and strain on existing employees. Hiring someone from outside the company can relieve some of the burden by adding another person to the mix.
  • Someone more qualified: Sometimes your company doesn’t have an employee with the necessary qualifications to do the job. Your current employees might not have the education, experience, skills or desire to fill your new position, leading you to recruit externally.

An internal candidate promotion won’t be suitable for every open position. However, an internal promotion is often an excellent opportunity for your business and employees. The key is to clearly identify the right candidates to set them up for success in their new roles.

author image
Jennifer Dublino, Senior Writer & Expert on Business Operations
Jennifer Dublino is an experienced entrepreneur and astute marketing strategist. With over three decades of industry experience, she has been a guiding force for many businesses, offering invaluable expertise in market research, strategic planning, budget allocation, lead generation and beyond. Earlier in her career, Dublino established, nurtured and successfully sold her own marketing firm. Dublino, who has a bachelor's degree in business administration and an MBA in marketing and finance, also served as the chief operating officer of the Scent Marketing Institute, showcasing her ability to navigate diverse sectors within the marketing landscape. Over the years, Dublino has amassed a comprehensive understanding of business operations across a wide array of areas, ranging from credit card processing to compensation management. Her insights and expertise have earned her recognition, with her contributions quoted in reputable publications such as Reuters, Adweek, AdAge and others.
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