December 19, 2007

How Promotable Are you?

The other morning I was having coffee with my sister-in-law, Cara, discussing her current job opportunities. She is an up and coming tornado at Anthropologie and is now ready for the next big thing. In our conversation we talked about what employees that quickly get promoted do. Obviously there are the qualities of hard work, enthusiasm, knowledge of the business, years of experience, leadership, and such. But in most companies that is not enough, or at least not what is going to get you moving quickly to the next big thing.

In my experience there are a three lesser discussed things that can have a huge impact on your promotability. There are more than three even, but for brevity I'll focus on three.

Stop asking what qualities and experience is needed for a promotion.
As a manager I had an endless number of conversations with employees who would ask
me, "What are the traits you look for in a <fill in the title>?" This is a bad way to approach it. The question worded this way tells the manager you don't believe you are ready for the promotion but would like to be considered at some point in the future.

Instead of asking this question do some research to understand the position that you want and then meet with the manager to inform them that you want the promotion. Point out all the areas that you have the experience, qualifications, and successes to be great at the job. Outline how you specifically could add value to the organization in this new position. Then, if need be discuss what specific areas you need experience in before being qualified for the promotion, and ask the manager what opportunities exist in the near future for you to get the experience needed.
Leave your personal finance choices out of the discussion.
Most employees seek out a promotion or pay increase because their personal financial situation has changed and they need to make more money. Probably 80% of employees that asked me for a promotion or raise had this as a major point in the discussion. This is about the worst way to go about getting a promotion. It tells your manager you are spending money you don't have! That is a big red flag because it means you may not be as responsible as you should be. Additionally, don't make the focus of your discussion what says you should make. Unless you are working for a Fortune 500 company that pays at the top 10% it is not a realistic comparison.

A conversation about compensation and promotion needs to be focused on what you specifically do or will be doing to increase current revenue production for the business. If you don't know how you are doing this, you have no business asking for a promotion.

I once had an employee ask me for a salary increase and promotion with a breakdown of what affect his current salary had on the percentage of gross margin for the department, how his specific performance was increasing company revenue by tracking his revenue performance for 6 months, and that his requested increase would affect less than .1% of current gross margin for the department. He then outlined how he would further increase his revenue production, and how the increase would make him feel more valued for his hard work and his job would be more enjoyable. I gave him the promotion affective immediately, without even getting approval from our CFO. I knew that with that level of detail the CFO couldn't even say no.

Stop waiting to get recognized.
When I left my last company they asked me to complete an Employee Exit interview. One of the questions was about how often I got feedback from my manager.

How frequently did you get feedback on your
performance? What were your feelings about them?
I received feedback almost every year during my normal
performance review. I generally found they were informative and provided good feedback and opportunities for improvement.
How frequently did you have discussions with your manager about your career goals? What are your
feelings regarding these discussions?
As often as I initiated and felt it was needed.
However, I think employees who receive the best feedback seek it out versus wait for it. Generally those who wait patiently for recognition and guidance end up feeling slighted, abused, and unappreciated. I am a firm believer that opportunities are created and taken not given, and corporate recognition is directly related to how well you market yourself.

Recognition in the work place is like dating. If you're a wall flower it's tough to get recognized. If you are waiting for someone to give you pat on the back and a promotion for a job well done, you most likely feel like you work for a company that doesn't reward hard work, you often feel abused by the company, and that the company always says great job to other people but never you (there are companies out there that reward hard work all the time, I worked for one for a while). If this is you, stop waiting to get recognized and point out the value you bring the organization. Most likely the employees that always get recognized are self promoting while you are waiting for someone to notice you.


Tim Halberg said...

I'm gonna take this to the boss and see what turns out ;-)

Great points though. I can remember jobs and wondering why I wasn't filling the other guys' shoes in the business, and I bet this sorta knowledge would have been fun to use.

Kevin Sturm said...

Let me know how it turns out. I'm betting he'll give you a raise. ;-)