Internal Promotion: How to Know Which Employee Should be Promoted

If you are considering an internal promotion, there are several steps that can certainly help you successfully determine who to promote.

Human capital
Employee Experience
People Strategy

Leen Sawalha

VP Product & Growth

Friday, August 29, 2014


If you are considering an internal promotion, there are several steps that can certainly help you successfully determine who to promote.

Promoting from within has recently been the focus of many businesses, and for good reason! Not only does it lower costs than external hiring, but internal talent also shows better performance, are more motivated, and have higher employee engagement.

However, it goes without saying that not every employee subject to an internal promotion will be better than an external hire. They need to have the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and other characteristics (KSAOs) to be able to successfully fulfill their duties.

So, how do you know which employee should be promoted? Well let’s take this one step at a time.

Create a job description for the position in question

Before you even begin to think about who should or shouldn’t be promoted, you need to create a thorough job description of the position in question. This description will clearly define the tasks, knowledge, skills, and abilities required for the job, serving as a check against which potential candidates can be evaluated.

Also, this process will help you better understand the type of person you need. For example, will you need someone with strong management skills for a managerial role? Or maybe someone who is more spontaneous and capable of adapting to varying situations?

Even if you already have a job description, make sure to revisit and revise! It’s essential to ensure all of your job descriptions are continuously updated to accommodate for organizational or environmental changes.

Knowledge and skills – who’s got them?

After identifying the knowledge and skills needed for the job, the next step is quite obvious: find out who’s got them! This is where the hiring process becomes crucial, as it allows you to assess not only the applicant's current capabilities but also their career goals and how they align with the growth opportunities within your organization.

With your analyses, you will have a clear picture about who of your employees has the education, experience, training, and qualifications to master the job once they are promoted. However, chances are none of your employee have ALL of those capabilities.

Have you found an employee with all those capabilities? Great! Is your job here done? Absolutely not! Just because an employee has the capabilities doesn’t mean they are the best option for the promotion. There’s a reason why it’s called KSAOs, and not just KS!

Personality, Personality, Personality!

A man in a business suit

Yes, it’s that important! In fact, personality is arguably more important than knowledge and skills. Where knowledge, skills, and capabilities can be learned, personality remains relatively stable throughout an individual’s adult life. It is for this reason that you should always make sure the employee has the right traits and characteristics to perform well in their new job before your promote them.

If you managed to find an employee who has the right knowledge, skills, and personality for a promotion, then congratulations, you are one of the very few people who has hit the jackpot. If, however, you are one of the other 99% of employers, you still have some work to do.

In addition to analyzing your employees’ knowledge and skills, make sure you create an inventory of their personality traits. Every human being has specific characteristics that guides their behavior in a certain direction. While you may be able to do both, everyone has a natural tendency to be more organized than spontaneous, more traditional than adaptable, or more of a talker than a listener.

There are many characteristics that make up a person, and it’s important to remember that there are no “good” or “bad” traits – just the right trait for the right job!

Personality is important – great. What about the internal promotion?

How do you know who of your employees has the right characteristics for a promotion? More importantly, how do you know what are the right characteristics for that promotion? Psychometric testing is the way to go – and many experts will agree.

Unlike regular personality tests, psychometric assessments go a little deeper by measuring, in addition to personality traits, thinking structure, learning mode, and even resistance to stress. This information is invaluable in identifying the ideal candidate who not only fits the role but also aligns with the culture and challenges of the position.

How do I determine the right traits needed from my employees?

This is where it’s crucial to have both the job description and psychometric assessments. If you have done your job description correctly, then it should include points such as:

  • “strong organizational skills”
  • “good communicator”
  • “team-oriented”
  • or even “works well under pressure”

Whether you realize this or not, these are all personality characteristics!

Once you have identified these traits, you can then submit your employees to psychometric assessments and see which of them have what it takes to take on the new promotion.

If you’re looking for a more thorough analysis, then use the psychometric results of a successful employee to use as a benchmark. For example, if you’re looking to promote an employee from project coordinator to project manager, then have an already successful project manager complete the test. You can then review their results and see if there are additional important characteristics for the job you may have previously missed.

It also goes without saying that more data equals more accurate results. If your organization has 10 successful project managers, then capitalize on that fact and use all of their results to find common factors of success!

Conclusion: Promote those with potential

Two professionals shake hands because one of them has been promoted

Just because an employee doesn’t have the skills and knowledge right now doesn’t mean they should be overlooked. It’s actually the opposite! Evaluate all your staff to determine who has the greatest potential for mobility within the organization, and then invest in them. This not only capitalizes on growth opportunities but also gives your business a competitive edge. Human resources are, after all, assets that will yield a return if utilized to their full potential.

Once you have identified those with high potential, you can then offer them the proper training and experience to get them ready for future roles. Not only will this allow you to capitalize on your resources, but it will also make your employees feel recognized, become more motivated, performing, and loyal to your organization.

Feedback is a key factor of this process, ensuring that each internal candidate understands their growth path and how they can develop the necessary professional skills for candidate selection. It’s a win-win all around!

Internal promotion is always preferable to external hiring, but only if it’s done correctly. Do your analyses, and don’t be afraid to use external resources to improve your processes. By carefully considering these aspects, you can ensure that your internal promotion process not only identifies the ideal candidate but also supports your organization's overall culture and performance objectives.

Psychometric assessments can provide you with invaluable information about your employees, and will greatly benefit your organization in the long-run. However, make sure you consider the right criteria when choosing your psychometric test. But as soon as you’ve got the right tool, the possibilities are endless!

Don’t wait any longer to turn your team's potential into tangible success. Start optimizing your internal promotion processes today to build a stronger, more unified organization. For more information or to get started with customized solutions, contact Atmanco now.

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