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TCFP173: WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU CAN'T PROMOTE THEM

Thank you for listening to The Champion Forum Podcast! Have you ever had an amazing employee you couldn't promote? I have! Feeling stuck in a job without opportunities for advancement can create severe tension between you and that employee. Usually, they are a great culture fit and get results, but you're not in a position where you can promote them. You're worried they will be recruited by a competitor and move on to a new opportunity. Today we're talking about how to support an employee when you can't promote them and keep them at your company.


Reasons a Great Employee May Not Be Promotable

  • There is a hiring freeze at your company.

  • You are in a smaller organization that isn't growing fast enough to open up a new role.

  • They are best suited for their current position.


1. Focus on their development and increasing their skills

Giving your team the tools they need to grow will help you increase your communication quality and motivate them to be more creative and productive. You can also use this strategy to re-engage disengaged employees by assisting them in developing skills they are passionate about that could lead to future opportunities. Use your 1-on-1s to check in on their goals and options to ensure they are making progress and feel like they are growing. Then, you can not only help them be a better employee for your company but also prevent them from leaving.


Strategies to help your employees grow:

  • Send them to relevant seminars, workshops, or conferences.

  • Buy them books and check in on their progress during your 1-on-1s.

  • Introduce them to a mentor.

  • Connect them with someone already skilled in an area of their interest.

  • Provide them with a project.


2. Move Them Laterally

When someone on your team starts to look restless or bored in their current role, talk to them about what excites them most about the company or their current job. Look for interests that align with other positions to find opportunities for lateral moves. Some managers are afraid that employees will not thrive in a new role, especially if they don't have all the skills. If they're motivated and you help them understand the skills they need to develop, that won't be a problem. A change in responsibility can be just as refreshing and motivating as a promotion.


Application Activities

  1. Remote workers are one of the most challenging employees to manage when you can't promote them. These employees often are overlooked as long as they do a good job. Leaders don't mean to ignore them, but they have less face-to-face time with their team and leadership than they would in a typical office environment. If you have remote employees, take some time to consider if they are ready for a promotion. If not, why? Consider how you manage them and what you can do to ensure they do not get passed over for new projects and opportunities.

  2. To help your employees grow, you have to dedicate time to talk to them about their interests, career goals, and any skills they want to develop. If you aren't sure where your team members stand, ask these questions in your next 1-on-1.

  • What are your long-term goals?

  • What skills would you like to develop right now?

  • What additional training or education would you like?

  • Are there any roles in the company you'd like to learn more about?

  • Is there anything I can do to help you improve?

  • Is there anything blocking your progress?


  1. Before you blame your company for not providing enough growth opportunities, ensure that you have a robust exit interview. You may find that concerns like company culture, lack of recognition, poor boundaries, or a competing salary offer may be driving employees away. Investing in your employees is a great strategy, but it is not a one-size-fits-all solution. If you need help with this process, email me at jeff@jeffhancher.com.

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