Promotion seems like a straightforward affair: good performance plus a new opening. However, this is only one perspective, which typically belongs to the employee seeking promotion. The real reasons for promotion lie in the intentions and motivations of your organisation. It helps to understand organisations' approach to promotion, as well as how things work at your particular organisation.

How organisations think

Organisations want revenue. That is the most important part of their job. This means: increasing the profits of what they have already, and decreasing the costs of what they must spend. You are a cost until you make profit. If you can help your organisation make more profit in a higher position, they are more likely to promote you to it.

How your organisation thinks

What other objectives tie in with your organisation's goals? What is their approach to promotion? Think about the person who is charge of promoting you: what's their approach to promotion? Create a picture of how promotion works in your organisation, and use it to your advantage.

In his book, "Who Gets Promoted, Who Doesn't, And Why", Donald Asher provides useful pointers on how to understand and benefit from the intricacies of promotion. We share some of them here:

  • Promotions are not rewards for past contributions, but investments in future contributions

  • Companies want to optimise the outcome of staffing changes. You are competing with whatever your organisation's view is on "the benefits of leaving you in the same position versus the risks of giving you the promotion"

  • If your skills are difficult to replace, and it's easier to bring in someone from the outside for the new position, you are unlikely to get the promotion

  • You may want to put yourself forward for promotion before the organisation searches externally, and to mention the saved costs of not having to recruit someone from outside

  • Before putting yourself in the running for a promotion, identify and help develop the person most capable of replacing you. Suggest them to your boss as a replacement when making your bid for the promotion

  • Understand the risks associated with hiring you: if they are more manageable than the risks associated with hiring someone else, you may be in a better position to win the promotion

  • If your promotion cannot guarantee a smooth handover, you might be passed over. This is about timing: if you are in the middle of a big project, your boss might be more reluctant to promote you

Asher's insights help remind one that employees are being paid to help their organisation make more money. The question is, "Does it pay to promote you?". Recalling this, and integrating the above into your plans for promotion, will help you overcome potential obstacles to your advancement.

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