7 Strategies for Creating a "Promotion-from-Within" Culture


A strong recruitment and retention strategy considers both hiring outside of the company as well as inside the company. Creating a promotion-from-within culture shows employees their company values professional development and it gives employees something to grow toward and strive for. With the average worker changing jobs every 5 years, a promotion-from-within culture is a critical retention strategy. When employees know a promotion or a job change is a possibility within their current company, they are less likely to look outside for their next opportunity.

The modern-day definition of “promotion” I use is: Any job change resulting in higher pay and different, more challenging responsibilities. It used to be a “promotion” only entailed higher level responsibilities, but not all employees want to move up the corporate ladder. Some want to learn new and different skills, or take on a new career trajectory that has nothing to do with leadership/management. A promotion-from-within culture accounts for both vertical and horizontal movement in the organization.

7 Strategies for Creating a "Promotion-from-Within" Culture

  1. Treat the promotion-from-within strategy just like any other business strategy: Develop a formal plan, set goals, and measure the results, modifying the strategy for improvements along the way. Develop the strategy with the company’s greatest needs in mind. Consider which jobs have the highest vacancy rates and how the company can invest in education and training to develop internal candidates for those critical roles. Factors to consider include:

    • What are the six-month and one-year promotion rate targets?  

    • Are targets being met?  Why or why not?  

    • What does the promoted employee’s job satisfaction look like (both before and after the promotion)?

    • What does the promoted employee’s 360 feedback say about their performance pre and post promotion? 

    • Are employee retention rates improving? Why or why not?

  2. Support front-line managers with prioritizing career development. Front-line managers are absolutely key to the success of developing a promotion-from-within culture. This means managers need to be equipped with the mindset, tools, and resources to identify and effectively collaborate with employees who want to promote. Managers will need training and a “career development toolkit,” a guide to engaging employees in promotion discussions, identifying skill gaps, and developing a training plan to bridge those gaps.

  3. Invest in coaching. With training, we gain knowledge. With coaching we practice skills. The skills employees need in order to promote (especially into leadership roles) won’t be learned entirely in a classroom and the learning process looks different for every person. That's why the collaborative, individualized approach of coaching is more effective. Training is largely telling someone what to do. Coaching is practicing how to do it, with the support of an expert. Here’s more about the importance of coaching newly promoted leaders: https://skyehrconsulting.com/blog/2019/4/9/welcome-to-leadership

  4. Market the program, both internally and externally. A strong promotion-from-within program will attract quality candidates who are interested in working for a company that values their career growth. A good way to get candidates’ attention is to include an overview of the program in job postings, on social media pages, and on the company’s website. The promotion-from-within program should be displayed as a benefit/perk of working for the organization.

    Marketing the program internally attracts and encourages internal qualified candidates. Consider featuring pictures and stories of real-life employees who have successfully promoted-from-within in your employee handbook, employee newsletters, on the company’s social media pages, and on the intranet. Showcasing promoted employees in this way effectively generates interest in the program as well as recognizes the achievements of the employees who have promoted. Both are great for employee recognition and retention.

  5. Host “How to Get Promoted” workshops and create ongoing career development employee interest groups. The best career development workshops and employee interest groups I’ve seen are facilitated by both HR and real-life employees who’ve been promoted from within. Giving participants concrete worksheets and action planning tools, and ensuring regular follow-up is critical to the program’s success.

  6. Recognize job descriptions are sometimes unrealistic. This is a tough one, but it is so very important to start by taking a hard look at the job qualifications listed in job descriptions and getting real about what is truly needed in order to be successful in each job. Does a successful candidate really need prior related experience and to have direct experience with a particular software? Or, do they really just need to be a quick learner, open to feedback, and technically savvy?

    Unrealistic job descriptions inhibit effective promotions and make hiring managers seek the “ideal candidate.” (The reality is there is no ideal candidate). Getting real about job qualifications is especially important to consider for positions with high vacancy rates. If there aren’t enough candidates externally, why not develop your next candidate internally?

  7. Remember, not all promotions are promotions into a leadership role: Build a career lattice, rather than a career ladder for employees. Both vertical and horizontal movement are a good thing for a promotion-from-within culture. Remember a “promotion” is any job transition resulting in higher pay and different, more challenging responsibilities for the employee. The mission is to meet the hiring needs of the company through valuing the professional development of employees.

In addition to helping employers create promotion-from-within strategies, did you know I provide “on-call” HR services?

“On-call” HR services are perfect for organizations that are:

  • In-between HR Directors

  • Too small to have an HR department

  • In need of objective, outside expertise

“On-call” HR services include fast, confidential expertise:

  • Guidance on day-to-day employee management issues

  • Answers to compliance questions, such as wage and hour, harassment/discrimination, drug free workplace, FMLA, ADA, and more

  • Help navigating medical leaves and workplace accommodations

  • Assistance managing employee performance

  • Disciplinary action and termination reviews

  • Answers to compensation and benefits questions

  • Guidance on hiring or internal promotion decisions

  • Support resolving difficult workplace conflicts

Both monthly contracts and billable hour services are available. Interested? Contact me at skyemercer@gmail.com or (208)-819-2341.

Skye Mercer, MBA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

HR Consultant


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Skye Mercer