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The Promotion Test

When we promote, it's usually in recognition of past performance. "She deserves it," we think.

But a track record of success should be only one factor in moving someone up the ladder. Another question to answer is, does she have what it takes to do the new job effectively?

Sometimes the answer is already apparent. Mary has performed brilliantly as an apprentice dental sales rep, learning at the feet of an experienced pro. It's time to give Mary her own territory and see what she can do. But the equation is more complicated when the promotion entails the person learning new skills -- managing a P&L line, for example -- or acquiring new responsibilities such as managing people.

It's time for the promotion test. Design a task or broader assignment that involves the skills you think are critical in the new role. HBR.org blogger Amy Gallo, writing about when to reward employees with more responsibilities, says this test should not be a secret.

"Be transparent with the employee about this experiment. Make it short-term and outline clear success criteria and an evaluation timeline."
Gallo offers a number of useful tips on promotions including how to assess current performance using multiple sources, how to think about increased compensation, and the right way to say "no" when promotion is denied.

Have you ever promoted the right person into the wrong job? What did you learn from the experience?

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(Photo by Flickr user Bruno Covas, CC 2.0)
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