Any seasoned HR pro knows that a key part of the employee experience is rewards and recognition.
In an uncertain economy, compensation and promotions are the focus for many when it comes to rewarding, recognizing and retaining your workforce.
But just offering a promotion and calling it a day isn’t an effective strategy for reward and recognition – and it may be hurting your retention efforts, too.
The hidden truth about promotions
When it comes to recognizing and rewarding employees for their hard work and dedication, a promotion is usually at the top of the list. And for good reason: Promotions can help show employees that they’re on the right path and help bolster career growth.
But new research from the ADP Research Institute (ADPRI)’s Today at Work report suggests that there may be a hidden consequence to promotions. While usually intended to promote internal growth within the company and keep employees engaged, ADPRI’s research shows that promotions may actually make employees more likely to leave.
Consider this: Within a month after their first promotion, 29% of people had left their employer. What’s more: Had they not been promoted, only 18% would have left the company, according to ADPRI. That means the promotion made workers more likely to leave – a risk increase of nearly two-thirds.
Now, that doesn’t mean that the promotions themselves are causing employees to walk out the door. In fact, after six months, the risk of recently promoted workers leaving is about the same as it is for those who weren’t promoted.
It begs the question: What causes recently promoted workers to want to leave? And how can you prevent it?
Promotions can be a great stepping stone to help further an employee’s career – not to mention, they often come with a pay raise. So why do promotions increase the risk that an employee will leave?
Here are three factors that can affect an employee’s decision to stay or go after a promotion.
- Inadequate preparation or training. Promotions come with a lot of added perks – alongside more responsibility. For some, especially in an age where benefits and culture often matter more than compensation, promotions can bring on added stress and added effort that workers don’t have the bandwidth to expend.
When a company promotes an employee without adequate training or preparation beforehand, employees can feel thrown into a whole new, stressful environment. In fact, people who landed their first promotion while working jobs that require little to no training or education were nearly six times more likely to leave in the first month after their promotion than those who weren’t promoted, per ADPRI. And their chance of leaving was more than doubled throughout a nine-month period.
- Higher rankings. Often, the higher that an employee ranks, the better their chance at promotion becomes. But for many, getting promoted to a higher rank can also increase job prospects and thus make them more likely to leave.
Being promoted to a managerial position is rare, ADPRI previously found, but can help individual contributors see their organization as a long-term destination. However, for managerial levels, it can spark the desire for better opportunities. Case in point: The research found that a promotion increased a manager’s risk of leaving more than it did for individual contributors – and the increased risk lasted longer for managers.
- Increased confidence. Simply put, an employee who’s serious about their career growth can get an added boost of confidence when they’re promoted. They can then use that momentum to explore and leverage new opportunities.
Strategies to retain promoted workers
Recognizing why workers are leaving isn’t enough; HR and other decision-makers need to take action after a promotion to ensure that workers don’t jump ship. Here are four ways to do it.
- Have a plan before promotion: Before you promote someone, especially at a managerial level, make an action plan to help them transition to their new role, gather feedback on their satisfaction and motivation, and outline steps to take in case they leave.
- Provide continuous learning and development (L&D) opportunities: Many leave their job to pursue better opportunities or more areas for growth. Now more than ever, it’s essential to build a robust L&D program to help all employees continue their growth at your company.
- Monitor workforce motivation and commitment: Motivation and commitment to the organization can be telltale signs of an employee’s mindset and may help reveal whether they’re at risk of leaving, so finding ways to get a pulse check on these factors can help prevent turnover before it happens.
- Focus on productivity and engagement: Productive, engaged employees tend to have a more positive outlook on their work, and fostering these areas may help reduce turnover and improve satisfaction.