HR Mavericks

Eddy’s HR Mavericks Encyclopedia

Promoting Talent

When you have an open position, do you automatically start posting it everywhere you can think of? If so, you may have missed a step. Promoting talent you already have can put your organization ahead in many ways.

What Does It Mean to Promote Talent?

Promoting talent refers to advancing individuals who already work for you to the next step in their career. Companies often place the most weight on recruiting to bring in new talent to fill open positions. This reinvigorates the talent pool and brings in fresh perspectives. While promoting internal talent does occur, it's not typically used for filling newly created positions or vacated positions. What does it mean to promote talent? Employees are employees of the entire company, not just a team or a department. The individual skill sets that a person carries have incredible value that can likely be translated across many parts of your organization. Your managers should be focused on the individual employee, understand their career and professional goals, and be able to identify their skills, strengths and opportunities. Managers should hold regular conversations with employees to understand which skills they are working on, which skills are goals, and which skills would they need in order to reach the next milestone on their career path. What skills does an employee have that could be transferable to another team or department that would enable quicker, continued growth and development for the individual and the company?

Why Is Promoting Talent Important?

Promoting your talent isn’t just important; it is a vital component for your organization, your culture, and your employer brand. Here are a few reasons why having a focus on internal mobility is so crucial to your organization’s success.
  • You send a message to your current employees. By promoting internally, you are sending the message that you value hard work and the time and effort that you and your employee have placed on their development within the organization. You are creating loyal and engaged employees who know that their hard work will be seen and acknowledged. They see that you support them to grow in their career according to their own personal and professional goals.
  • They know the company better than an external hire. Promoting employees and continuing to invest in their development ensures that the position is being filled by an individual who already has experience and understanding of the company, its goals, and the way things work. This will ensure a much smoother transition and faster business results for the role.
  • The grass is greenest where you water it. Yes, you can go hire John Doe who fits more of the criteria you are looking for to fill the position, but this will likely cost you more. Internal hires typically make less than external hires. They have already proven their work ethic, grit, determination, willingness to grow, and passion for your company. Why not go with a proven thing, even if your internal employee doesn't quite check off every single box you are looking for? Continue to invest where you have already started to invest. We’ve all heard that the grass is greenest where you water it; this applies to our professional lives too!
  • Increased retention. According to LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends 2020 report, internal promotion improves retention by more than 81%. LinkedIn data shows that employees stay 41% longer at companies that offer internal hiring versus those that do not.

Characteristics of Talent That Should Be Promoted

A holistic review of every individual employee should be implemented on a consistent basis and discussed in weekly one-on-one meetings with direct managers. Keeping tabs on individual performance development is a critical component of managing people and teams, and can ensure that employees are being recognized, invested in, and promoted when and where applicable. There are a few key characteristics of talent that are easily recognizable when understanding potential promotion.


Employees with grit have demonstrated the ability to dig in deep, deliver results, and not give up. When the going gets tough, they go harder, and they often keep others going with them. Those who possess grit focus on improvement versus perfection and utilize failure to their advantage. Grit is defined as the tendency to pursue especially long term goals with passion and perseverance. When employees have grit, you can be certain they will face whatever goals or obstacles lie ahead head on.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a critical trait for many reasons. Studies have proven that there is a link between emotional intelligence, job performance and career success. Ottawa University shared that research published in The American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education shows that “having a strong propensity for emotional intelligence increases the ability to make sound decisions, build and sustain collaborative relationships, effectively deal with stress, and have stronger change management skills.”


Adaptable employees are flexible and functional amidst change, which leads to greater success. These employees have the ability to respond effectively to their work environment and quickly pivot when needed. Remaining calm and having the ability to respond quickly is a key character trait for those in leadership positions. Those with adaptability are able to understand upskilling and reskilling themselves when needed, change their communication style based upon their audience, take on different roles and responsibilities whenever needed, and know when to push and when to let go of certain ideas.

Growth Mindset

Having a growth mindset is a critical characteristic needed for promotion at any level. This skill nurtures innovation and continuous improvement. Employees who demonstrate a growth mindset are open to improving and have the belief that they can only get better and smarter. An employee’s mindset can affect everything from how they receive feedback and the way they manage employees to their willingness to take on new opportunities and projects. Promotion should include a mindset that believes that new skills can be learned at all times with hard work, effort and training.


Collaboration is about working together with others towards a goal. Those who are collaborative break down silos and promote an inclusive working environment for everyone. Collaboration builds trust and promotes diversity of thoughts, ideas, and actions. Collaborators understand that the best idea is often a group effort. Collaboration leads to greater innovation, stronger teams with fewer skill gaps, learning and development opportunities for all, quicker project completion, and greater job satisfaction. Promoting employees who are collaborative and model healthy collaborative behaviors encourages stronger connection across workgroups and promotes diversity and inclusion among project groups.


Employees that are coachable tend to have stronger self awareness, are open to feedback, and will utilize that feedback to improve. Statistics have shown that having coachable employees adds value to the work environment. Coachable employees are passionate about their goals, development and success. They tend to be highly accountable, open and willing to accept change, have a beginner’s mindset, and accept failures and mistakes as learning opportunities. Coaching is a rewarding and challenging experience for people leaders. Identifying and promoting employees that are open and receptive to being coached will translate into a work culture that is open to hearing and implementing feedback at every level of the organization.

How to Promote Talent

Companies conduct capacity planning or workforce planning meetings several times throughout the fiscal year to understand and identify opportunities where roles will be needed and structures will need to be altered in order to support continued growth of the organization. These meetings are the greatest opportunity to understand what roles will be pending and for leadership and managers to begin to identify the candidate profile/persona while also gearing internal candidates towards opportunities to enhance their skill sets ahead of these positions being posted to more strongly align their candidacy for the role. Strategically planning and aligning current talent for upcoming opportunities is the piece where most companies fall short because they are looking for unicorns to tick every box of the candidate profile versus observing real-time, current employee skill and talent to identify where additional (and sometimes quite minimal) coaching and support could result in an internal promotion. As a rule of thumb, the following steps should be considered when filling any role within the company.

Step 1: Evaluate Internal Talent Pool

You have an incredible asset in your current workforce, and it should be evaluated prior to posting a role externally. Allow internal employees the opportunity to showcase their skills, company knowledge, and what they can bring to the role as well as the skill gaps that will need attention to be successful in the role. In the event that an employee applies and is not ready, this should be utilized as an opportunity for their current manager to update their goal and skill-building areas and provide resources for continued growth.

Step 2: Interview Internal Candidates

Hiring managers should have a solid understanding that it is rare to check off every box in one candidate. Identify candidates that are close to your ideal match and work to acknowledge transferable skills and skill gaps. An internal employee that has a few skill gaps will still outperform a new hire more quickly in the role, even while working on identified areas of opportunity. Allowing internal candidates to interview also provides insight into what interviewing for the next level of their career will entail and can help set them up to be successful at a later time.

Step 3: Promote From Within When Possible

It’s almost always possible. Continue to invest in your employee talent pool by doing the following:
  • Create individualized learning goals and fully invest in learning and development at all levels of your organization.
  • Continually assess achievements (at least monthly).
  • Recruit for the long term. Every hire should be assessed beyond the role they will be starting in.
  • Create diverse training programs that don’t just train for one specific role.
  • Look beyond performance and utilize a holistic approach.
We often look outside of our companies to fill vacancies. Investing more time and attention in our current employees will result in saving vital resources while retaining them longer and infusing our organizations with fresh sources of engagement and motivation. There is no price tag for having a fully engaged, motivated and invested staff. Invest in your people and your people will more than return on your investment.
Katie Potter, MAIOP

Katie Potter, MAIOP

Katie is an executive People & Talent leader with strong demonstration of building and scaling HR teams from startups to corporate teams. She has experience in building strong, globally focused culture & inclusion across remote, hybrid and onsite teams with a strong passion for people, engagement, & talent development.
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