Doing the hard yards: promotion based on experience or merit?

Today, I found out that a Director at my new company is in her very early twenties. In the past few years, she’s built a team from just herself, to 7 direct reports, and a number of dotted lines scattered around the globe.

I’ve gotta say, I felt inspired. Slightly miffed, that in the decade I’ve got on her I hadn’t managed to rocket my way to the top, but that feeling was more to do with my achievements than any jealousy or misgivings. I found it absolutely inspirational that my company had recognised her talents, and given her the support she needed to make an even bigger success of what she’s doing.

Getting promoted can happen for a variety of reasons, but there seems to be a lot of companies out there who are still sticking to the old formula of “you do the hard yards, plus achieve all these objectives, and then we can talk”. And by hard yards, I’m referring to years.

It’s a disheartening notion to think that you have to do a certain number of months or years in a role before you can be considered for promotion, but that’s the sad truth of the corporate world. Even a shining star will rarely be promoted before a minimum time has passed at a certain level – and the time spent in roles tends to lengthen as they become more senior.

Sure, companies need to make sure that you can perform consistently at the level you’re at before they give you more. But too often the discussion revolves around “once you’ve been in role for a year / eighteen months / a couple of years, we’ll assess”. Why a time based judgement? Why not based on project delivery? Why not just sometimes recognise that a person is performing way beyond the satisfactory level in role, and is more than capable of the next step up?

Is it because as we get older we feel less secure? We either value experience more than raw talent and gut feel, or learning on the job; or we just find it hard to take orders from someone perceived to be significantly younger than us because we’re suspicious of how much they could possibly know from their short time in “the real world”?

Whatever the case, I don’t believe in making people do hard yards, pay their dues, or any other expression which purely means: making them prove their worth by length of service in a role.

What I do believe in is hard work, and the right attitude. I believe in nurturing talent, recognising an asset that could thrive given the opportunity, rewarding those based on their results, and empowering them to do the best they can because they feel valued, and that their efforts lead to great things.

Because isn’t that the kind of world you want to live in?

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Image courtesy of stock.xchng

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One thought on “Doing the hard yards: promotion based on experience or merit?

  1. Some companies simply lack vision and just figure that slogging ahead and making everyone slave away is enough. Sometimes that actually works. More often, though, it’s been my experience that success happens when hard work meets inspiration and trust, much as you have said.

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