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Great post Chris and so true! I might add that promotions that happen too soon are used for retaining employees in countries that are experiencing tight labor markets. It's not just a problem for the company that promotes, but also a company that is interviewing external candidates. Oftentimes these companies make assumptions about a candidate's skills/achievements based on the person's title when in actuality the candidate doesn't have skills that match the title. Companies that hire them end up with employees that can't do the job they were hired for. Another example of a lose-lose situation.

Big topic well summarized, Chris. The Peter Principle is always a threat, but it is remarkable how often candidates "not quite ready" prove perfectly qualified when "prematurely" promoted due to some emergency need. Biggest other issue remains the reluctance of some firms to trim less valuable tasks from the old job in order to permit concentration on the more vital responsibilities of the new post; that can spoil good promotions.

This may be the idealist in me but it would be easier if the manager and employee had a career progression plan already worked. I mean detailed technical/functional skills as (my opinion) those are the reasons people get promoted.

Detailed plans so that an employee knows when he/she has mastered the skills necessary to be promoted ---- no wishing, quessing, pouting, grousing.

In my experience, Jacque, the availability of an open "slot" is also essential. If the budget or other organizational needs do not permit an upgrade, the personal human capital talent of the incumbent may remain limited to lesser applications than their skills might fit. That's one of the major drawbacks of "job"-based environments versus skill-based systems.

Still, all well-designed HR programs will indeed define the entry requirements for higher pay eligibility. That's also essential to allow cross-disciplinary training that can accelerate both developmental and promotional growth. But mere possession of the KSAs doesn't guarantee "promotion" or "progression" nor does either always come come in the shape originally envisioned.

Of course, Chris may have other thoughts....

Hmmm . . . I've never worked with companies that require a "slot" in order to promote. If an employee is ready they're promoted. Sometimes promotions can only occur at focal review time --- but sometimes not --- can occur anytime. So I haven't run into the situations you describe. I'm also not suggesting merely have a skill ---- it's the demonstrated ability of "doing" it not having it.

I've been remiss in checking in on the comment traffic to this posting today, but unfortunately we had something of a "technical black hole" at work earlier today (let's put the blame for that on the Heartbleed Bug for now . . .).

Whether your system requires a "slot" (position-based) or skills (person-based), promotions are a management tool, that aligns with and supports the organization's human capital strategy. Consequently, promotions (should) occur when the employee can contribute additional value, and when the organization has higher level work available to be performed.

So, which system is preferable? There’s an old saying that, “somewhere between the loan shark and the bank lies the truth”. Similarly, either system used in the extreme will likely prove to be unworkable for the long-term. Therefore, not unlike promotion timing, "the sweet spot" between the two systems probably lies somewhere in the middle?

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