Recruitment & Retention

How a growth mindset can help your retention and promotion strategies

“Let’s stop coming in with this idea that there’s a playbook for how this should work.”
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KeyAnna Schmiedl

4 min read

The Rolling Stones taught us that while you can’t always get what you want, you just might get what you need. But some recently promoted employees might not be getting what they want or need—and they’re quitting because of it.

Some 29% of employees quit within a month of their first promotion, according to a September report from payroll services provider ADP. Reasons why this is happening may include managers promoting employees just to fill a “box check” or competitors pursuing employees after seeing a promotion on social media, Victoria Grady, associate professor of organizational behavior at George Mason University’s business school, previously told HR Brew.

KeyAnna Schmiedl, chief human experience officer at software company Workhuman, shares how people leaders can use a growth mindset to help retain workers after they’re promoted.

What are your thoughts on the trend of some workers quitting right after being promoted?

Talent who want to be promoted and then quit can be seen as a reaction to a “promotion in arrears.” Leaders say to employees, “Prove it to us. We need to see you do it for six months, for a year, or for 18 months” before acknowledging employees formally with a title change or an official promotion. It’s this idea that if they take on the work and prove they can do it, then they deserve the promotion.

Employees are saying, “You’ve finally acknowledged the work that I’ve been doing for the last year, or more, and now I’m going to take this new, better title and use that to go to an organization that will appreciate me with a title that’s a step above here.” If you’re promoting people in arrears, what you’re saying is that you’re constantly behind as a company. You’re not acknowledging employees’ contributions right now, but retroactively acknowledging.

How can HR leaders stop promotions in arrears within their company?

Promoting in arrears means a promotion based on all of the work that an employee has done prior, and it’s not necessarily forward-looking. Leaders and managers should approach an employee with promotions when they think they’re ready, and they think they have what it takes. I don’t think of it as taking a chance, because you’re saying, “Hey, we’re going to give you that title because we believe that you can do this, and we’re here to support you. We’re here to help you grow. We have a development and growth mindset, where we wrap our arms around you as an organization. We’re here to ensure that you don't fail.”

How can HR leaders embrace a growth mindset?

It’s a mindset shift for the organization. Instead of asking employees what they’ve contributed, how they’ve stretched themselves, and how long they were able to do that before meeting an unknown marker, say to them: “Hey, we see you going after certain opportunities. We see you investing in your learning and development, and we’ve heard really great feedback from your peers.”

Look for an employee’s contributions and the skills that are being acknowledged across the organization…you can start to see they have key strengths that they may not even recognize themselves. Then, you can start to have that conversation together about what their future looks like, whether it’s a stretch opportunity to take on particular assignments, investing in their public speaking abilities, or building out their leadership toolkit.

This also allows for additional flexibility around career development, whether it’s up or down within the corporate structure, or adding more breadth in scope…Not everybody wants to go after what might be the next rung up—sometimes they just want to expand their skill set.

Let’s stop coming in with this idea that there’s a playbook for how this should work, and instead, have that conversation with the individual, so that you’re creating a plan that feels individualized.

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