Goal Setting and Promotions at Work

Actual Comments on Why Employees Leave:

“Give the operators a list of goals so they can know what has to be done in order to get a promotion, and not just need years of experience to get a promotion.”

The Solution

This comment paints a picture of an ambitious employee in an entry-level position interested in moving up the ladder.

It sounds like workers in this particular company or department are not getting promotions at work based on performance, leadership or capability; that promotions are instead based on strict seniority, and infrequently awarded.

In part, this hire decided to leave the company because staying would have meant working in the same role at starting wages for a number of years.

That is a policy issue and arguably a structural issue as well.

This worker might have been retained by the company had it been policy to offer well-performing entry-level workers intermediate raises not tied to promotions.

Another solution is structural and involves promoting employees based on merit and not purely on “dues paid” or “time spent.”

Let’s look at how the military, which has a constant influx of entry-level employees in the way of fresh recruits, handles this issue:

Before being promoted to sergeant—a position of significant responsibility—enlisted Marines are first promoted to the more widely attainable ranks of private first class, then lance corporal and then corporal. These are intermediate steps with relatively minor additional responsibility and are awarded based on a combination of “time spent” and pure performance and leadership ability. The existence of these ranks starts a grooming process that boosts morale, rewards talent and surely creates a better pool of sergeant candidates.

Young Marines promoted to PFC, lance corporal and corporal, know that they’re on the right track with their employer and that their progress is being noted.

So, consider: How much more likely to re-enlist is a promising young lance corporal than the same promising Marine who was never rewarded, even in a small way, with a raise, recognition and more responsibility?

The answer seems plain.

(And no one has ever suggested that PFCs, lance corporals or corporals have bloated the infantry with bureaucratic middle management.)

The final aspect of the comment from the exiting employee involves a communications issue:

The former employee spells out quite clearly that management did not provide clear expectations about what markers are used to assess, evaluate and ultimately offer promotions to workers.

Lots of employees want to know how they can get ahead. They’re motivated to complete goal setting at work.

Let’s face it. For everyone, upward mobility is important. But especially for driven and ambitious personalities since they will leave situations where promotions and raises seem remote or unlikely.

Regular face-to-face evaluations and check-ins with direct supervisors, especially with new, entry-level employees, demonstrate caring and interest and gives ambitious new hires the information and feedback they need to rise in the ranks.

(This blog post is brought to you by HSD Metrics, an exit interview company that helps companies reduce employee turnover by providing automated reference checking, exit interviews, and by measuring employee retention. The comments from exiting employees that are featured in this blog are collected from actual exit interviews conducted using ExitRight®, HSD Metrics’ exit interviewing service. If you are interested in learning more, contact us today. Because we place the privacy of our clients at the top of our priority list; the names of all involved parties are kept completely confidential.)