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Moving Out, Moving Up

One of the advantages of working for a small business is wearing several different hats, learning the business inside and out. If that’s all you’ve ever done, you may not even realize the valuable perspective you have; you’ve always been able to see the big picture. What a difference from your counterparts in large corporate environments who sometimes cannot see the forest for the trees. As a team member in a large corporate hierarchy, the individual often becomes an expert, but in a very narrowly focused area.

However, the advantage your corporate counterpart has is the potential for career growth without ever having to leave the comfort of home. Large organizations naturally have a variety of opportunities for career growth or promotion, which typically means moving up in terms of responsibility and compensation. In a small business, the opportunities to “post for a higher job grade” are not presented in black and white. The job description describing your next position likely hasn’t yet been written.

In small businesses, growth opportunities exist for those with an entrepreneurial spirit, for those who can envision the future and what the business might become. You may be the one with the vision of what you can become, and you may have to sell that vision to top management. On the other hand, sometimes, you just have to move out if you want to move up. And that’s okay. Not every job in every organization has a career path.

Working with small business clients, I often hear from managers who are concerned about losing a support staff member who has mastered his or her current role and is now bored. These employees may want to stay with the company, but they believe they should be moving up, getting promoted, making more money. The manager will say something like, “We really need to find promotional opportunities for people like so-and-so or else they’re going to leave.” Another common sentiment, “It doesn’t seem right that she has to leave the company in order to move up to the next career level.”

Typically, these are long-time employees who are well respected for their extensive organizational and job knowledge, and they’re not easily replaced. As a manager, it’s natural to want to do everything you can to hang onto these employees. When legitimate internal growth opportunities exist, that’s the right thing to do. But trying to hang on to a beloved employee who has truly “outgrown” his or her current role, can be a big mistake, for you and for the employee.

Here are some common hanging-on strategies to which managers often succumb:
  • Create a new job title for the same work the employee has been doing all along. You’ll recognize this strategy by the word “senior” in front of the old title or by the Roman numeral following the old title, e.g., Administrative Assistant III. This does very little to re-engage an employee who has plateaued.
  • Re-write the employee’s job description, adding more of the same types of responsibilities. This doesn’t create a higher-level of work. It simply makes more work!
  • Continue to provide salary increases regardless of how long the individual has been in the role. Every job has a maximum market value. If you don’t know what that number is in your salary market, find out. When you continue to increase someone’s pay beyond what is market competitive, you create in the employee unrealistic expectations regarding what his or her skills are worth, which may be a disservice to the employee in the long run.
  • String the employee along with vague promises of what’s to come. Unless you know, with a fair amount of certainty, of upcoming job growth opportunities don’t open your mouth. You don’t want to risk ending on a sour note what has been a positive relationship.
As a manager, be proactive when you discover one of your employees is coming to the end of the life cycle of his or her current role. Do everything you can to discover or create legitimate growth opportunities in the organization for the employee, even if it means the individual will no longer report to you. Most importantly, when it’s time for an employee to leave the organization in order to better himself or herself professionally, don’t selfishly try to hang on. Be a good mentor and manager; wish the individual well and put your energy into making the person’s transition out of the organization as smooth as possible for everyone.

---Jennifer Blake, The Centre Group

Posted: 11/10/2014 7:30:00 AM | with 0 comments
Filed under: business, employees, growth, management, promotions, small

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Your business may be small, but that doesn't mean that your impact can't be huge! The Greater Memphis Chamber's Small Business Council serves to encourage, support, recognize and be a resource to small- and medium-sized businesses in the Memphis area. Here, our talented panel of contributors will present big ideas that could make a huge difference to your small business. And don't be afraid to ask questions ... no matter how small.

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