Every month Prairie Business asks several regional business leaders a question, and they answer with their perspective and insight.

The question we asked for April is: “What do you consider before promoting an employee?”

Below are how four of the region's exemplary business leaders responded:

Sonja Bommersbach, human resource manager, DRN ReadiTech, Ellendale, N.D.

The foundation for us at DRN ReadiTech starts with building and encouraging a continuous learning environment for employees, providing resources to better prepare for future career possibilities.

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Sonja Bommersbach
Sonja BommersbachCourtesy DRN ReadiTech

Our Board of Directors and Leadership Team supports investing in our employees through various training and development opportunities. Through regular conversations with employees, managers and supervisors gain an awareness of the strengths and interests of the employee.

We challenge employees to take the initiative to grow – whether in their current roles or in preparation for other, entirely different roles in the company. This foundation lays the groundwork to aid in promotion decisions within our organization.

Stuart Stein, president, ESCO Manufacturing & Stein Sign Display, Watertown, S.D.

To be considered for a promotion from within, first a team member must be performing at a high level. One of our core values is engaged. One of our definitions of engaged is doing what is expected “and then some.”

Stuart Stein
Stuart SteinCourtesy ESCO Manufacturing & Stein Sign Display

But working hard and producing outstanding results is only a part of the equation. People skills are just as important, especially if the promotion is into a role that oversees other people. Is this person able to communicate effectively in a timely and professional manner? When conflicting viewpoints arise, are they able to participate and facilitate a productive resolution?

One question posed to me as I was seeking my first promotion into a management role was – who is going to be your replacement? Meaning, in order to move into a different role, I had to make sure I was grooming and preparing the person that would take my place as a leader on the current team.

In some cases, that may not be possible, but thinking about the bigger picture and differentiating yourself is part of the process.

Jodi Satkunam, vice president of wallet , Bushel Inc., Fargo, N.D.

Promoting employees is one of my favorite parts of leading teams and a great way to recognize people for their solid performance and ability to flex into a new challenge. The qualities I look for when promoting an employee include 1) a passion for continual learning, 2) a culture champion, and 3) the ability to grow into the new role.

Jodi Satkunam
Jodi SatkunamCourtesy Bushel Inc.

A passion for continual learning includes not only domain-specific knowledge, but many times hobbies and personal activities that lend themselves well to overall employee health and broadened perspectives. One example may be a passion for stock trading, which provides the employee a broader economic view and insight into how other industries solve similar problems.

I’m passionate about culture and feel it’s important to consider employees that champion a positive culture; they are humble, treat others with respect, and have an appetite to take calculated risks. A team of good people will outperform a team of experts every day and reduce friction in the workplace.

Lastly, I look for an employee’s proven track record of high performance with demonstrated nimbleness in taking on more demanding responsibilities.

Chad Surprenant, PE, chief strategy officer, ISG, Sioux Falls, S.D.

Everyone likes to be recognized and promoted, but there are some items to consider first. Potentially being promoted out of an employee’s strong suit and into a role which doesn’t fit their strengths is a concern learned from the book, The Peter Principle. Additionally, some ask for a promotion when what is truly desired is additional compensation. Honest conversations regarding a potential new compensation package can help address this legitimate concern.

Chad Surprenant
Chad SurprenantCourtesy ISG

When an employee is really crushing their role, it is certainly worth looking into a promotion. The ability, desire, and attitude of the employee is essential, but attitude will likely drive how they assimilate and develop into the new role.

A promotion also usually means leading people, and there are some simple assessments that can help employers understand if an employee is fit for a new leadership role. ISG uses Strengths Finders with a high level of success.

Ultimately, to maximize a team you progress people into the right roles while providing aspiring career challenges. For some, this means climbing the ladder, and for others it means being the best they can be in their current role. As a leader and mentor, you need to assist and guide.