It’s normally January that sees staff with itchy feet start to think about moving on. Bored or disillusioned with their current employer, their thoughts start to turn to greener pastures over the Christmas / Hogmanay break. New Year, new job?

The question troubling many CEOs is whether, as the lockdown lifts, July will be the new January, as staff aching for a change decide that maybe a new employer is just the change they need. And whether there is pent-up demand for this change amongst a lot of their people. 

So it’s not uncommon at the turn of the year – or the lifting of lockdown – to consider promotions for individuals that are deserving of such, and head off any thoughts of moving elsewhere. 

But you need to be careful about this, especially for those promotions that carry an element of management responsibility, in case a mismatch between your expectations of the new role and theirs differ, in which case you could just be storing up bigger problems for yourself.

The footloose star thinks “Great, at last – the promotion I deserve! Although I don’t understand why they didn’t give me more money. They really don’t understand just how hard I have been working in lockdown. Still, I’m really pleased and now I have this promotion, I’ll see what I can do to help my team mates, who also deserve more money.”

The warning words here here are: “deserve”, “they”, “mates” and “more money”. 

The truth is that in even the very best run organisations, something of a “them” and “us” culture exists, and it’s not uncommon to encounter managers who don’t realise that, post promotion, they are now playing for the “them” team.

Here’s how to get it right.

Promotions that bring management responsibilities are not rewards for past success. The fact is that by taking a good “operator” and giving them managerial tasks – something by definition they are new to – the business is taking something of a punt that it’s going to work out.

So I would explain to the individual(s), at the time the promotion is being discussed, that they have already been rewarded for their past good work (which you expect to continue) in previous pay and bonuses and they are now being given an entirely new opportunity, in which they have yet to prove themselves. 

And if they think being an “operator” is hard work, management is harder still. So they need to prepare themselves for a level of effort they have not hitherto had to put in.

The second part of the homily is to explain that their loyalty now is to the business overall. Not their old team (which they might still be running), their mates or anyone else. They have been elevated to a position on a bigger stage, with wider responsibilities and tougher decisions.

Part three is about explaining the business objectives of the firm, the OKRs progress to date and the gap between where the firm is and where it should be. 

In my experience, rising stars usually have zilch idea about the actual financial state of the business, nor the size of the hill to be climbed to reach the firm’s stretching goals. 

You have to keep pulling them back to business fundamentals until they get used to the idea that superficial, hyperbolic opinions are not the same thing as hard numbers and cool business judgement.

You then have to explain how the business is managed, with meetings, agendas, data and the rest, so they have a framework they can understand and fit into.

Finally, I would resist the temptation to smooth the transition by giving away too many goodies – options, bonuses, etc – up front. I believe that these should be earned by proven success, not handed out before the managing has even begun. Even if part of your motivation is to prevent a domino effect of departures.

And of course, they will need your help and support in getting to grips with their new role and there will be mistakes along the way. It’s all a part of growing up.

As always, there’s much to be done and time is slipping away, so good luck and get cracking.