One of the most fulfilling accomplishments as a manager is when you help your team members grow and flourish professionally. You’re always thinking about opportunities to challenge an individual, to reward good work, work ethic, and attitude, and to optimize team performance. In some instances, this means that you trust the person with new responsibilities without significantly changing their title. In other cases, you may promote the individual or move them to another role altogether, perhaps even in a different department. Those changes have the potential to result in increased morale and productivity, but obviously, they are not without risks. Before you move forward with a promotion or any other move of an employee to a different role, there are a few things to consider. Let’s take a look.
Evaluate current performance and engagement
In most cases, you will want to change someone’s role in order to both reward great performance and high engagement. Ideally, a move is neither a punishment nor a reward for unwanted behavior. If someone is underperforming on any level, it needs to be addressed first. Now, I have seen situations where after discovering that the reason for bad performance was actually rooted in a misalignment of passions and skills, a change of roles rectified the situation completely. However, I would proceed with caution, because, while you can teach someone how to do something, you can’t teach them how to be. If there’s any inkling that the individual is just not the right cultural fit in terms of attitude, do what you need to do, and, above all, do not move forward with a change of roles.
Do it for the right reasons
A change of roles and/or department must be a win-win situation. I’ve seen managers panic and think that they will lose a team member if they don’t promote them within a specific time frame. But if the individual is not ready or has not displayed the desired work ethic in order to be successful, a promotion will do more harm than good. Be clear and explain the potential trajectory to the person. What do they need to change, what skills do they need to acquire and how? What is your commitment to helping them get there? Also try to gauge what they are willing to do. Of course, if there is simply no need for the role to which someone wants to be moved, you need to be honest about it. While it’s certainly commendable that you contemplate different ways to create the most fulfilling roles for each team member, it is also your responsibility to do what is best for the company, so inventing a new position that is not in alignment with business goals would be unwise.
Consider a switcheroo
If creating a new role doesn’t make organizational or financial sense, consider the opportunity to switch roles between team members. In one of my previous companies, for example, it became apparent that the network administrator and the support manager were stuck in roles that didn’t match their personalities and interests, so we developed a transition plan for a switcheroo. It worked out great. Keep in mind that it doesn’t even always have to be a one to one switch, but it can involve revamping multiple roles. Needless to say, it’s crucial to get everyone’s buy-in. Be sure to have confidential one on one conversations in order to explore the possibilities and potential backlash.
Let people try out
You can’t always predict if someone will be a fit for a specific position. And sometimes, the individual might not know if they would enjoy a different role. Rather than making drastic changes, allow people to try things out. Give them a couple of days per week or maybe even two to four weeks to interact with their potential new department, learn about processes, challenges, and team dynamics, and make it clear that it’s okay to say that it wasn’t what they had envisioned. Don’t push them in any particular direction. Instead, observe. Do they proactively reach out to make sure that the trial happens? How many questions are they asking? Do they seem excited about the opportunity?
Set clear expectations
Clarity is key when it comes to any change of roles. Ensure that the manager has a documented training plan in place and that the job description is comprehensive and fully understood by all parties. It is also useful to not just limit the expectations to the job responsibilities but also with regard to communication. The manager and the individual need to be on the same page with regard to the definition of success and also about what the other person will commit to in order to make the transition a success.
Putting the right people in the right roles is one of your main responsibilities as a manager. Be thoughtful and honest about if a move to a new role is realistic and in the best interest of everyone involved. And, as always, make adjustments when you need to.
What about you? What’s your experience with moving team members?