The Promotion Pyramid

by Brian Bacon, Director, Engagement Services
Published September 15, 2022

Welcome to the rarified air of starting wages from $22 - $25 per hour. The playing field of salary/benefits/sign on bonuses to entice employees into an organization just went up again BUT everybody is still playing from the same play book. Add in that “The Great Resignation” (that also negatively impacts the potential employee pool) is being driven by a desire for people to find “something better” than they have now, the question becomes how can a company possibly differentiate itself enough to compete in a wage bidding war to attract the elusive, much needed and rare commodity, the new employee? Very simply, present candidates with the alternative of a long- term career rather than a short-term job. Show them their potential future along with the present reality. Interviews have shown that employees are looking for long term potential more than short-term reality. After the uncertainty of the Covid-19 experience, employees are wanting emotional, career and employment stability. Potential candidates want to know the answer to a variation of the interview question, “where do you want to be in 5 years.”  Now they are asking, “where can I be in 5 years?” as they seek what options are available to them.

Most companies are not structured in a way that is enticing to an individual looking for a career (whether they are outside looking in or on inside seeking employment growth elsewhere). Companies have historically been designed like a pyramid - wide at the bottom (many employees) and narrow (to a very few “Management” positions) at the top. A pyramid style organization severely limits where an employee can move and generally only into “management.” An additional complicating factor is that many employees do not want a “management” position – they really like what they are doing but would still like to have an opportunity to earn more, be better recognized and have the potential for advancement.

Companies can significantly differentiate themselves by restructuring their Internal promotion ladders. Rather than having a system that promotes into a very few management positions, implement a “Dual Ladder System” where each job category has multiple levels of promotions without having to move into management. Rather than production to supervisor/manager, create the option of Production, Production II, Production III, and Production Associate as a parallel path to the leadership track with each level assuming more OBJECTIVE and MEASURABLE responsibility or autonomy. This thinking can apply to all job descriptions, opening up multiple possibilities for advancement and the accompanying benefits that go along with a promotion of any kind.

Another differentiating feature of a Dual Ladder System is to have a cross training program in place to allow individuals having the desire and capability to move across disciplines. Cross-training increases the value of an employee to the company it opens new career possibilities AND allows him or her to step into other areas when needed. Allowing an individual to experience other jobs can also find the position where someone will be the happiest and, therefore, the most productive, allowing us to practically identify the right individual for the right job. The benefits to a Dual Ladder System are not limited to enticing new employees into your organization. A Dual ladder system significantly increases employee retention, increases independence, success, creativity, productivity, engagement, and profits. A Dual Ladder System can be the core of an improved company culture by building a culture on employees and their welfare. 

Restructuring to implement a Dual Ladder System is not as complicated, intimidating, or time consuming as it may seem. The Employers’ Association has the resources to help. The key to accomplishing this improved system is a Compensation Plan. A Compensation Plan outlines a dual ladder system in simple terms that anyone, either internally or externally, can view and perceive that a company’s culture is committed to employee improvement, promotions from within and employee retention. Please contact us for more ideas and to help with implementation at 616-689-1167 or – we are here FOR YOU and we can help.