Defining the Promotion Process

Paige Buchanan, recruitment specialist

Managing a promotion process effectively is one of the ways we can drive success at UCO. There are copious amounts of research that prove just how important it is to not only promote, but to ensure that the process is managed well. According to a study from the Harvard Business Review, when people believe promotions are managed effectively, they’re more than twice as likely to give extra effort at work and plan a long-term future with their company. They’re five times as likely to believe leaders act with integrity which is a key to a high-trust culture. Furthermore, voluntary turnover is half of that of industry peers when the organization has a clear and effective promotion process.  

So how do we ensure that our process is managed in a way that provides transparency, equity and aligns with our values? We have to have a clearly defined process for when the opportunity for a promotion arises. Talent Management is currently working on a promotion process guide, but in the meantime, we wanted to go ahead and share some insight on the process.   

Remember that promotions are a very personal step in one’s career path; an effective process allows leaders to elevate high-performing staff when there is a need. At the same time, an effective process should also show other team members what type of results and behaviors are valued. Promotions should not be given to someone simply because of their seniority. Promotions should be open to qualified individuals who may be interested, not just those who have been around the longest. When reviewing the role, it’s important to ask yourself what skills are needed. Leadership or task-oriented skills? Hard or soft skills? What does the right promotion look like for the particular circumstance?   

We have defined four different paths to a promotion and the situations in which they apply. It’s also important to note that a promotion doesn’t always mean moving someone into a leadership position. Moving from a specialist I to a specialist II also qualifies as a promotion and is a great option for those who are not interested in leadership roles.

Four paths to a promotion 

External or Internal Job Posting 

This path is best when there is a vacancy in your department (expected or unexpected), no succession plan in place, no employee on a development plan for that role and no one you can identify for a direct appointment. We highly recommend prioritizing internal applicants by posting the job to UCO’s internal job board first. Once you’ve given priority to internal candidates for a pre-determined amount of time, you can post the job for external applicants. 

Development Plan 

This path is best when you want to develop a high performing employee in their current role (specialist I to specialist II) or into a leadership position. In addition to promotion planning, development plans can also be used for setting goals and milestones within a position. Read more about development plans here.

Succession Planning 

Succession planning is the future-focused practice of identifying the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to perform certain functions and then developing a plan to prepare multiple individuals to potentially perform those functions. Talent Management is currently working on a formal succession planning process. More information to come.  

Non-Competitive/Direct appointment 

A non-competitive/direct appointment occurs when a leader chooses an internal candidate to fill a leadership position without posting the job. This is the best path when there is an unexpected vacancy or departmental restructuring and have identified an individual who would be a good fit. It’s important to note that the chosen candidate must meet or exceed the required qualifications needed for the role. A direct appointment must be thoughtfully considered and does require documentation and rational for approval.  

The promotion process is one that should be thoughtfully reviewed with all options considered. We want to ensure that for every promotion the process is equitable and transparent to all involved, including those who were not selected. If you want to learn more about the promotion process before we complete the comprehensive guide, then please reach out to our Talent Management team at We will be happy to guide you through the right promotion process for your unique situation.