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The 9 Keys to Promoting Internally

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“We want someone that fits our mold,” says John Cole, owner of Cole’s Collision Center, a five-location MSO in the Eastern New York area, when speaking about managerial candidates.

So, someone that’s already familiar with the company, with its value system and processes, is ideal. That’s why Cole prefers to promote from within and grow his employees versus hiring an external candidate. That doesn’t mean he won’t do it though.

“If I don’t have someone that’s a good fit, I’ll look elsewhere,” he says.

With a manager and an assistant manager at each of his shops, Cole estimates that 45 percent of the time, those positions have gone to people who are already employed within the company. In fact, when he hires people, he has his or her future in mind.

Cole shares his secrets to finding the right person to promote to management and how shop owners can make the process easier on themselves by preparing for that eventual hire that position ahead of time.

 

Hire the Player, Not the Position.

In order to make a successful internal promotion of a candidate, that person has to already be a quality employee—and that starts at the initial hiring process. Whenever Cole makes a hire, he makes sure that person is ethical and honest.

“I can train a person to fit the position if they have the right personality traits, but I can’t train them to have those personality traits,” Cole says. “Employee traits outweigh experience. I’d rather have someone with a great attitude that’s willing to learn and lead.”

 

Groom for Upward Mobility.

“When I hire estimators, I’m often looking for people that have the qualifications that I look for in a manager,” Cole says.

By hiring people with the necessary skills, Cole can groom them for a management position down the line. If an estimator shows potential, he or she is paired with a current manager to learn the ropes.

“We identify things that individuals can do well and then they’re mentored [by someone in that position]” Cole says.

This is a tactic that he applies on the shop floor as well. Cole’s Collision Center has a mentorship program where people who are interested in the field are paired up with a technician. By doing this, Cole is creating a pipeline of talent for his shop.

 

Identify Key Qualities—Then Bring Them Out.

There may be someone that has all of the qualities and capabilities of a manager, but he or she has never thought of it or doesn’t feel capable, says Cole.

“Give them certain responsibilities without letting them know your intentions,” Cole says.

Once the person has completed the tasks, let him or her know that they are already performing the duties of the manager, Cole says.

“It will give them confidence,” he says.

 

Reward Loyalty.

Another reason that Cole prefers to promote internally is because it is a way to thank those employees that have been with him for a period of time.

“An an employee that comes to work every day on time and gives 100 percent, they absolutely deserved to be moved up,” Cole says.

Also, an employee that’s grown with the company is more likely to stay long term than an external candidate, Cole says.

 

Identify Those That Want It.

“I have a couple of very strong employees that do not want to be managers,” Cole says. “Some people are satisfied with where they are.”

That’s why communication is so important. Cole talks with all of his employees about their goals, and because of that, he’s able to learn who is interested in becoming a manager and who is not.

“Some of them just don’t want that responsibility, even if it comes with a pay bump,” he says. “I can’t make them want to move up.”

Cole not only tried to find the right candidates for the job, but the right job for the person who wants it.

 

Know What You Have.

When Cole hires a manager internally, he already knows what he or she is capable of because he’s been testing them out all along. If he’s considering someone for management, he observes how he or she handles themself in certain situations and how that person interacts with the rest of the staff, so he already has a pretty good idea of how that employee will perform once promoted.

 

Make Intentions Clear.

Cole says that the announcement to promote an internal candidate shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone— if you’ve gone about it the right way.

“The staff can see the writing on the wall, they know what’s coming,” Cole says.

From the beginning, a path to management should be discussed between the owner and the candidate, and the rest of the staff should also know based on the actions that you’re taking with that employee.

“We’re looking at a person from the start,” Cole says. “We’re a tight-knit group, so we get feedback on how they work.”

Cole says that by discussing his choice with the rest of the staff and making his intentions clear, he doesn’t see any resentment from others when a staff member is promoted to management.

 

Monitor Progress.

Once the decision has been made to move an employee into a management position, Cole says it’s important to make his or her duties and the benchmarks that need to hit very clear.

Cole’s managers are responsible for the entire store, which includes KPIs, sales, and the employees. That manager is being measured all of the time based off of that data.

“If there’s an issue, we know about it and we’re talking to them weekly or biweekly,” Cole says.

Cole says that new managers are monitored closely for a couple of months. Usually, Cole says, it just takes some training or a push in the right direction to get them back on track. The reason for that? Before promoting the person to manager, Cole tests that employee out and has him or her perform the majority of the responsibilities that they’ll take on as manager.

“If you have a winner and the employee is willing to try, it’s just a matter of coaching them a little bit and then weaning yourself off,” Cole says.

 

When it’s Not Right, Make a Change.

However, that doesn’t always work. If, after a few weeks of additional support and training, the new manager still isn’t catching on, it’s OK to admit that he or she was not the right choice. Cole says a few of his managers have been moved back down, and they’re very happy in the positions that they’re currently in. If it’s not the right fit, you’ll know, Cole says.

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