Here's how to encourage your staffers to identify by good work--not titles.
Years of management have taught me that giving someone a job title or role before he is actually doing the job is a recipe for failure. Promotions I give out are an acknowledgement that an employee has stepped up his role and responsibilities within the organization--not an incentive that gets him to step up.
As a Business Owner
In my work and on my radio show, I have the opportunity to interview hundreds of people a year about how they got their jobs or built their companies. All of them talk about "doing the job" long before receiving the title or the recognition. A common thread is that they worked with or for a mentor who allowed them to take risks and learn new skills. Most insist that without that guidance while working for someone else, they would not have been successful in their own ventures. When investors look at funding a company, the experience of the management team is one of the most important criteria they use.
In my own experience, I started my career at a support desk at IBM and have worked through a wide variety of jobs that give me a unique perspective on how companies operate. I was never "given" a title; I filled a void and was recognized afterward for my contribution.
As a Manager
I assure you managing when to promote is difficult to navigate in today's multi-generational workforce. I have sat across from many Generation Yers in tears because I shared the truth that six months on the job didn't arrant a promotion. I've had similar conversations with seasoned workers who were not skilled at management. While being a strong contributor is appreciated and worth some share in the company's fortunes, it's not as valuable as those who can successfully delegate and direct the work of others.
At the same time, you need to recognize when an employee has stepped into a new role and advocate for her promotion.
As an Employee
Don't wait to be given the job you want. Start creating it today. If you ultimately want to be the boss or work for yourself, you will learn more by venturing out and making some self-directed mistakes (and successes). Take advantage of the safety of your job to take risks and reach for reward. Don't be afraid to celebrate and point out your contributions in ways that will resonate with the company owners. Did you improve the bottom line or contribute to the top? Tying a tangible return to your work makes it far easier to justify an increase in your title and compensation. If you thrive on constantly reaching for the next level but find the company you are working for doesn't applaud this approach, you might want to start to look elsewhere.
The days of standard raises and title inflation based solely on a timeline are not coming back any time soon, if ever. The reality in today's job market is that many eager candidates are willing to work hard, even at a reduced salary, to gain valuable experience that will pay off later. Start looking where you can work today for the job you want tomorrow.
ERIC V. HOLTZCLAW is a serial entrepreneur who has founded multiple startup companies, including one of the first profitable Internet enterprises. His last company appeared on the Inc. 5000 list three years in a row. Eric advises clients on the “whys” of business – why customers buy, why teams work and the all-important “entrepreneurial why”. He is the author of Laddering and his weekly radio show, The 'Better You' Project, shines a spotlight on entrepreneurs' individual business journeys and successes. Learn more about Eric at www.ladderingworks.com or e-mail email@example.com. @eholtzclaw