Forget slogans and posters. Forget mission statements. Forget culture decks. A survey of over 400,000 people across the U.S. found that when employees believe promotions are managed effectively, they are more than two times as likely to give extra effort at work -- and to plan for having a long-term future with their company.

But wait, there's more: When employees believe promotions are managed effectively, they are more than five times as likely to believe their leaders act with integrity.

The result? At those companies, employee turnover rates are half that of other companies in the same industry. Productivity, innovation, and growth metrics outperform the competition. For public companies, stock returns are almost three times the market average.

All of which makes perfect sense at an intuitive level, as well. Promote your buddies and employees quickly realize that productivity doesn't matter -- what matters is establishing personal and not just professional relationships. Promote on the basis of seniority and employees quickly realize that displaying informal leadership skills doesn't matter -- what matters is just putting in the time.

Promote the guy whose ethics are in question and employees quickly realize that what they accomplish is all that matters -- regardless of how it gets accomplished.

As a leader -- and as a company -- what you say certainly matters, but what you do is everything.

So don't waste time crafting that culture deck (you secretly hope will go viral) until your promotion process truly reflects your goals, both for your company and your employees.

Take a step back and look at the criteria you use; instead of focusing on "qualifications," determine what the perfect person in the job will actually do.

After all, you aren't filling a position; you're putting the right person into a job. You don't promote titles; as Dharmesh Shah, the co-founder of HubSpot, says, "You need a doer of stuff that needs to get done." 

If teamwork matters most, promote the best team players. If productivity matters most, promote your most effective employees. 

If getting the right things done matters most, promote the people who get the right things done.

Otherwise, all those "stated values" are just empty promises. 

And everyone in your company knows it -- and so does your bottom line.

Published on: Jan 4, 2018