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Why do employees quit soon after being promoted?

Slow appraisal processes and lack of ample support can drive people away

A goal for most employees is to get a shiny new promotion or a raise, a tangible vote of appreciation from their company. Then why would someone quit their job immediately after getting the recognition? Surabhi Yadav, who left her job of four years with a PR firm in May 2022, had various reasons, including being strung along for a while with the promise of an elevated role. The 32-year-old felt constantly overlooked when it came to getting a promotion, though, according to her, she was already handling several prominent accounts, and was sought out internally by colleagues, across levels, for her digital marketing expertise. When the promotion was promised, her manager put it on hold, citing pandemic-related delays, even though others around her had received them.

When Yadav did finally get a salary hike, she was long ready to move on, using it to leverage a new opportunity with a multinational, her current workplace. “Everyone was surprised that I was leaving, since I was about to be promoted,” she says. “But I just did not care anymore at this point.”

While Yadav’s decision was due to a long simmering dissatisfaction, it is not unusual for people to leave jobs shortly after getting a hike or a promotion.

RECOGNITION MATTERS

In fact, a recent US report by ADP Research Institute, which studied 1.2 million workers from 2019-22, found that 29% leave their jobs within a month of being promoted.

Various reasons could account for this, including employees leveraging promotions to negotiate a stronger package and/or role at a new company. It may also be due to an organisation’s sluggish or poor promotion practices, which string employees along with the promise of a raise or elevated position, or offer promotions only when someone expresses dissatisfaction or mentions another job offer—all indicating a lack of investment in employees’ continuous growth and development.

Anupama Mehra, 52, who heads an educational institution in Goa, left her previous job five years ago—just after her former employer offered a promotion and raise. “Nothing was happening at that point in my job. I had already started getting other offers,” says Mehra. “When the promotion came, I still quit because it came late and only after I voiced my probable move.”

Throwing in a promotion as a quick fix, to make an employee stay when they express unhappiness or mention moving on, does not inspire long-term loyalty.

“This tendency often stems from a lack of proactive and structured promotion policies within companies,” says Swati Bhargava, co-founder of coupon and cashback app CashKaro, and affiliate marketing platform EarnKaro. In her experience, organizations face challenges in establishing robust promotion frameworks because they may overlook the importance of continuous employee growth and development, muddling instead through rigid hierarchies, unclear career paths, or inconsistent performance evaluations.

At CashKaro, she claims, “we have structured our promotion policies to be an integral part of our appraisal cycles, ensuring a timely and fair approach to recognizing merit and dedication.” Some of the policies and measures include designations being reviewed every appraisal cycle so that they are not overlooked, and placing employees within one of four annual appraisal cycles, to prevent a long wait for their reviews.

Manu Saigal, director (general staffing), at Adecco India, an HR solutions company, acknowledges the pressing challenges of employee quitting post promotion. “This disrupts workflows, impacts knowledge retention, and escalates hiring costs,” she says.

WEIGHING THE OPTIONS

Another reason for recently promoted employees to jump ship is being overwhelmed in their new positions because they do not receive the required training and support.

“Few organisations have plans in place to groom their people for future leadership roles,” says Mehra, who hasn’t seen enough leadership grooming opportunities come her way in a career of almost 30 years. She’s invested in her own training by studying and paying from her pocket for courses and workshops. “A proper training path must be made available to employees,” she says.

Organisations may also falter when it comes to supporting an employee’s work-life balance. Delhi-based Rohan Singh, 27, quit his job at a consulting firm in the development sector in May this year. Singh has always prioritized time for family and his passion, music, and his now former employer reassured him that they would help him strike a good work-life balance. “But as things grew, I had to compromise,” recalls Singh. “I spoke to my manager, who said that with more work, more responsibility and time would be expected of me.”

With a hectic work schedule and music commitments, Singh’s health suffered. “I was doing well at work and was about to be promoted. But I knew that meant more money and less time for my passion.” He decided to resign, and now works as an independent consultant, which has proven to be financially lucrative and allows more time for his health, family and personal pursuits.

INVESTING IN EMPLOYEES

To retain employees, Adecco India’s Saigal offers three suggestions “Organisations need to foster a growth mindset, emphasise continuous learning, and provide development opportunities to promote long-term career growth.”

“There are important lessons here for employers. But the biggest may be this: Take promotions seriously, especially promotions to management. Reward employees not only with a new title, but with the training and support they need to succeed, and a salary that reflects their new role. Especially if they weren’t earning very much before,” writes Bloomberg editor and opinion columnist, Sarah Carmichael Green, in an October article on how overdue promotions drive away good employees. “Employers who string along ambitious employees with promises of advancement and opportunity, but only follow through when those workers get an outside offer, are setting themselves up for disappointment.”

CashKaro’s Bhargava agrees, stressing the importance of facilitating continuous learning and development opportunities post-promotion for employees.

“This can include mentorship programmes, specialised training, or access to resources that aid in skill enhancement and adapting to new responsibilities,” she says. “Encouraging open dialogue and feedback mechanisms between managers and employees is also instrumental in addressing challenges or concerns that arise post promotion.”

Saigal further emphasises the importance of cultivating a culture of employee engagement and recognition, along with tailored retention strategies like flexible work arrangements and competitive compensation.

“Effective communication, including regular discussions on career goals and addressing concerns promptly, is key,” she says. “Also, conducting exit interviews and analysing turnover data can provide valuable insights for continuous improvement in talent retention strategies.”

Surabhi Yadav, too, highlights the importance of growth opportunities.

“The ideal way to reward and retain your people is to develop and support them. People may still leave, but those who stay are still important,” she says. “You have to give people reason not to leave.”

Reem Khokhar is a Delhi-based writer.

 

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