Most businesses have a mix of employees with different levels of potential.

The key is for management to identify employees with the core skills, right attitude and drive to take on more responsibilities. They should be willing and ready to step up for short-term positions or projects with little to no coercion required.

Use these short-term positions and projects as a "trial" to create a pool of tried and tested future leaders. Importantly this "trial" also helps de-risk your business from promoting unsuitable employees.

The process of promoting employees can be a double-edged sword. Promote too soon, and you risk asking an employee to perform tasks outside their current level of ability, leading to demotivation and even resignation. 

However, wait too long, and talented employees will not be noticed and seek career advancement opportunities elsewhere.

So how can managers know when an employee is ready for a promotion?

1. Notice Employees Who Ask For More Responsibility

If you have employees asking for more responsibility, this is a great sign they feel ready and motivated to step up. 

However, just because they ask, doesn't mean they are ready for more responsibility. Management needs to carefully consider how much and how quickly to give an employee during their "trial" and then watch to see how the employee performs.

2. People Skills

You can teach most technical skills to anyone with the right attitude and eagerness to learn. However, people skills are different. 

Whilst you can nurture people skills over time, some employees naturally have strong people skills. They can communicate well with different types of people and help keep teams happy and motivated. 

Keep an eye out those these type of employees as they are likely to be leaders in the future.

3. Great in Crisis

Even the best-run business has moments of crisis. Customer complaints, technical issues, supplier errors: concerns can come in many forms. 

Some employees will freak out at these moments and need a calm leader to help set them in the right direction. 

Others will naturally appear to take charge and lead the team to safer waters. Employees that are calm and collected at these times are likely candidates for promotional opportunities.

4. Crave Feedback

High potential employees love feedback, be it good or bad. They want to grow, learn, improve and understand how they can help the business. 

Suppose you notice employees who proactively ask for feedback and are more engaged when conducting performance reviews, this is a great sign they have potential.

5. You Trust Them

Good managers have a sixth sense of employees they can trust with difficult tasks or responsibility. 

Chances are, if you trust them and they continue to deserve this trust, you will sleep well at night knowing they are handling more responsibilities.

6. They’re Willing to Stay Back

An employee who chooses to work back from time to time without expecting an extra reward is a massive signal of their commitment and that they will do whatever it takes to help complete the task and ensure the company succeeds.

7. Self Management

Employees that can manage themselves are likely to have the core abilities required to handle others. 

If you don't need to micromanage their daily performance and simply trust them to use their initiative to get tasks done, this is an excellent sign of potential.

8. Proactive Learners

Employees who are consistently trying to improve their skillset and are genuinely interested in staying on top of new technology in the industry are sure that they're proactive learners. 

It's these types of people that will help lead your team to victory and keep in touch with your customers and industry.

9. Sixth Sense & Educated Decisions

Completing a job or task is one thing; however being able to read situations, acknowledge sentiment or voice gut feelings are star attributes in leaders. But only if they can then make educated decisions and act accordingly. 

Watch for employees that seek out definitive answers from these sixth senses. You don't want to promote a reactive employee and acts on a rumour or every suggestion that’s thrown their way.

Instead, a valuable employee should explore the issue, search out truth, fact or value vs rumour, and then address the situation to find a suggested solution.

10. Seek Support When Needed

Knowing when to ask for assistance, and not wasting too much time trying to work it out, is when a manager knows it's time to call for support or expert advice. 

Look for staff that ask you for support in practical situations and promptly. Then observe; did they learn from the support provided, or did they come up against a similar problem and need help again. 

Management should always be looking for talent in their workforce to identify those who are ready to step up so that whenever possible promotions can happen internally. 

Internal promotion builds a better business from the inside out and results in long term employees that feel valued and appreciated.

The tips above will help you know what to look out for in your employees and get the timing right to ensure high performers are rewarded and can see they can potentially have a long-term career path. For more helpful reading, check out this post on when and how to promote your employees.

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