shutterstock_70419277I met Tom Foster, author of Hiring Talent, and heard him talk about management myths related to getting the right people in the right jobs. He said that managers spend too much time trying to climb inside the head of their employees to determine if they can handle the responsibilities of being promoted to higher level jobs.

A better method, he asserts, is to stop playing amateur psychologist, and instead give the employee a higher level project (work similar to what they would do in a new role), and wait to see how the employee performs.

Employees will give clues as to whether or not they can handle a higher level job by how they perform on the higher level project. He said when you pass the project (“the ball”)  to the employee, you’ll see these signs when they are ready to move up:

1. They won’t give the ball back.

2. They won’t drop the ball.

3. They will carry the ball to the end goal.

Just because the person is great in a current position doesn’t mean the employee will be great at a higher level position. It may be that the employee is in the right position right now. However, if you are not promoting a capable employee, you are taking a risk that the employee may find a higher level job outside of your company.  If you are on the fence about giving a promotion to a higher level job to one of your employees, try giving a higher level project to the employee at his or her current level, and use the employee’s performance as an indicator of his or her true capability.

Want to know more?

Foster said it was critical to not only understand the work that is being done day in and day out at your organization, but to also study the different levels of the work within your organization. He talked about a scientific measuring stick “Time Span” (Time Span Handbook – 1964) – the length of time a person can effectively work into the future without direction, using discretionary judgment, to achieve a specific goal. He believes that time span, technical knowledge/skill, interest/passion and habits are the best indicators of an employee’s capabilities.

For more information, read Hiring Talent.