Additional employee responsibility can be your succession planning secret weapon.


Promoting an employee into a new position can be an excellent motivator—or somewhat of a risk.

If that person succeeds, your management team, hopefully, has helped keep the individual engaged. If the person fails in the new role, you face a difficult situation.

You can move the employee to another role—either the person’s previous job or a different position—within the company. Chances are high, however, that the employee could become frustrated and may even leave.

Even if a bruised ego isn’t an issue, stagnation can have a particularly negative effect on employee satisfaction. Nearly half of workers who were planning on leaving their job last year blamed their exit on an inability to progress from their current position, according to CareerBuilder.

A lack of promotional opportunities is the second most popular reasons employees leave an organization—following closely behind opportunities to earn more money elsewhere—according to a study from nonprofit human resources association WorkdatWork.

Companies that don’t want to uproot a newly promoted employee also have a second option. You can keep the person in place, in a position that isn’t a fantastic fit.

But you then risk productivity losses and dissatisfaction among other staff members; favoritism and seemingly unfair promotions can obliterate workplace morale, according to the National Business Research Institute.

The Alternate Responsibility Route

A different approach may help prevent either scenario from occurring: Test the waters first to see how a worker may perform in a new, more challenging position.

While not an outright promotion, additional employee responsibility can be billed as a reward for valued performance. An increased responsibility reward lets both the employer and the individual gauge how a new position that includes even more tasks might work out.

The pay-off can be two-fold. You’ll get to see if the employee can handle taking more on (or needs additional training or time); and, by publicly rewarding a hard-working team member with a new, important task, you’ll also be reinforcing positive behavior you’d like to see from the rest of the staff.

From the employee’s perspective, the responsibility reward can seem like a vote of support—which, in  many ways, it is. Employees who can feel accountable for their work generally feel more empowered and engaged, according to

Do Your Employee Skill Due Diligence

Before you consider offering additional employee responsibility, it can help to conduct some research. The Harvard Business Review recommends taking a look at previous performance to determine if an employee will work well in a new role, and obtaining input from coworkers who have worked directly with the employee in different ways.

Their feedback may reveal that the worker is currently performing some of the tasks (and doing them well).

Look for strong leadership and communication skills and attitude in promotion candidates, which can be indicators of future success in a management or increased responsibility role, according to Entrepreneur. Examine how the individual has traditionally supported and engaged other workers, and how the person solves problems, to informally assess whether or not the employee seems primed for more new obligations.

Be careful, though, to make the new responsibility trial run fairly briefly — or you could risk employee burnout. Saddling workers with long-term significant additional responsibilities can harm employee engagement, productivity, and retention, according to Workforce magazine.

In some cases, you may find out the employee needs more time to grow into a new position—or that the employee doesn’t really want one.

If you determine an employee is not ready for a new role, Inc.’s “How to Let Down an Employee Who Isn’t Ready for a Promotion” can help you diplomatically tell the employee—and keep a valued worker on staff.

For additional tips on what factors influence employee satisfaction, check out our “Is Salary Intelligence Everything?” blog post.