Random Promotions Increase Productivity

Italian social scientist, Alessandro Pluchino of the University of Catania,  and colleagues won the Ig Nobel prize for mathematically demonstrating  that organizations can increase efficiency by giving people promotions at random.  This is how casinos stay in business.  We keep playing in hopes of the big payoff. We see it happen to others, so why not us?

What is it that makes getting promoted so important?  DUH! Its the money! It is also the status, around which many lives and family revolve.  It brings new and additional responsibilities for which many enjoy the challenges. Some use their new authority to lead their team to greater productivity, successes, engagement, etc.  Others abuse the position to plateau and do nothing, or crash and burn, while their staff suffer and muddle through while looking for a new place to work.

Promotions are often based on alliances and personality, or a reward for tenure (stamina) and for some, it is a retention device. Promotions are often a reward for meeting or exceeding a goal. It is seen as unfair and demotivate others, especially if the goal was achieved by the concerted efforts of many people.

People get promoted, when they don’t want it.  Too many organizations assume that everyone wants to be promoted.  It is  the only tool in their toolbox. Yet lots of people just like doing what they do, and do it well and want some appreciation and occasional recognition for their efforts.

I recently worked with a Name Brand organization that sets high value on promoting people based on how they demonstrate specific competencies and uphold the company’s values.  Executives talked about what they had done that resulted in various career path steps and promotions. Each one emphasized personal behavior and decisions made on a commonly held set of values. They weren’t just a sign on the wall. To be promoted, you and your manager build a business case that demonstrates what you have accomplished and your potential for adding value through leadership, problem-solving, etc.

Too many organizations have fuzzy criteria (if any) for promoting people.  How do people get promoted in yours?

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