Are you looking for ways to attract the best retail workers? Offering advancement opportunities can set your business apart. Today, only 15% of employees say their company has encouraged them to step into a new role. 

Employee promotion is the advancement of an individual within a company or organization. This can include a change in job title, a higher hourly wage, and increased benefits. Promotions can occur within the same department or team. They can also involve a move to a different department or store location. 

Here, we’ll explore why investing in an employee promotion process is critical for your retail business. We’ll also offer five strategies to ensure a smooth promotion cycle. 

The power of an employee promotion strategy

As a small business owner, implementing a formal employee promotion process might seem daunting. With high turnover among retail staff, moving an existing employee into a new role can be tempting. 

But promoting employees strategically is critical to building a more robust business. Here are three ways creating a formal promotional strategy can enhance your business:

  1. Retain talent: Today, “lack of advancement opportunities” is one of the top reasons employees leave a company. Small business owners can reduce employee turnover by providing transparent career growth paths.
  1. Reduce hiring costs: Recruiting, onboarding, and training employees can be time-consuming and expensive. By training current employees in advance to fill future positions, companies maximize their resources.
  1. Motivate employees: Providing opportunities for advancement boosts employee engagement. Retail workers will feel more motivated, knowing the company recognizes their efforts and supports their professional growth. With a formal promotion strategy, employees will also know promotion decisions are fair.

5 strategies for promoting retail employees

Today, providing advancement opportunities is an essential component of employee management. Here are five strategies for fostering employee growth.

1. Create promotional criteria

Establishing promotional criteria encourages transparency, fairness, and accountability. By developing a set of standards, employees will better understand how to advance. Retail workers can use criteria as a benchmark for self-assessment and development. 

Providing criteria also reduces the likelihood of any potential bias. Using a standardized process ensures your evaluations are objective—boosting employee morale and engagement. 

Some things to include in your promotional criteria include: 

  • Work performance 
  • Necessary skills
  • Education qualifications
  • Required certifications
  • Seniority or experience in a specific role, if applicable

Publish the promotional criteria in your employee handbook or within a job description to ensure employees can access it. 

2. Identify potential candidates

Even if a position is unavailable now, consider which employees could be potential candidates for a promotion. By identifying employees early, you can start setting them up for success. 

It can be easy to overlook promising candidates. It’s also tempting to focus on your top performers. But it is important to remember that employees may not fit every job requirement. Be sure to consider additional factors that could contribute to a candidate’s strength, such as: 

  • Employees who align with your company’s core values
  • Employees who consistently take on new responsibilities or go the extra mile
  • Employees with a positive attitude and a willingness to learn—regardless of skill level
  • Employees who demonstrate leadership skills

3. Develop a growth plan 

Creating a development plan with employees is essential to the employee promotion process. Start by discussing short-term and long-term goals. You can also share company goals and discuss ways employees can drive the business forward.  Ensure that these goals are realistic. For example, share a reasonable timeline if a new employee wants to become a manager. Otherwise, they may feel discouraged and lose interest.

Once you understand the employee’s individual goals, identify the skills needed for an employee to meet those goals. From there, work together to create a structured plan. Include a clear timeline and milestones so the employee knows they are progressing. 

Creating a roadmap for growth empowers employees to take ownership of their development. This collaborative process ensures that employees have the tools for success. It also fosters a culture of feedback and learning. 

4. Invest in training

After identifying skill gaps with employees, offer training. Consider a mix of training methods to accommodate different learning styles and schedules. These can include on-the-job training opportunities. You can also implement a mentorship program if you have a larger team. 

Since training takes time and resources, look for external options to supplement. These can include in-person workshops or online courses covering merchandising, retail buying, social media marketing, leadership, and more. Industry associations, local libraries, and educational institutions are also excellent resources for training opportunities. 

Some online places to look for training material (free and fee-based) include: 

5. Offer ongoing support to newly promoted employees

Once an employee accepts their new position, a successful transition is critical. A supportive environment not only benefits the employee but also contributes to the success of the business. 

Here are several ways retail business owners can offer ongoing support: 

  • Provide onboarding: Develop an onboarding process tailored to the new position and the employee’s needs. The onboarding process should include an overview of new responsibilities and expectations. If possible, assign a mentor that the employee can turn to for questions. 
  • Set realistic expectations: Give employees benchmarks to measure growth in their new roles. These milestones should be spread out (e.g., 30 days, 90 days, 6 months) and attainable. This will ensure employees build confidence in their new roles. 
  • Schedule regular check-ins: Block off your calendar to discuss progress and challenges. By scheduling regular check-ins, you can foster a culture of feedback.
  • Encourage professional development: Continue to invest in the employee’s growth by offering ongoing training opportunities. 
  • Recognize accomplishments: Publicly celebrate the employee’s progress as they transition into their new role. 

Nurturing growth with employee promotions 

An employee promotion process is about more than boosting titles or increasing pay. It also creates a culture of growth and empowers employees to take charge of their careers. Small business owners can increase employee engagement, boost productivity, improve morale, and build a more resilient business by providing advancement opportunities. 

At Material, we’re here to help. Our retail toolkit streamlines employee management—including timesheets, an employee-friendly point-of-sale system, and sales attributions. And our employee performance reports make it easy to identify successes and opportunities to help drive growth.

What about you? Have an experience promoting employees that you’d like to share? We want to hear from you. Shoot us an email at

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