talent management

How Knowledge Management Can Avoid the Peter Principle

How Knowledge Management Can Avoid the Peter Principle

If you’re looking to fill a role by promoting from within, you’re potentially setting yourself up for failure. While promotions are often well-deserved and well-executed, sometimes, promoting the wrong person can spell disaster. When promoting from within, it’s critical that you avoid falling victim to the Peter Principle. Here’s what you need to know about this little-recognized but all-too-real risk of promoting your employees.

The Peter Principle at Work

Dr. Laurence Peter formulated the Peter Principle in 1968 as an explanation for why incompetent people get promotions. In his book The Peter Principle, Dr. Peter asserted that “the cream rises until it sours”.

In other words, highly competent and skilled workers receive promotions through the ranks of an organization. They continue to receive promotions until they reach a position they have neither the knowledge nor the skills to perform.

The Peter Principle has long been criticized as simply a neat theory. However, recent research has shown that it’s an accurate reflection of corporate hierarchies. One 2018 analysis of over 53,000 sales staff at over 200 companies found that the best salespeople were the most likely to be promoted to managerial positions – and the most likely to perform poorly as managers. The researchers concluded that “the best worker is not always the best candidate for manager.”

The Peter Principle can be seen at work in the 2005 sitcom The Office. Regional manager Michael Scott, while friendly and outgoing, is nonetheless a poor manager. He makes irrational decisions and wastes a considerable amount of time. However, when Scott acts as a salesman, he continually demonstrates a high degree of intelligence, a winning personality, and a persuasive charm that wins over his clients. It was his strong sales record as a salesman that led Scott to be promoted to regional manager. Now, though, he lacks many of the managerial skills needed in a professional workplace.

The Paula Principle

In 2017, educational philosopher Tom Schuller published The Paula Principle, a follow-up to The Peter Principle that aims to explain why women underperform. According to Schuller, the Paula Principle states that “Most women work below their level of competence.”

Schuller argues that bosses fail to recognize women in particular for their competence and performance. He says women often work in positions that under-utilize their full skill-set. 

“Women’s career paths are flatter and more broken, their salaries lower, and their retirement incomes smaller,” Schuller writes. In The Paula Principle, Schuller lists five factors to explain why women underperform relative to their level of competency. These factors range from discrimination to lack of childcare to lack of self-confidence and beyond.

How Over-Promotion Can Derail Your Business

The Peter Principle can have myriad effects on your business. When bosses promote workers above their competency, it can show up in ways both predictable and surprising.

For instance, you might notice that recently-promoted employees are suddenly less productive than before – or that they make more mistakes. Perhaps they spend too much time on menial tasks, or maybe they suffer from lower morale.

Over time, these issues can compound and grow. And if you continue promoting employees above their level of competency, you can fall victim to Peter’s Corollary.

Peter’s Corollary states that “in time, every position within an organization will be filled with someone who is not competent to perform the duties of that role.”

By promoting your employees above their level of competency, you’ve created an organization where nobody knows what they’re doing. And when nobody knows what they’re doing, it results in less productivity and more mistakes.

So how can you ward off the Peter Principle? How can you ensure your employees continue to perform well even after giving them well-deserved promotions?

Mitigating the Peter Principle in Your Workplace

The first thing you should understand is that the Peter Principle isn’t evidence of a hiring mistake. It doesn’t necessarily mean you promoted the wrong person to the wrong position, or that it was wrong to hire that person to begin with. Rather, the Peter Principle means the person chosen to fill a role is not currently prepared to perform their duties.

When it comes to mitigating the Peter Principle, there are two important strategies to take: Prevention and mitigation.

If you’ve already promoted someone who’s ill-suited for their new role, you can mitigate that error by giving your recent promotee leadership training and skills training to help them adjust to their new job.

Going forward, you can prevent the Peter Principle from impacting your workplace with a series of new initiatives.

First, you’ll want to implement a new leadership training program for recently-promoted employees. You’ll want to design this program to equip these employees for their new roles by focusing on their new duties and on managerial best practices.

Next, you’ll want to create employee mentorship programs whereby your high-performers can gain new skills and knowledge by observing others. Mentoring and nurturing employees is a great way to ensure they’re prepared for their new roles.

You can also create new rewards incentives for high-performers, like raises and bonuses, in lieu of promotions. These incentives could also be tangible rewards like hockey tickets or gift certificates for restaurants. When you can offer multiple performance rewards beyond just promotions, you’ll be able to promote only the people who are prepared for a new role.

You can create learning cohorts among employees who are up for promotions. This strategy can help your promotees lean on each other for support and help each other learn the job.

Create a New Promotion-Track Program

Finally, you’ll want to open up a number of non-managerial opportunities so that high performers can be promoted within their competency. When the typical promotion track involves promoting tactitians to managers, you’re often forcing your people into a role they aren’t prepared for and don’t have the skills to perform. While someone may be excellent at their current role, that doesn’t necessarily mean they have the temperament and personality needed for a managerial role. So if you can instead offer senior-level and specialist positions that are based on current employees’ skills, you can promote your high-performers without it negatively affecting the rest of your team.

The Peter Principle is a notable threat to productivity and revenue. Without careful monitoring, your organization could quickly find itself in a position of resource waste and incompetent management. But with the proper training programs and skills-based rewards initiatives, you can ensure the right people fill the right positions and keep your organization firing on all cylinders.

How is the Peter Principle affecting your business? What are you doing to give your leaders more skills training?

What GEN Z Recruits Expect from Your Employee Onboarding

What GEN Z Recruits Expect from Your Employee Onboarding

Every generation brings with it new changes to the world of work. Long ago, the Lost Generation came of age during the Industrial Revolution and accelerated the transition from working by hand to working with machines. Later, the Baby Boomers ushered in the era of home computers, followed by the Millennials and the dawn of Web 2.0. Now, as Generation Z comes of age, further changes are at hand – and they’re set to once again redefine the world of work. 

Generation Z isn’t just more tech-savvy than previous generations – they have their own unique priorities and values that they’re bringing into the workplace. They have their own expectations around the world of work and the process of getting a job that employers must cater to in order to stay competitive with new hires. 

Here are some of the reasons why onboarding your Generation Z employees should be as easy as signing up for Netflix – and a few ways you can create a seamless onboarding experience your Gen Z hires will love.

Generation Z Has a Unique Attitude Toward Work

Generation Z is unlike any generation to have come before it. In the past, previous generations preferred standard 9-5 office hours. They preferred meeting with managers face-to-face, and they enjoyed doing less technical work.

But today’s young people are disillusioned with the traditional world of work. They have ambition, yes; however, their ambition doesn’t necessarily align with the concept of climbing the traditional corporate ladder. After seeing multiple recessions and a pandemic in their short lives, Gen Z is now seeking a greater life purpose. They want to be in roles that enable personal and professional growth. They eschew low-level work like unpaid internships. And in many cases, they’re quitting jobs without having second jobs lined up.

“You have permission to quit a job that makes you miserable,” one Gen Z TikToker recently said.

These younger workers have developed a reputation for job-hopping to get the best deal, but the reality is deeper than simply looking for a low-effort, high-pay gravy job. A 2019 survey of Generation Z members by Kronos Inc. found that 30% of Gen Z view themselves as the hardest-working generation. 

These workers may sound entitled, but they entered the workforce during a recession and a pandemic when they witnessed many of their peers and elders being laid off. Gen Z works hard, but they also have certain standards in the workplace. They won’t tolerate rigid schedules, poor work conditions, or bad managers. As many as 21% of them say they don’t want a manager at all. 

In essence, Gen Z wants flexibility at work and opportunities for personal growth. They want to work for ethical companies who give them respect, recognition, and flexibility. They value authenticity and personalization. And they’re willing to switch jobs to find these traits in an employer.

Leverage Technology to Boost Engagement

Gen Z doesn’t just want employers to use technology when onboarding – they expect employers to be tech-savvy. Embracing new technology in your onboarding process can show your potential hires that you’re flexible and modern, which can result in a more engaged and motivated hire.

Emerging new technologies also render other benefits to the employer apart from making recruitment easier. New tech tools can enable your employees to be more productive and independent with less manager interaction and less time spent in the manager’s office.

With an online LMS, for instance, your hires can walk themselves through training exercises on a flexible schedule without the need for one-on-one interaction or manager hand-holding. 

An LMS is also a great way to give your Gen Z hires the professional development opportunities they crave. Gen Z employees strongly prefer having jobs that enable them to grow their skills, and they’re willing to leave companies if they don’t feel included. By embracing Gen Z’s ambition, you can help them find a home at your organization and perhaps convince them to stick around for the long haul.

Onboarding & ProDev Set the Tone

If you want to hire and retain good Gen Z workers, you’ll want to invest in your employee onboarding and professional development processes. It’s significantly more expensive to hire a new employee than it is to retain an existing one; the right changes to your processes can give your Gen Z employees a reason to stick around. Gen Z isn’t necessarily loyal to a single employer – they see a job as a means to an end. The onboarding process is your opportunity as an employer to change how your Gen Z employees view you. It’s your opportunity to convince them to stick around.

Gen Z expects onboarding and professional development to be simple and straightforward. They expect a personalized experience that they can walk through on their own, at their own pace. They expect onboarding to be as easy as signing up for Netflix. The more you can do to give them that kind of experience, the more successful you’ll be at retaining them and making the most of their skills and ambition.

Gen Z workers aren’t some mysterious enigma. They have predictable and easy-to-understand priorities and preferences rooted in a particular worldview of work. They’re very different from previous generations in the manner in which they view work, yes. But once you understand their priorities, it’s easy to retain and motivate them.

What is your organization doing to boost engagement with your Gen Z employees? How are you making your workplace more socially conscious, tech-savvy, or flexible? How are you creating meaning for your employees?