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Most Common Mistakes When Promoting Internally

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Dec 2017 Shop Advice

Deb Van Batenburg can remember when she promoted her tech, Misha, to shop foreman at her and her husband’s shop, Van Batenburg’s Garage. Misha, who immigrated from Russia, was an experienced tech but spoke limited English. Over time, his skillset excelled and so did his English, so it was the natural next step for him to take on more responsibility.

Misha went on to run the shop, giving the Van Batenburgs an opportunity to pursue volunteering with the Automotive Service Association and attend industry events. This is just one example of an employee taking on bigger and better things.

While internal hiring or promoting can be an easy and effective way to both provide a career path for an employee and fill a vacant position, there are some mistakes to recognize and avoid in order to not only create a smooth transition for your “new” hire, but also for everyone involved in your business.

With more than 20 years in the industry, Van Batenburg, CFO for the Automotive Career Development Center, offers some of her insight on common mistakes and what you should be doing if this is a process you will or are going through.


There are some common mistakes that shop owners or operators make when it comes to promoting someone internally and they go as follows:

  1. Lack of separation: You need to separate the person’s new job from their old job. In that transition time, if you let the overlap continue too long, then the person is doing both jobs. This way there is no opportunity for the employee to take on the new role.

  2. Lack of training: The owner feels that he or she can train the new person, but then becomes busy with other shop demands, so then the new person doesn’t get a full set of training.

  3. Lack of recognition: Announce the position in a big way. When you promote internally, you don’t have this brand new personality that’s joining the staff. Do a press release, something through the chamber of commerce, or whatever media your shop uses. It’s very important to the person being promoted to feel special about it.

  4. Lack of attention: The shop owner needs to be attentive to the needs of both the promoted individual and the rest of the shop.

  5. Lack of patience: Don’t hire internally out of desperation. It happens every time in every business and will not be good for your shop in the long run.


These kinds of mistakes hurt the shop when they divide the shop. It can cause division if the people that aren’t promoted or “those left behind” don’t get the the attention that they feel they deserve because it is all directed toward the promoted employee. It’s also important to note that owners that are not vigilant about complaints regarding the transition in the shop can be deadly. If you’re someone who is easily overwhelmed and you subconsciously mention something to the effect of, “this person who was promoted is taking forever to grasp this concept,” it brings doubt and division amongst your staff.   


As far as avoiding the previous mistakes, the first thing you should do is something I am a big fan of a business outline/plan. Have a plan in writing with timelines that are agreed upon by the new hire and the owner or boss. This way, it ensures that a formal training schedule is set. There should be a set period of time for when expectations should be met. In that document, you will also clearly define the salary, changes and guidelines around their new position. Lastly, hold a staff meeting where you, once again, clearly define the boundaries and roles for the new promotion.


To aid in a smooth transition for the promoted, yourself and your staff, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Treat the promotion as a positive new step for the company.
  • Enroll all the employees in a company meeting about the promotion and the transition period.
  • Reassure everyone on your staff that your door is still open.
  • Remind everyone to not be judgemental with the person being promoted.
  • When the transition is complete and the promoted employee has completed the training and is fully up to speed, have a celebration. Have a little party at the shop.
  • Get the promoted employee business cards or new ones with the new position listed on them.


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