Ask any person the meaning of promotion and the most common answer would be getting higher designation in the organization with higher pay and perks. Much is lost in the real meaning of promotion when this is the definition of promotion.
In real sense promotion is defined as getting a more important job in the organization, giving an employee additional jobs to perform alongwith the existing work, bringing an employee to work more closely to the core management, giving greater responsibilities and increasing the domain of this work area. It is not essential to enhance the rank of an individual in an organization before an employee is given higher responsibilities. The definition does not carry the importance of enhancement in designation to make the promotion look effective.
However, this is easier done than understood. Our concepts on hierarchy are still quite old fashioned because it has been the way the generations have been brought up. We have seen elders in our family, friends and neighbors distribute sweets exclaiming with smiles that they have been ‘promoted’. Still none of us must have asked them as to what would be the increase in their job responsibilities & accountability at the work place and whether the extended duties justify their new designation. Exhibition of this trait by us indicates that the name of post is a big issue for us. May be we feel necessary to suffix our name with a designation (as if the name given to us by our parents is not sufficient). May be from the bottom of our heart we ourselves like to be referred by our designations in the society.
Such inclination towards decorated positions has led many organizations in India to design lucrative designations as a part of the package offered to candidates these days. Every day we come across new designations and it is gradually becoming difficult to ascertain if a designation really shows the seniority or is it merely a tool to attract people, or is it to compensate for some lower remuneration. The worst situation is the one in which a designation does little to justify the role in the organization.
Designations are an integral part of promotions, this is what the firm belief of people in India is and this is the reason that we normally understand only one type of promotion, which is called vertical promotion.
Is the promotion of a person in an organization only vertical? This question normally makes person feel flabbergasted and after a bit of thinking and with an inquisitive look on the face the reply is usually in the form of a nod in affirmative sense. It would not be a surprise if that person reverts back with a question whether there is any other kind of promotion also. When there is a talk about vertical promotion which everyone understands then obviously there has to be something like horizontal promotion too.
Horizontal promotion is not a new term in management. It is only that people do not generally understand it or do not take it as seriously and perhaps as happily as they take vertical promotion. It is also a fact that most people do not consider horizontal promotion as a promotion at all. They refrain from assigning value to such promotions and when asked they consider it only as a change in their role in the organization. But the real thing is whether the change is a simple lateral change or change for enhancement of the duties, responsibilities, accountabilities, work areas etc. As far as extra pay hikes are concerned we normally avoid associating that to horizontal promotions because salary revision is generally considered an annual ritual.
Horizontal promotion is a lateral promotion wherein a person may remain under the same designation but his/her work horizon is increased with the increase in pay, perks and benefits. The concept of horizontal promotion has been there since ages but it has never been understood in its actual sense. May be the Indian entrepreneurs, their team of HRD officers never could explain this concept, leaving it to the imagination of the poor employees who kept grumbling. It needs to be really explained well by the manager to his/her sub-ordinate and should be understood in its essence by the person horizontally promoted. Besides, the most important aspect to be taken care of in the implementation of horizontal promotion is that it should be communicated well and spread across all levels of employees in the organization in an effective manner. This is important because horizontal promotions are not obvious. They seem ambiguous in the beginning and if such promotion message is not percolated downwards immediately then other people of the organization simply refuse to understand it. They either remain ignorant about the change or they purposely display their ignorance or they simply refuse acceptance of the horizontally promoted person. The organization head has a significant role to play here in emphasizing the promotion down the line.
Horizontal promotion is an important concept in Indian companies simply because companies in India are mostly family run businesses and the shift to complete professionalism is still a distant dream. When the head of an organization belongs to the family of the promoter the senior employee’s inspite of being fully eligible do not stand any chance to be designated higher unless the highly designated relative of the business owner has a fight with-in the family or when nature plays a cruel role abruptly. This is a heard-hearted fact in private organizations. And it is not for senior positions alone; horizontal promotion may be needed at every level. When the seniors do not move up, the middle and junior level persons also stay at same posts.
Horizontal promotion is however not without any demerits either. It is highly subjective and difficult to understand by the affected person. Even if a horizontally promoted employee somehow understands it in the overall perspective of his/her organization status, it is not easy for him/her to explain the same to the people outside the organization. People in the society are fascinated by the weight & size of the designation. They cannot measure the gravity of the work encapsulated with a person in an organization. They would cast a look of suspicion if a horizontally promoted person tries to explain them. One of the biggest drawbacks of this concept is that it fails to give status to a person in the society. If the person has designation which is regarded as lower or if he/she has remained at the same position for many years then such a person is generally looked down in the society. Horizontally promoted people have to live their lives with the same tag. That is why some private organizations have purposely designed lucrative titles. They bring their employees into the state of dilemma; whether to go for the jump in remuneration at the risk of being referred by a junior designation.
Even with all its demerits the concept of horizontal promotions should see a big rise in the Indian business organizations because the businesses are growing bigger and bigger and not all employees can be positioned highly within their job span. So if they cannot be designated higher (either due to non-availability of positions or due to the presence of owner’s relatives in Indian organizations) the employees should also not be left high & dry and made to spend their lives with the same official tag. Indian entrepreneurs have to think hard, deliberate with their HRD team and try to make the concept of horizontal promotion accepted & respectable in the Indian society.
Horizontal promotions are there to stay and if this concept is handled properly it can save many career oriented Indians from drowning in the ocean of depression.