More than a pat on the back. How to successfully promote your team when working remotely

I try to apply all my articles to common problems you might be facing as business leaders. When my client mentioned recently that a recent promotion for a (remote working) team member wasn’t having the impact he had initially hoped or envisaged (taking charge, leading projects, freeing up my clients’ time), it made me consider that it could be the remote promotion process, rather than the individual’s desire to avoid ‘stepping up’ that could be at fault.

I don’t need to tell you that it is still so important to continue to provide traditional signposts of recognition and reward for your team, especially given there is no opportunity for a physical pat on the back. It’s easy to forget when the day turns into one long rolling Zoom meeting that your team are still working hard to deliver project after project – to the same standards as before.

Ignoring the increase in pay for a moment, a traditional promotion might see a team member undertaking leadership courses, moving to a new office, sitting with a new team, or simply spending a lot of time discussing the new requirements of their role. But what happens when these signposts are removed? Same person, same (home) office, same clothes, same video calls.

I asked two experienced HR professionals for their advice on promoting when remote working, and here’s what they said…

How would you advocate successful promotions whilst working remotely?

Ruth Johnson, Director at The Ink Group

Interesting one… for me, the key question is ‘what changes’ with this promotion?

Communicate those changes and what they mean

It doesn’t always follow that a promotion means team leadership. But if that’s what we’re talking about here then the individual needs to be prepared for the time commitment that comes with this. Let them know that you expect them to be proactive; they shouldn’t just sit back and wait for team members to come to them with questions/queries/complaints/other.

Encourage closer team relationships

They need to think about how they will raise their leadership profile by initiating online conversations with the team. I would suggest that a great way for them to ‘move up’ is to, effectively, ‘move towards’ everyone else. Get to know them. Understand their roles, their ambitions, their challenges.

Let them work it out

I would probably also clarify that a measure of their own success in this new leadership position is the frequency of their online meeting time with colleagues and the quality of the conversations they elicit through this medium. I wouldn’t tell them how they do this – I would leave them to work it out for themselves!

Amy Russell, HR Manager

In our business we always start with good comms.


An announcement sharing the successful promotion and the new remit of the promoted individual always sets the scene, this should feature contact details and changes in reporting lines – as well as some interesting/fun facts that perhaps colleagues didn’t know.

Leadership Development

Secondly, all our new leaders have access to our leadership development programme which includes Insights Discovery, helping them under more about themselves and how their preference(s) will shape them as a leader.

Step Away

It’s important to let go… once the introductions have been made – it’s vital to step away and let the individual pave their way in their new role. This is very much the responsibility of the individual – so autonomy is essential, yet let them know you’ll be there if they need your advice or guidance.

Cameras On

Taking on a new team virtually – I’d always kick off with a team session (cameras on is a must) and follow up with 1-1 virtual meetings with new DRs to help set the scene. If you use platforms such as MS Teams, making sure the promoted colleague is included in any groups or streams (which you might also step away from) will ensure they see everything they need to and can get up to speed quicker.

A big thanks to both Amy and Ruth for their advice. The key seems to be; communicate – develop – encourage relationships – Leave them to it.

If you’re currently reviewing your processes to create the best outcomes whilst working remotely, add this to your list.

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