What to Look For When Promoting Employees in Tech

February 9, 2017

The things that make a great tech individual contributor aren't necessarily the same things that make up a great tech manager.

Promotions have two sides to them.

For the individual getting the promotion, it is seen as a reward for the work that they have done. For the hiring manager, it is filling a need that you have on the team to ensure its goals are achieved.

But in the tech industry, many employees are promoted for the wrong reason. Far too often, people are promoted into management solely for being strong technically, although in those roles soft skills can be far more important.

So what are the key soft skills tech employees need to have, to be successful in their next role? To find out, our analytics team at LinkedIn analyzed LinkedIn activity to find the attributes needed to successfully move up within the tech industry.

The results are revealed in our newest guide, !techskills for Technology Professionals. Along with providing intel on the key soft skills you should be looking for when promoting tech employees, the guide is linked to a LinkedIn Learning path that you can share with individuals you feel are strong candidates for management.

Along with those key stats, we also uncovered the keys to building a strong – and more risky – leadership pipeline. They are:

  • A risky management path

Finding the most technically senior person and promoting them to management might seem like a good idea, but you could impact their happiness at work and their career by doing so. Moving into management levels requires taking a more hands-off approach to technology and being comfortable with others taking over the keyboard while you step away.

For many tech workers, promoting them could be taking away their source of energy and motivation. As a result, instead of being motivated to succeed in their new role, they will feel more obligated to do so. This could lead to a decline in job satisfaction and happiness and you could risk losing that technical expert to another company.

  • A successful management path

For a leader, it’s important to find individuals that get their energy from collaboration, team building and understanding how to work well with others and see the power of the group over the individual. In our research, we found the best tech leaders excel in business strategy, data analysis and risk management.

These individuals establish strong trust with the members of their team and are comfortable relying on others, instead of continuing to get their hands dirty with the technology itself.

Our methodology for this guide

To get meaningful data for this guide, we worked with Samir Junnarkar on our business analytics team to analyze LinkedIn activity. Here's how we got our raw data, directly from Samir:

We looked at all US-based LinkedIn members who currently work in the software industry, and currently have a variety of popular titles such as web developer, software developer, database administrator and others. We then took these individuals and broke them down into three levels of seniority: manager, vice president and CTO.

We then wanted to focus on the last 12 months. We needed to answer the question, “What skills are most desirable today?”. We answered this by looking at InMails – messages that recruiters send out to members on LinkedIn. We can link what skills individuals have on their profile to InMail traffic they get. And we defined ‘desirable’ skills as ones that elicit the most InMails per member. These are the skills that recruiters are looking for in prospective employees to fill in management and leadership roles.

From Samir's research, we were able to find all of the skills that bubbled up to the top. Some of these were similar to each other and were condensed. For instance, skills like Leadership, Team Leadership and Technology Team Leadership were combined together.

Then we looked at what was unique between the three levels – manager, vice president and CIO/CTO – and picked three key skills each based on Samir’s methodology.

Hopefully, this guide and the learning paths that come with it help you better identify the people you should be promoting, along with arming high-potential tech workers with a plan on how to move into management.

*Image by Steven Depolo, Flickr