Without a strategy in place, knowing when, why and how to promote an employee can feel like a guessing game. Eliminate the guesswork by sitting down and determining how you’ll approach promotions in 2016. Below are a few simple tips to help guide you. 

First, objectively measure who’s currently outperforming in their role against set deadlines and targets. Then weigh this success with their capacity to take on more.“Just because you’re great at what you do doesn’t mean you’re ready for the next level,” says Dawn Graham, a career expert and career director at Wharton’s MBA Program. Success at one level might not translate into success at the next, so keep an eye on the people who are natural leaders, doing their job well but also influencing without authority. These people should be role models who are demonstrating skills they’d need for the next level when there is a challenging issue. To make it easier and focused: set up a ranking system so you, as a manger, can be attentive to who’s growing in different ways.

Graham says a common problem in organizations is that senior executives worry that promoting some people might hurt others’ feelings, causing low motivation. “A lot of companies won’t develop high potential employees because they don’t want others to feel like they’re not special,” she says. “But then the employee that deserves the promotion ends up leaving because they’re not getting recognized.” It’s a delicate balance, so be unbiased and honest about how everyone can move to another level, whether that’s lateral or promotional. “Make it a fair process or people will get frustrated because they’re afraid to have discussions with their manager and they won’t know what work their doing is being appreciated and what’s not.”

Everyone is going to want something in exchange for more responsibility. But compensation means different things to different people. “If someone has been performing at the next level and are acting in the absence of a supervisor, then more compensation makes sense,” Graham says. But if they’re just being trained for a new role, set a date they need to achieve a few specific things by. If all of that gets met, promise some form of compensation. That said, more time off for someone who doesn’t have children might not mean as much as more money. “Give the employee the autonomy to say what’s going to be more meaningful is going to be more motivational.”

Transparency is key, no matter how big or small your environment. “Any time you have the opportunity to sit down with an employee, do so,” Graham says. “Say this is the decision I’m making, how I came to it and how it’s going to involve you.” Different people have a different way of processing information so let them know as much information as possible before the meeting. Tell them what you’re going to discuss and what they should think about. Ask them to prepare what they think their own strengths are and where they want to fill gaps in their career. “There’s a lot of opportunity for miscommunication in emails, so set up a meeting and say plainly: We’re going to talk about your career growth.” If you’re clear about expectations and growth from the get go, then simply saying the phrase ‘career growth’ won’t send anyone into a panic.