Managers Must Be Careful When Offering “Dry” Promotions!

Even if you’re not familiar with the term, you’re undoubtedly familiar with a practice.  A “dry promotion” is a promotion in name only.  It comes with a better sounding title and more responsibility, but not a pay increase.  The practice is becoming increasingly common as we move into a period of the economic cycle where companies are beginning to tighten their collective belts.

Given the current makeup of today’s workforce, most of the Dry Promotions being offered are being offered to Gen Z and Millennials, the younger segment of the workforce, and some of the offers are being accepted.

Managers should approach this strategy with care and caution, however, and not read too much into it if these younger workers accept Dry Promotions.  In fact, it may bode ill for the company making the offer in the longer term.

While there are no studies detailing this, there are a growing number of anecdotes from Gen Zer’s and Millennials that indicate the most common reasons for them taking a Dry Promotion: 

Simply put, it looks good on their resume, which means that sure, the company making the Dry offer gets the benefit of getting more work and more responsibility from the employee in question, but then, that employee heads for greener pastures, leveraging his fancy title to get a better, and better paying job at some other firm.

Now, it’s certainly true that the scenario won’t always play out as outlined above.  There will be some younger employees who look at the promotion as an opportunity to prove themselves to the upper echelons of management at their current company, and in those instances, offering a Dry Promotion can work very much to management’s advantage. 

There’s also the fact that Gen Z and Millennial employees tend to prefer non-salary perks over simply being offered a bigger paycheck to consider.  For example, if the Dry Promotion comes with greater autonomy, management can be relatively more certain that the employee in question will stick around for the longer term, simply because they’re getting something that they value at least as much as a higher salary.

Based on what data is currently available, however, this cannot be relied on absolutely.  Employees are far more likely to see it as a sign that their current place of employment undervalues them and their contributions.

This is what brain drain looks like at the corporate level.  The Dry Promotion solution may look great on paper, but it comes with enormous, longer term risks that must be taken into account, and if not done with great care, can easily backfire, putting your business in a more tenuous, less competitive position than it was before such offers were made.

At the end of the day, we can’t offer definitive advice either way about whether you should, or should not be using Dry Promotions.  The best we can do is point out that they can work under the right conditions and when offered to the “right” employee, but they can also backfire, so if it’s something you’re considering doing, proceed with caution!