Ask the Sprofessionals—Promotions

In this series, seven industry experts sound off on issues around café policy, breaking down the ins and outs of how café systems affect morale and retention.


Volume 2—The Sprofessionals On Promotion Systems

Today, a panel of veteran coffee pros lend their expertise to an important but rarely discussed issue: transparency in café promotion systems.

In many business sectors, it’s considered perfectly normal to hire for a position without announcing it to all of your workers or giving them the opportunity to apply. But in the transparency-focused coffee industry, should all workers have a chance? What are the potential benefits and possible drawbacks to giving all employees a chance at every position? What is the impact on morale and team cohesion?

The Sprofessionals are here to help break it down.

The Question: Do you think it’s important for all employees to have the opportunity to apply for promotions?

Joe Marrocco, 12 years in coffee, senior sales & director of education at Café Imports

“If a person is an employee within a company, that alone should make them eligible for promotion opportunities. This is absolutely necessary.

A manager has the job of creating a social environment that motivates the team and its individuals to grow. Growth happens in many ways, not just through promotions. For most professionals, promotions are a desired outcome of personal and company growth. When only a few people have access to promotional pathways within a company, the team as a whole is hurt.

Look at this from a purely capitalistic vantage: By eliminating some of the competition for a new position, those eligible will likely not have to work as hard to achieve it or succeed at it. And from a social perspective, if only certain individuals have access, those left out will feel powerless, under-valued, and used.”

Randy Levine, four years in coffee, barista at Café Volan

“Available positions should be made public. It’s so important to show existing employees that there is opportunity for advancement. You often find that employees show interest in advancement that you might not have initially assumed would, breaking your subconscious bias.

Even if there are no existing employees who would be a good fit for a promotion or available position, it opens up the discussion on the types of progress and growth both the employee and employer are looking for. This allows for more potential growth for the employees, as well as more potential talent available to the employer. It’s a win-win.”

Claire Fox, nine years in coffee, retail manager

Claire Fox thinks communication is key when considering promotions. Folks shouldn’t be strung along and should be informed personally if they are not given a job, as opposed to finding out through the grapevine. Photo by Lisa Looye.

“I do think it’s important. While I haven’t had an experience where someone was explicitly blocked from applying for a position, I have observed times when qualified employees have applied for promotions, gone through a string of interviews over months, and then lost communication with their managers about the position, only to find out shortly thereafter that another person had recently applied and been offered the position, within their own company.”

Amanda Whitt, 12 years in coffee, bartender/barista

“Yes and no. If you are going to have a policy that anyone can apply, it must be explicit that the company will also review candidates and not just hire who they had assumed they would.”

The Takeaways:

  1. All employees should be able to apply for promotions because:
  • It lets unexpected employees express interest and create goals.
  • It makes employees compete (read: work harder) so that they value the promotion more.
  • It prevents feelings of resentment around perceived favoritism.
  1. If you allow all workers to apply, you should give them all a fair chance as well.
  2. As always, communication is key.

Do you agree with the Sprofessionals? Leave your take in the comments section.

RJ Joseph roasts coffee and writes a blog called Queer Cup in addition to her other adventures in coffee journalism. Her writing focuses primarily on equity, workers’ rights, and alternatives to the status quo. In her free time she loves cooking, reading, and being in Oakland, Calif. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

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