20 Metrics 20 Days- Day 6: Time to Promotion

Day 6 in our series of 20 consecutive posts on HR metrics: Time to Promotion


Time to Promotion answers the question “For those employees who were promoted during the period of interest, how long on average were they in their previous position before they were promoted?”


$latex {\frac{Total\ Time\ in\ Positions\ Before\ Promotion}{\#\ Promotions}}&s=2$

Keys to Data Manipulation

I am deliberately trying to keep this series of posts short without a lot of code but regardless of what program or language you use to manipulate your data, you’ll need to address the following steps:

  1. Select a time period of interest
  2. Filter down to just those who received a promotion within that time period
  3. Get the total amount of time in the previous role before the promotion for each promotion for each person within that period
  4. Get the total number of promotions in that period

Additional Considerations

As with our Promotion-Transfer Ratio, remember that promotions may be comparatively rare. I would suggest looking at the numbers over two or three years instead of just a single year. In the least, be sure to explore the data before deciding on the time window and be able to explain why you chose that window

Remember too that individuals can be promoted more than one time within a given period. You will therefore want to start the clock over with each new position change. This may sound obvious but it is easy to overlook once you are knee-deep in the data.

Finally, give some consideration to the unit of time (days, months, or years) you want to use. In some organizations, days make more sense, in others it’s years. Obviously you have some flexibility here but just be sure to mind those units.

If you are an Excel user, then the default result of subtracting dates is in days; R will require some more work and consideration but there are handy packages such as ‘lubridate’ to help you out (see Resources below).

Why You Should Care

If you wait too long to promote in your organization, you might end losing top talent who feel slighted or overlooked.

Being aware of the average time to promotion can also help inform development conversations and set appropriate expectations for rising talent.


One of the best uses of this metric is gauging who among your top performers might be overdue for a promotion (and therefore at higher risk for departure).

For example, after you calculate your average time to promotion, I would take a look at your top 15-20% of performers and rank them by the time since last promotion.

Do you see any in this select group who are meaningfully over that average? Are they clustered in specific areas of the organization? Are there any red flags that leaders should be aware of? Any particular individuals requiring immediate attention?


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