Donald Tucker: How to Decide Who to Promote

Are you preparing your technicians for advancement? How do you manage your techs to ensure each one has a fair shot at promotion or advancement within the field?

If you’ve been in the field for any substantial amount of time, and worked in management positions, you already know there are the rare few who really could care less, or so they say, about upward mobility. They just want to be left alone to do their work “PMing” of infusion pumps, or whatever they have become accustomed to. This seems counterintuitive to most, but hey, we need those types in the field, too. So, after trying to motivate them to advance, we just give them a nice pat on the back and let them do their thing.  If someone wants to stay a tech II for 20 years, OK, we need PM busters.

It’s the tech who wants (or feels entitled to) a promotion that we need to focus our energies on.  Having served 20 years as a biomed in the U.S. Army, I was ingrained with the idea of preparing your soldiers (aka techs) to take over. Prepare them to advance. Teach them the skills and provide them the tools necessary to progress.  Obviously, that carried over with me into civilian life and this is how I approach it with anyone who works under me. The problem is you have 10 biomed tech IIs and only one biomed tech III slot available.  The problem could also be that you  can promote a certain amount each year without raising eyebrows or busting your budget.

So, how do you decide? Do you pick your buddies or favorites who may drink beer with you after work? Is there a fairer method? Here’s how I decide: During annual appraisals, or counseling sessions, I lay out a concrete, attainable plan, in writing. I will preach that almost every single tech II feels (and claims) that he/she is the best, comes to work on time, and does what is expected of them. Therefore, they should be promoted. Great. That is what we expect of you. Years as a tech II do not entitle you to an automatic promotion.

What I want to see is further personal and professional advancement.

  1. Have you earned your CBET, or other certification(s), or are you preparing for it?
  2. Are you working toward a higher level college degree?  The AAS got you here, but now what?
  3. Are you learning and/or working on more complex equipment? Are you motivated to enhance your skill level? OK, what have you done?
  4. Do you routinely help your peers or show overall support for a team effort, without being asked? Are you working to meet 100% PM completion, on time, and close repair work orders as quickly as possible?
  5. Have you asked to help or attend management/leader type jobs, such as working with the EOC/Safety Committee meetings, hospital rounding, orientation, training sessions, intern mentoring? Have you shown any interest in management roles?

These are a few of the criteria I use to judge whether a tech is prepared and deserving of promotion. I have found it truly makes it very easy to justify why someone is not being promoted and answer an employee who whines about not being promoted:  “I have X amount of time as a tech level X.” It’s easy to pull out the evaluation from the previous counseling session and ask, “What have you done toward the plan we laid out the last time this was discussed? Conversation over.  Now, let’s work on getting you promoted next year. Here’s the plan.”

Not to mention, it helps you answer the complaint of, “So-and-so got promoted over me.”

Donald Tucker, CBET, MS, MBA, is director of clinical engineering with Christus Health in Irving, TX.

One thought on “Donald Tucker: How to Decide Who to Promote

  1. Hi Mr. Tucker. There are all kinds of HR and CE performance metrics one can apply when picking a Level 3 biomed. Just to play the devil’s advocate here, suppose you had one guy who, by the numbers, looked horrid. But when it came to being able to do the really difficult electronics or physics problem fixes, the guy always came through with happy doctors and nurses during difficult clinical patient-on-the table situations. And this same guy was the go-to guy for answers of all sorts. Would you pass by such a guy who has “talent” for a guy who has good numbers according to the software? What is the balance here? Just curious; we all have known this type of guy if we have been in the biz long enough.

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