Looking to hire? Don’t overlook what’s right in front of you

I read an interesting article on HBR this week discussing the surprisingly common preference for employers to hire externally to fill roles, rather than promote internally. We’ve all seen it, and maybe done it ourselves – realised we have had a vacancy to fill and have picked up the phone to a recruiter or the HR team, before we’ve even looked at our own teams.

On the face of it, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Recruiting externally takes time and cost out of an organisation, and is high-risk. Recruiting internally provides career development for keen and capable employees, and is lower-risk in many senses – as you have a ‘real’ track record of performance and a lived experience of behaviours to judge against.

So why do employers still over rely on external hires? As Wade Burgess argues, for three reasons: firstly, that hiring managers don’t feel that internal candidates have the right skills; that companies are planning for attrition rather than training for retention; and that company cultures can discourage internal ‘poaching’.

#1 Get over the fear that if you invest internally, people will leave

If you fall into one (or all) of those three categories, it’s likely that your learning and development strategy needs to be looked at. One of the paradoxes of today’s Millennial workplace is that Millennials, in general, crave training and development, but most organisations don’t invest enough in ongoing training and development for their internal employees. This causes many Millennials to look externally for opportunities, leading to a quite common perception of Millennials being ‘job hoppers’. Think about it this way: if you provided ongoing training and development for your employees, you might not only elevate capabilities through skills development, but increase employee engagement, and critically, actually reduce attrition.

#2 Don’t take others’ personal development ‘personally’; see it as part of the common good

A culture based on the fear of an employee putting their hand up to work in another division is simply not healthy. Neither is a culture where internal movement is taken as a reflection of a manager’s capability to keep an employee engaged. This type of organisational culture breeds a situation where employees can only look externally if they are looking for professional development, in case they ‘offend’ their current leader or team. Not only is this a cause of talent attrition, but it also inhibits the hiring of capable people into other roles in a business, and deters managers from looking cross-functionally for potential talent.
Think about it this way: if someone is too good to lose, better to keep them working for the organisation in some way – in your team, another team, or as a peer.

#3 Hiring from within creates a great culture, but just remember to support the transition

Finally, promotions perpetuate a feel good factor. When someone who deserves a promotion gets a promotion, internally, not only is there a feeling of general comradery, but a hope that other promotions are possible, and likely. Only ever seeing people promoted externally sets a standard that if you want to progress, you need to leave.

However, there is a caveat. Be aware that just because you are hiring someone who already knows the organisation, it doesn’t mean that you don’t need to give them the support that you would give to an external hire – on-boarding diligently into the role is crucial to set them up for success… even if you don’t need to make them wear a name badge!

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