If you’re a people manager, then at some point you’ll likely need to fill a vacant position. And chances are, you’ll face a choice between two options: appoint someone from within, or go for an external candidate.
Promotion from within is almost always a positive, win-win scenario. For one thing, it’s motivating: team members see their colleagues being promoted and think, “That could be me in six months.”
For another, it represents a significant return on the money that your organization has already invested on training that individual. An internal candidate will likely cost less to get “up to speed,” whereas the costs of onboarding a new hire can be substantial.
Whatever your final decision on a hire, it’s good practice to circulate vacancies within your own company first. That way, even if you end up employing someone new, you can at least show that you’ve given your existing staff a chance to prove themselves. You may also get suggestions for external hires from within your existing workforce, particularly if you have a “finder’s fee” policy.
Promoting from within also has the practical benefit that someone who has come up from the ranks will already understand the culture of the organization. This reduces the possibility of a misstep in hiring from outside, where you might end up with a “square peg in a round hole.”
Of course, much depends on the quality of the training that your existing staff have had. Encouraging a culture in which people train to progress means offering them regular opportunities to develop their skills. This may not come cheap, but it has long-term benefits in terms of both cost and morale.
Is there a downside to promoting from within? Well, perhaps, if people come to expect it. You want to discourage a situation in which team members are thinking, “Me next.” Promotion always needs to be something you earn.
One of the most important factors in deciding whether to hire or develop people is the nature of the skills that you’re trying to get onboard. If you’re lucky − and if your in-house training has been good enough − you’ll have a ready-made pool of talent ready and eager to take the next step.
Sometimes, though, it’s hard to get around the fact that you need to bring someone in from outside. This is particularly true of small companies, or those in the process of developing new functions. Where you may previously have been able to rely on contractors or freelancers to get specific jobs done, the point will come at which that stops being cost-effective.
So, you might need to take on a managing accountant as the business grows, for example, or broaden your organization's web design skill set to meet ambitious online development targets. These new roles will unlikely be suitable for your existing staff. If you're in any doubt whether a skills gap exists, try using a skills matrix to audit their skills and identify any shortfalls.
In most other cases, though, it’s usually worth at least making the vacancy known internally. You may not find your next CIO that way, but you could discover that your people have a surprising range of skills that you didn’t know about.
You may also need to bring in people at a senior level, when it simply isn’t appropriate to apply from within. Strategic vision usually only comes from long experience in management roles, for example.
A fresh pair of eyes at a senior level will also make it less likely for your company to fall into the trap of repeating mistakes, or continuing to commit to practices that don’t work. New, external perspectives are often very important for companies working in fast-moving, innovative environments.
Do you have experience of people in your organization who have successfully "trained up?" Or do you make a point of always looking beyond the walls of your workplace for fresh talent and skills? Let us know in the Comments section below.
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