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The Grass is not always greener

By April 18, 2014 May 6th, 2020 No Comments

Imagine you just spent a fortune recruiting exactly the right candidate, as well as offering a premium salary package in order to attract them to the role. In doing so, you’ve offended at least one internal candidate who’s always been a loyal solid performer but now hates you and is looking for a new job.

To add insult to injury, the new person’s performance is mediocre in their first two years at which point they leave for a better offer.

Don’t you just hate it when that happens? Unfortunately, according to a study by Wharton Business School it probably happens more often than you might think.

On paper it sounds like someone made a bad call. But there are a couple of different dynamics in play here that helps explain how people get caught up in the old pay-more-get-less trap.

1. They’ve got blinkers on – Once you’ve worked with someone for a while you start to feel like you know their strengths and weaknesses, especially their weaknesses. External candidates have weaknesses too but since you don’t know what they are it’s like they aren’t there.

2. They’re stuck in a time warp – A few years ago I found myself working with someone for a second time in seven years, which had been spent by me managing a national sales team. This person still saw me as a recent recruit rather than an experienced and highly successful manager of a sales team. He probably still does. As you can guess I didn’t get promoted to sales director when the opportunity arose, and I left shortly after. We both lost.

3. The manager doesn’t want to cause strife in the team – It can cause bad feelings in a cohesive team when one person gets promoted over the others so it may seem easier to bring in someone new.

4. They don’t want to lose a good resource – It can seem daunting to move someone doing a great job to a new area where they have less experience and at the same time getting hit with the need to backfill their position, train someone new, etc.

5. They didn’t define the job clearly – Some of the job postings out there today look like they were typed up by 12 monkeys who after a thousand million years of random typing accidentally cranked out a job description.

6. They need someone who can do the job now – If you promote an internal candidate you’ll have to train them and give them time to come up to speed in the new role. Whereas if you hire someone who already has the experience needed you’ll have less down time. This isn’t actually true but it sounds good.

7. The company stinks at onboarding – You found a great person, got them to sign and they’re starting tomorrow. You sent them information about benefits enrollment and a nice welcome video from the CEO. But how will you convey to them all the tribal knowledge of the company they will need to navigate the new role and succeed?

According to a recent Manpower survey, one in three global employers can’t find the skills they need, making a company’s ability to develop internal talent a key component of competitive business strategy.

Although companies can benefit from new talent and fresh perspectives, there are at least two additional advantages to developing internal talent:

1. You avoid paying a premium recruitment fees for external talent, and

2. You give people a reason to stick around when they feel ready for a new challenge.

The catch is that companies aren’t very good at finding ‘hidden gems’ or matching internal talent to critical gaps in the organisation. They typically assess people in the context of their current job, rather than from a broader perspective of background, aptitude and personal career goals. As a result, managers tend to look outside the organisation to grow the business, rather than recruiting from within, with, according to the Wharton study, disappointing results.

How can companies do a better job developing internal talent and ensuring the success of external talent? Here are a few tips:

1. Assess talent holistically rather than based on a particular role. Keep a special eye out for your high flyers. They are hidden gems.

2. Encourage internal talent to apply for new roles in the organisation.

3. Have clear and transparent processes around candidate selection.

4. Train managers to develop people and hold them accountable for doing it.

5. Provide tools and resources to help people define and pursue personal development plans.

6. Develop a culture of recognition that highlights talent, enthusiasm and engagement, and reward these high flyers.

When you do recruit external talent, give them the tools they need to become internal talent.

The war for talent is won from within. What are you doing to win it?

Tony Delaney, Brownie Points.

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