Imagine you just spend a fortune recruiting exactly the right candidate, as well as offering a premium over market price to their salary 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 for the 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 new Wharton study, it probably happens quite a bit.
On paper it sounds like someone made a bad call. But there are a couple of different dynamics in play here that help explain how people caught up in the old pay-more-get-less trap.
- They’ve got blinders 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.
- They’re stuck in a time warp - A few years back I found myself working once more with someone after seven years which had been spent - on my side - managing global teams and projects. This person still saw me as a recent college graduate rather than an experienced global project manager. Probably still does.
- They don’t want to cause strife in the team - It can cause bad feeling in a cohesive team when one person gets promoted over the others so it may seem easier to bring someone new in.
- 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.
- 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.
- They need someone who can do the job now - If you promote that internal candidate you’ll have to train them and give them some 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.
- Their 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 2011 Manpower survey, one in three global employers can’t find the skills it needs, 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 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 organization. They typically assess people in the context of their current job, rather from a broader perspective of background, aptitude and personal career goals. As a result, managers tend to look outside the organization to grow the organization, rather than growing the organization 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:
- Assess talent holistically rather than based on a particular role.
- Encourage internal talent to apply for new roles in the organization.
- Have clear and transparent processes around candidate selection.
- Train managers to develop people and hold them accountable for doing it.
- Provide tools and resources to help people define and pursue personal development plans.
- Create clear job descriptions, i.e., be very clear about what the job is and keep away from vague references to what it might be.
- Develop an onboarding process that includes regular communication and checkpoints.
Each of these could be a post in its own right but the basic idea is to stop assuming the grass is greener and focus on the people you have. When you bring in external talent, give them the tools they need to become internal talent.
The war for talent is won from within.
Laura Schroeder is a global talent specialist at Workday, headquartered in Pleasanton, CA. She has nearly fifteen years of experience envisioning, designing, developing, implementing and evangelizing global Human Capital Management (HCM) solutions and holds a certificate in Strategic Human Resources Practices from Cornell University. Her articles and interviews on HCM topics have been published in the US, Europe and Asia. She lives in Munich, Germany and enjoys cooking, reading, writing, kick boxing (well, kicking things) and spending time with friends and family. If you want to read more from Laura, check out her talent management blog Working Girl or follow her on Twitter @WorkGal.
Picture courtesy of delightful clutter.