Beat the Retreat: Hiring From Within

A revolving door of outside hires is rarely, if ever, a lasting solution.

Business people

The United States has once again shattered records with its labor statistics, but not in the way many hoped. Anyone involved, even tangentially, in hiring is familiar with the current Great Resignation, a period during which more Americans chose to leave their jobs than at any other time in history. But in this shaky talent market, employers should be thinking more in terms of a Great Retention, to focus attention on the importance of attracting and retaining skilled workers with goals that align with their company. With a steady rise in position vacancies, many companies find themselves with too many open positions and insufficient talent to fill them. But perhaps the solution is closer than they think. Leaders should focus on identifying potential in their current employees and fostering that development through training and mentorship opportunities, ultimately hiring from within.

This Isn't an Either/Or Proposition

I am not seeking to invalidate the external hiring process. Of course, you need to identify and attract the best talent externally to fill open positions. That said, you will likely have fewer open positions to fill when you start focusing on developing the talent you already have. A revolving door of outside hires is rarely, if ever, a lasting solution. Instead, cultivating an excellent team, then hiring and promoting internally, can lead to positives for everyone — from the promoted employee to the business itself. It takes more care and effort but is far more rewarding.

1. Benefits to Leadership

Any leader's team is a direct representation of the leader themselves. For a company to be truly successful, leaders must be backed by a strong team with similar values and objectives. Those employees don't just appear; they're molded and encouraged, usually over years. The key to that maturation is creating an environment that allows employees to take risks and make mistakes. Future leaders must be willing to take calculated risks and overcome any obstacle, and they simply won't know how to do so on a large scale unless they're encouraged and supported to practice on a smaller scale.

By fostering this kind of environment, effective leaders are quite literally making new leaders, whether for their own team or a different one. The argument can be made that training a fantastic employee only to have them be promoted to a different team is counter-productive. The truth is that if you don't promote the best candidates within your company, another company will do it for you. Plus, a great new member on another team reflects well on the leader who helped them get there.

2. Motivation for Employees

Most employees rightfully expect the opportunity to be promoted to a higher position at some point in their tenure. I have been with Merchant's Fleet for 19 years, and I certainly wasn't hired as a VP. We have another Sr. VP who's been with the company for more than 30 years, who started as a lot attendant, cleaning cars. These kinds of stories are incredibly motivating to our junior employees. Internal hiring allows them to watch as their peers rise through the ranks and are promoted to high-level positions, motivating them to work together and form lasting relationships. Then, if they're not being promoted, they know it's not the company; it's their performance. And if they're driven, they'll take steps to be better.

3. Company-wide Growth

Of course, no company can grow without adding outside talent. But employees working for a company that supports career growth and development are far less likely to actively seek out opportunities elsewhere. When a valuable employee quits, the business loses a professional who created solid working relationships with coworkers, has extensive knowledge of the company's inner workings, and formed critical connections with your customers or clients. Companies that succeed in nurturing those qualities and giving employees opportunities to step up will gain the added bonus of keeping those benefits in-house.

In addition, there's also the simple bottom line. It's expensive to lose an employee. Between the time, training, and onboarding process, a new senior-level employee can cost tens of thousands of dollars to replace fully. Nationwide, voluntary turnover costs businesses over a trillion dollars every year. By contrast, developing and retaining a well-trained employee who is committed and always reaches for more is well worth the sheer dollar cost of a decent raise and/or promotion.

Build the Right Team Now

Transitioning to an internal-first hiring mentality starts with an honest evaluation of where you want to be in the future and where you are right now. What does your team need to be doing to be successful? Who are the individuals you see potential in, and who can you foresee developing that potential? Look for specific competencies, skills and attributes that align with your company's values. When you hire externally, consider future employees who will complement your team's skills and embrace your company culture. Perhaps the most important step is on you: how can you create an environment that encourages professional development? I firmly believe that nothing will benefit you more as a leader than having a valuable team that everyone else in your company wants to hire.

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