Hiring From Within: The Staffing Strategy Many Managers Overlook

The shortage of specialized, skilled talent has many employers wondering how and when they will be able to fill the new jobs they’re creating. They have legitimate cause for concern: If they can’t hire enough qualified people to meet increasing business demands, it could undermine their ability to compete and grow revenue.

Despite this need, many managers make a crucial mistake when hiring. They equate “new position” with “new person.” They assume they must look outside the organization to find the ideal hire. But the talent you seek could very well be right under your nose. The savviest managers consider “internal employees” — professionals who are among your current workforce — first when a position is created or vacated.

Now, hiring managers I know have told me that they shy away from hiring from within because there’s simply no one on their team with the skills they need. What choice do they have but to recruit externally?

The truth is that many managers don’t consider that, with some training, an existing member of the team could develop the skills needed to succeed in the open role. Managers often also fail to look across the organization, at professionals working in other departments and, potentially, in completely different disciplines.

A Mutually Beneficial Arrangement

Hiring from within has many advantages. For example:

  • Improve employee retention. By placing current employees in new roles, you are holding on to talented people who, having mastered their current responsibilities, are now ready for another challenge. Setting them on a different, rewarding path in your organization can help you reduce the risk that they will leave for other opportunities.
  • Gain a fresh perspective on old issues or problems. The business knowledge and experience a professional brings from a different department in your company could be the keys that unlock innovative solutions to your toughest problems. He or she also won’t likely make recommendations or base decisions on the “way we’ve always done things around here.”
  • Reduce turnover. Try filling roles that have suffered continuous turnover with internal candidates who have proven themselves in a different capacity. Their business knowledge and internal connections could enable them to succeed in these positions.

As for internal employees themselves, they have the opportunity to take their career in a new direction or to new heights without having to start over at another company. They get to take on a new job — different experiences, connections and perspectives — while continuing to enjoy the tenure, reputation and other benefits they’ve worked hard to earn.

Starting the Search for Internal Employees

Just as with succession planning, you shouldn’t start looking for an internal candidate when you have an immediate need to fill. The process of hiring from within should start much sooner than that. Begin laying the groundwork for what can become an ongoing program in your organization by:

  • Showcasing the variety of career paths your firm offers. Let current employees know your business strives to provide rewarding and long-term career paths for all employees. Be proactive about letting current staff know they could take a new direction in the company, if they choose. Workers may think there’s only one path for them: upward. If advancing through the ranks is not appealing to them — or not feasible because promotion opportunities do not arise very often — you need to show them other options exist.
  • Regularly checking in with your team members. Talk, listen and observe. The latter two skills are especially important for managers. Pay close attention to what’s happening with the superstars on your team. Are they starting to become restless? Have their jobs become routine? Is there an exciting opportunity elsewhere in the firm that would keep them engaged and motivated? Even if you’re reluctant to lose a valued employee to another department, keep in mind that this a better option than losing them entirely.
  • Provide training. Just because someone has a track record of success with your firm, it doesn’t mean they’ll be able to step into a new role without any guidance. Be patient, nurturing and generous with time and feedback as you help acclimate internal employees to different positions, just as you would with any new hire.

Different Avenues, One Main Road

I can tell you from firsthand observation that hiring from within can be a powerful staffing strategy. At Robert Half, a number of our experienced staffing and recruiting managers have transitioned to roles within our corporate departments. While these professionals come to corporate services from a very different area of the business, their transferable abilities allow them to excel in various back-office roles.

For example, one person who worked nine years as an executive assistant while earning her bachelor’s and MBA degrees is now embarking on a new career with us as a business analyst. Another professional who enjoyed a successful career as a top recruiter now manages our staff development and training initiatives.

I’ve transitioned to different roles several times over 30 years with Robert Half, and have called many different cities home. I have found my career path and all of its variety extremely rewarding.

So, don’t overlook your internal employees when recruiting. Whether you need to create a new role or fill an existing one, hiring from within can open the door to new opportunities for your most valued employees — and your company.

What successes has your organization had hiring from within? Share your experiences in the comments section.