Business owners and key executives are always looking for good talent and often ask if I would refer potential candidates. Although I ultimately agree to keep my eyes peeled for such talent, my mind always wanders to the question, “Why not simply promote from within?”
This is actually a misnomer. One either promotes an existing employee (promoting from within) or one hires an external candidate to fill a position (promoting without?). So, we’re really talking about promoting key employees versus hiring externally to fill a vacancy.
I’m a big fan of promoting employees. When properly planned and executed, it works wonders for employee morale and customer loyalty. It is less risky and less costly, especially compared to external hires that end up being a poor fit.
Need more reasons? Employees already know your customers, your values, and how the organization works. There’s tremendous value stored in the institutional memory. External candidates generally have no idea about these factors and may never fully adapt to your culture. Employees who see the potential for growth within the organization are more loyal to the organization and convey their feelings to customers. Conversely, employees who only see a dead end send negative vibes to customers.
A shocking number of employee promotions result in frustration, termination or resignation. Why? Because they were not properly planned nor were they properly executed.
It isn't enough to take your best salesman/technician/rep and give them new business cards with Manager under their name. The expectations for their new roles are entirely different from their old roles. Instead of being able to simply do the work to achieve results the newly promoted must tap into a different skill set and get other people to do the work in the manner expected. There are two significant challenges here.
First, when we promote the best [insert title here], the organization no longer has the same capacity or capability it had with that person in their original role. For example, when promoting the best salesperson to sales manager, it is quite likely that sales will actually decline with the top producer no longer in a producer role. How many business owners consider this possibility beforehand?
Second, when we promote the best [insert title here], we fail to consider the key elements of compatibility with the requirements of the new position. Using the top salesman example, organizations often fail to recognize that those things that make a super salesman are not the same things that make an effective manager.
It is true that leadership is a learned skill (actually a set of skills), but learning through trial and error after being anointed manager leads to disastrous results more often than not.
Effective Planning and Execution. In order to gain the benefits of promoting employees and avoid costly failures, business owners and executives need to gain a clear understanding of the knowledge and skills required to succeed in each key position. It then becomes possible to identify all the positions that can serve as feeders to leadership openings. (Hint: It isn't always a straight, vertical line)
The final ingredient is a keen understanding of the current knowledge and skill levels of incumbents. Those who show promise can then be exposed to greater levels of responsibility as a means of gauging readiness for larger roles. Your executive or business coach can work with those who show the most promise to help them develop leadership skills. Even if promotion is a remote possibility at the time, the value added to the organization will be well worth the time and expense.
When employees are shown this level of attention and interest and are rewarded accordingly, their loyalty to the organization skyrockets and customers are often the first to notice how engaged and enthusiastic they've become. And, of course, when the opportunity does present itself, you’ll have one or more qualified candidates who already “get” you and your customers and a smooth path for training their replacement, as well.
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