Why are we afraid to promote our own people?

This is the question many HR professionals ask themselves every time a new requisition comes across their desk requesting hiring a supervisor, manager, director, or other key position. The question I usually ask the hiring manager is, “Why are we not promoting someone for this position.” The answer I get, all too frequently is, “Nobody is ready,” Why not?

What you are trading when you hire instead of promote?

The stranger vs. the known performer. You know your employees. You know their strengths and abilities. You know what they are passionate about and you’ve seen their work ethic and results. You can easily get feedback from others. They know the organization, it’s processes, politics and have assimilated into the culture.

Ironically these are the biggest “unknowns” in any hiring situation. These are the questions every hiring manager wished they had the answers to. So why take a chance on a stranger when you have all the questions to these answers with internal candidates?

You’ll have to coach integration vs. performance. Current employees are already culturally assimilated into the organization, and have built internal networks and relationships. They know how the organization functions and works. All that’s left is for you to coach them in the role.

External hires do not know your organization, have no internal advocates, and will have to build relationships before they can really start to get things done. You will need to coach them to integrate into the organization. All this has to happen before they can even start bringing results. What would you rather coach?

You will spend more money to hire externally. If you are hiring someone into a role they are currently doing at another organization you will almost always have to pay them more to make the change (in addition to the actual hiring costs). Likewise, the cost of training and onboarding can easily equal 1/4th their salary with little to no ROI initially. Rarely does an external hire begin contributing immediately.

It may sound a little crass, but it’s generally cheaper to promote someone. You will be paying them the entry wage you have determined for the position within your organization (which is probably less than you’ll have to spend to hire someone), you’ve already trained them, and there are little to no onboarding costs. They can generate ROI much quicker.

What are the results of this thinking?

Employee moral disintegrates. Every time an external hire is made for a key position or leadership position a message is sent. This message will impact employee’s perceptions on career opportunities within the organization.

You will get change–whether you want it or not. Yes, that’s right! If you hire someone from the outside to come to your organization to lead people, they will lead people right out the door–it’s inevitable. In some rare cases you may need change and turnover. This is when you may want to hire from outside.

You undermine employee development programs. If you have invested time and money in development plans and programs you will instantly reduce participation and effectiveness when you hire someone into a position you were developing employees for. The perception of a development program is that someone will get promoted.

If you don’t think your people are ready to step up to a promotion, ask yourself why you’d rather take a chance on a stranger than give someone internally an opportunity. After all, someone took a chance on you at some point in time.