Balancing external hires and internal promotions

LS International

The demand for professionals who can lead change within organizations is on the rise. Based on an article by David A. Shore, Harvard University, entitled Making Change Happen: Five Keys to Driving Successful Change Initiatives: “Given the rapid pace of change in companies today, demand for people who can lead successful change initiatives far outstrips the supply. In fact, 91 percent of HR directors say that by 2018, people will be hired on their ability to lead change.”[1]

The rapid nature of change means that more companies suffer a constant shortage of skills hindering their ability to meet market demands. Even companies with good professional development strategies may suffer this shortage, especially when we consider a world where new jobs, ones that never existed before, are emerging.  Based on notes from the World Economic Forum : “Jobs exist now that we’d never heard of a decade ago. One estimate suggests that 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that aren’t on our radar yet.”[2]

New roles and the rising need to manage change, can mean that securing specialized skill sets is a challenge. Take an example of a company specialized in hospitality, seeking to recruit a project manager for a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) implementation. For this project to succeed, the company shouldn’t just look for any project manager with generalist skills. Instead, this company needs to look for a project manager who has experience implementing this CRM system, and who has preferably worked within a similar size organization in hospitality. In this case, securing this talent will mean going external, be it with an internal recruitment team or a head hunter. The later can be beneficial as these consultants can leverage their network to find a match to the company’s requirements in terms of position descriptions, skill sets and cultural fit.

Internal hiring may succeed if companies can guarantee that their employees’ skill sets are kept current. However, based on Wade Burgess’ article in Harvard Business Review entitled Why Companies Overlook Great Internal Talent, even organizations that focus on learning and development struggle to keep their teams current, especially when it comes to technology roles[3]. This highlights the difficulty of relying solely on internal talent.

So, what is the best strategy?

Companies need to choose the strategy based on their requirements and current capabilities at the lower levels. Promoting internal talent is necessary but if a company needs highly specialized or scarce skill sets then the answer is sourcing externally – and more effectively by partnering with the right partner to ensure on time and on budget delivery of results.