Insourced focused leaders should be tuning into ways to recruit and retain talent from within for strong results and increased employee satisfaction.
When my parents started in the world of work, there was an unwritten rule: put in two to five years on the job with a set job description and title before making your next move. Impress people, work 50+ hours a week, learn everything, and become essential to the organization. It was a recipe for success pulled straight out of 50s movies, and it was the way to move up the corporate ladder.
With every promotion, the interval between new titles might have gotten a little longer, but the company offered security and a sense of belonging. People might have been restless, but they knew where they stood. Companies retained talent, for the most part, because talent wanted to stay. There was a gold watch at the end, remember.
The path of career people who came up in the 80s, 90s, and now has been much different. Our perception of ‘meaningful work’ is different. Companies have a different attitude, too – I seldom meet anyone who’s been at the same company for more than five years. Perhaps this is par for the course for technical recruiters, or maybe it’s a sign of something different: companies have pulled the corporate ladder out of reach.
For some of my clients, in fact, there’s a belief that hiring from the outside is preferable to promoting from within – the ‘fresh blood builds a stronger company’ idea. While that trend may be good for recruiters, it isn’t cheery news for workers looking for promotions. I hear from people every day looking for work. Some are unemployed, but more feel trapped in a meaningless job or fear their skills have timed out. Many feel there’s no place to grow in their organizations. At the same time, companies bemoan the lack of employee loyalty and engagement.
HR Technology exists to help leaders solve at least a portion of these talent management issues. Maybe it’s time to make internal (upward) mobility a priority again.
What can leaders do to create a culture of loyalty while making growth and innovation a priority?
Here are five ideas to make the next rung of the corporate ladder easier to reach:
- Reinstate employee referral bonuses. A staple of fast-growth startups, referral bonuses give employees an incentive to stay – and to bring their talented friends onboard. It might seem risky or profligate in a time of slow job growth, but your top talent wants to work with other talented people, and their networks may be better than yours.
- Create an internal talent scouting network. Many managers fear losing their best people. Recognize managers who push talented employees to the next step in the organization. You might not be able to promote them right now, but they are demonstrating their commitment to the company, so find a way to acknowledge and reward them. Why not a 10 or 20 percent finders’ fee for bosses who nurture great employees?
- Cultivate fast-start work groups. You know who your best managers are. Choose the best from each department or business unit – especially in traditionally rapid-turnover areas, e.g. sales – and give them a management task: identifying and fast-tracking talent. Make it an MBO goal.
- Invest as much in management training next year as you spent on job ads last year. Fortune 500 companies appear to be headed in this direction but smaller companies may not have the leeway to send star performers to Harvard or Wharton for executive training. So look to other sources for courseware and build your own programs. Start with Harvard – MIT edX online offerings and work up and in.
- Institute a management and executive book club. Not all business-themed books are a bore; talk to the manager who’s most effective, or consult with someone from your Board. Find out what they’re reading and distribute copies to your managers. Pop quiz in 15 minutes.
Research shows it takes two years for external hires to perform as well as internal candidates promoted on the job. Ensure your organization has a promote-from-within strategy – every company needs a farm team.
A version of this post was first published on forbes.com on July 24, 2012