12/11/2013

By Bev White, MD of HR Consulting at Penna Plc

Managers and leaders have been brought up to believe that it is better to ‘grow your own talent’ than to go outside the business and find new people, and there are numerous reasons why this is a long held belief.

For starters, developing and promoting employees internally reinforces a very positive message that there is ample room to grow in the business and that they are valued. As a means of retaining good people, raising engagement and loyalty, supporting employee value proposition this ticks all the boxes.

People who have grown up in the business will also have been part of the organisation’s story and will know what has worked, as well as what has not been as successful in the past. This all contributes towards a strong corporate history and maintaining a strong and sustainable organisational culture. Most new people that come into a business will want to bring in some of the culture they have valued in the past and make changes. Whilst this isn’t necessarily a bad thing it can be viewed as disruptive by leaders, and is not always well received by their teams.

Promoting existing employees also means that they already know how the organisation works, the culture, the processes, the people. There is no ‘honeymoon period’ needed here so results and impact may be faster. They can hit the ground running with minimal induction support.

However, for all that is good about internal promotion and development, there are many opportunities lost and potential pitfalls too. Businesses shouldn’t always ‘fish within the same pool’, as bringing in external resources- that may sit outside their usual recruitment comfort zone – may be of great benefit.

For example, new thinking which comes from people new to the business can result in giant steps in results. When people have been in an organisation for a while there is a danger of becoming ‘snow blind’ to how things can be improved or what the underlying issues are. A recent example of hiring in a very experienced trusted and reformer/innovator leader, comes with the announcement of Simon Stevens as NHS Chief Executive. The appointment has been much praised. He has been working in a US private healthcare provider and will come with many ideas to transform the NHS. It is also a great example of hiring outside a usual remit, as he moves from the private to public sector.

Bringing in new talent means that a ‘group think’ mentality is less likely, and can dispel any complacency. Whilst there might be niggling doubts about decisions taken, there is often an over riding “It’s the way we do things around here” when your entire team have been with the organisation for long periods with no external challenges. New team members will often ask the ‘why?’ questions that others don’t feel in a position to voice.

Of course, looking outside of the business for talent can be difficult and risky unless organisations are consciously aware of what they are looking for, and what they definitely don’t want- and this is important throughout the entire recruitment process.
The risk of unconscious bias is ever present and so possible that recruiting in ‘your own likeness’ is still very much a possibility even though going outside. Therefore, challenging traditional recruitment processes can really help businesses to gain a fresh perspective in the way they are hiring.

Like every aspect of business, there needs to be a balanced approach to talent attraction and development – with new people brought in to ensure there are ongoing challenges to thinking, approaches and decisions. This doesn’t mean destroying a culture you have built and are immensely proud of, but it’s more of a means of challenging the status quo to ensure you retain everything you and your team have worked for, and build upon it, to make constant improvements.

Ultimately, maintaining a balance of new and home grown talent is the very best way for organisations to thrive, innovate, remain competitive, and achieve growth.

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