Looking for Talent: Inside or Outside Your Organization?

September 6th, 2013 by David Rothschild Leave a reply »

hire internally or externallyMichael Ducy’s article “Hire Goats, Not Outside DevOps Engineers” on InformationWeek.com advocates sourcing candidates from within an organization rather than externally. He compares DevOps, with their unique blend of bridge-building and multi-disciplinary skills, to goats, which constantly test limits and boundaries when they are fenced in.

Goat analogy aside, Ducy hits home in the crux of the matter: can an outsider really make effective cultural changes in an organization? In making the decision to re-position employees or hire externally, you must consider organizational health and culture as well as the specific job requirements.

Sourcing from Within the Organization

Promoting from within saves costs and time just in terms of the recruiting process. Other advantages are:

  • Candidate knows the organization and its structure
  • Connections and relationships already exist
  • Candidate is a proven asset
  • Improved employee morale as peers recognize career opportunities; retention tool
  • Better acceptance of new ideas within existing team

On the negative side, you’re drawing from a smaller talent pool. There is also the risk of stagnancy, training and learning curve time.

A well-developed and strategic succession plan will help identify candidates for open positions. Besides experience and technical expertise, the plan should include soft skills like leadership and teamwork strengths as well as the ability to negotiate and build bridges.

Hiring Externally

An external candidate can be a catalyst for change in processes, and can also:

  • Bring more experience and education to the job, as well as up-to-date technical knowledge
  • Have a fresh outlook with new energy and new ideas
  • Reduce your training needs

However, external searches are costly and time-consuming. The incumbent will need to learn the organization’s culture and structure. Morale could dwindle as other employees see fewer promotional opportunities and resist new ideas. Dealing with an unknown may be risky in terms of experience and performance.

Is there a middle ground? Perhaps an employee referral of an external candidate would be the best of both worlds. Your employee could judge the fit as he knows the candidate as well as the organization and its culture.  In addition, employee referral programs often provide good incentives to those employees that the referral stems from, which can also improve morale.

Is There Only One Answer?

Of course not. Each hiring decision must be made based on a position’s requirements and overall organizational health. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I concerned about retaining key leaders? Is our organizational culture very strong? Is employee morale and acceptance of new ideas important? Think about repositioning from within.
  • Is it a turnaround role? Do I want a catalyst for change? Do we need to invigorate the function with new competencies? Consider looking externally.

Whether you promote from within or hire externally, always seek the best candidate from the job, not only for experience and technical skills but also for organization and cultural fit.

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