Competition for your Internal Candidates

Oct 10, 2001

We can all agree that the development of internal employees is good for your company. Promoting internal growth generates enthusiasm and productivity among your internal talent and provides opportunities in cases where employees might otherwise leave the company. But problems arise when hiring managers and/or recruiters compete for the same employee – and ultimately jeopardize what’s best for the company. There are a lot of reasons why this happens: sometimes it’s because of policies, sometimes it’s because of a lack thereof. However, it usually all ties back to the need for solid and strategic workforce planning. If the movement of employees within your organization is problematic, this is a good time to discover why – and to do something about it. If you have to remind yourself frequently that it’s you against the competition, perhaps it’s time to take stock! Mission: Critical Most companies have some general guidelines for how an internal employee can transfer within their organization. Take the example of the policy not to allow employees to apply for an internal transfer if they have been in their current position for less than one year. This policy does help to discourage infighting between hiring managers (“You can’t take him – he just finished training!”), and also helps to prevent an employee from accepting a job they don’t really want, only to immediately apply for an internal transfer. But what if you had an open position that was mission critical to your company, and a new hire would be perfect for it? This brings up a good question: do you know what the mission critical jobs are within your company at any given time? “I’ll Have Mine Gently Saut?ed, Not Poached” Hiring managers fear poaching. If a hiring manager has a top-performing employee, they will do whatever they can to prevent them from leaving – even if it’s to a different job within the same company. Our goal as staffing professionals should be to keep the great contributors within the company, even if it’s not in the same job. The only way to really encourage this is to motivate employees to perform their best, and to show them a clear path for their development – wherever it may be within the company. Good hiring managers will provide such a path or at least a vision for one. Bad hiring managers are simply territorial, but all hiring managers usually fear poaching, and the simple reason is that they are losing something. It’s human nature! Perhaps maybe we should reward managers on growing individuals out of their organization instead of seeing how long they can keep them for themselves? There are logical reasons that managers fearing poaching. They fear they may not find another employee as good as they one they currently have. They don’t want to lose the momentum of their current employee’s work, and they dread the hiring process of finding someone else. Making sure your recruiting engine is well tuned and your recruitment is proactive instead of reactive will address most of these concerns. Still, it’s hard to make hiring managers understand why it might be a good idea to let an employee move to another part of the company – especially if that employee is good at what they do. That is why it is key for your workforce plan to identify and have an awareness of positions that are mission critical. Furthermore, the importance of filling mission critical positions needs to come from the top down. “I’ll Make How Much?” Pay-scale inequities can become glaringly obvious when internal transfers are made. I know none of you need a lesson in establishing pay scales. But be warned that whatever pay structure you have in place, you need to make sure that it’s fair and equitable. During the hiring frenzy of the late 1990s, pay scales could be tossed out the window in order to get prime candidates. The focus should always have been a return on investment and not just about filling a JOB. (You know pay scales are out of whack when a newly hired candidate feels guilty about being overpaid…) While there are lessons to be learned from this, it’s also important not to lowball a good candidate when times are tough. This is happening all the time. Managers may say, “Well, they aren’t working now, so offer them less and save the company some money.” Be honest, be fair, and be consistent. Have reasons for your salary ranges, such as return on pay (ROP), critical-need position, priority skillset, etc. – and stick to them. While you’re at it, make sure to set guidelines around what constitutes a promotion and what constitutes a transfer or lateral move. Again – be honest, and consistent. Why Don’t We Get Any Credit? Most companies don’t give recruiters credit for placing an employee in another position within the company. The reasons for this aren’t completely unfounded. You could argue that the number of open positions stays the same after an internal transfer. And, if there were recruiter incentives to move employees around within a company it could lead unnecessary moves. So how do you combat this? First of all, the right incentives need to be put in place. If your organization measures recruiter ROI as a numbers game, you will either not pay as much attention to internal transfers (if you don’t get credit for them), or you may end up exacerbating the poaching (“If I move John and Denise over to Doug’s department, I’ll make my number…”). The right incentives are ones that make sense for the company. Make sure to understand which open positions are the most crucial to fill. Provide incentives for filling those positions with people who can get up to speed quickly. Reward the behavior you need for best results for the company! If internal candidates can be more successful then external candidates ,get your processes and tools in order. Workforce Planning -> Goals -> Metrics -> Policies -> Incentives It’s almost impossible to be successful without being strategic. Your incentives, policies, metrics and goals all tie back to one thing: basic workforce planning. How can you be sure you’re not establishing incentives that completely contradict the basic goals of your organization? If your company’s hiring pace has slowed, take advantage of this time to truly understand where your company is going in the future, and how your staffing strategy fits into it. Only then can you understand what goals to set and in turn, how they can be measured. Policies and incentives should be implemented that support and encourage these goals. Let’s Not Forget What the Employee Wants! Mission critical or not, if an employee doesn’t like their job they may be compelled to leave. Ideally, your company should able to search against, evaluate, and understand the employment aspirations of all your current internal employees. Right now is a great time to understand the talent that contributes to your organization. An integral part of workforce planning entails the development of your internal talent. Do you know what skills or work experience you’ll need in the future? How many current employees already have those skills and/or the desire to learn them? How will moving an employee from one position to another support your overall workforce plan? Questions to Ask Yourself How many of you have a workforce planning process? Is it tied to a budget or company results? How many of you have a system that allows you to search your internal talent as well as your external candidates? Can you post your positions internally with more intimate details than your external jobs? Do you delay your posting to the external world so the internal talent can be evaluated? Do your employees feel they understand how they can grow and transfer inside of your company? Do they have a place, portal, or file that they can manage and monitor their career from? Statistics tell us that most employees leave their jobs either because they dislike their boss, or they don’t feel there are any opportunities for growth. Now is a great time to plan for your current workforces growth and ensure that your company meets its goals.