March 22, 2019
Succession Planning 19 December 2018
How to Overcome Common Obstacles when Hiring Internally
Wendy Dailey
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Everyone loves the story of the spunky kid who starts in the mail room and works his/her way to the top. It’s the “American Dream” that with some hard work, you too can make it to CEO. Tracy Julien, VP of Guided Choice shares just a few benefits of internal promotion saying, 

Seeing a path for current employees to follow is a great motivator for your workforce. People who work hard and do their job well should be rewarded for that hard work. Hiring from within has a positive impact on the entire company! If your company has an opening, the first place to look is within.

Many leaders say that they want to promote from within when they can. At the same time, many leaders make mistakes as they attempt to hire from within and help staff to build a career. There are a lot of different points to think about when looking to promote a current staff member, so let’s look at some:

Training a New Leader 

I’ve seen this time and time again [and I’ve been guilty of it]. We promote that great employee to a supervisor position and say “Good luck.” We’ll likely ensure they have access to do what they need to, but we often forget that they also need training and guidance to become the leader you need them to be. 

If you've considered an employee for a leadership position, that usually means that they have the ability and skills necessary for the role. Do all that you can to ensure that they have all the resources needed to succeed in the position. Kris Hughes from ProjectManager.com says,

If the position is high visibility and high impact, it’s a safer bet to promote an internal employee who is a proven quantity, and has already delivered results in a different role.  It’s much easier to train an internal candidate on the nuances of a new position when they’re already comfortable with the company’s culture, goals and general expectations.

Get your new leader signed up for any leadership training you might schedule for an external person. Find them a mentor to give them someone to talk with about the transition, if possible someone who also was promoted from within, someone who understands those challenges.

Key Take Away: Be sure you have a plan to providing training to your new leader.


Transition to the New Role

When moving into a new role, the employee is leaving behind tasks that will now need to be completed by someone else. But sometimes, we don’t have a good plan in place for transitioning those tasks to someone else. Let’s not forget to back fill that position or at least move some of those tasks. You don’t want to set your new leader up for failure by expecting them to not only learn a new job but also keep doing their old job.

Make sure your organization has succession planning in place so that there is someone ready to take over the old role. Ideally, every position in your company should have an employee cross-training and preparing for future growth within the company. This way your newly promoted employee can move onto the new position without worrying too much.

Key Take Away: Plan for transition of past duties.


Helping Coworkers Through the Transition

Many times staff who were the employee’s peer aren’t quite sure what to do now. Their former friend is now in charge. They used to be able to joke around and now this person is in charge? There may be some hard feelings, especially if some of the staff also applied for the role [we’ll get to that in a bit]. You need to get out ahead of this. Be sure you have shared this news with staff as soon as you can. 

If possible, share the news in a joint meeting with the transitioning employee. This will allow you to share why this employee was selected and how this will help the team grow. Work with the promoted employee on what and how to share and let that employee talk more than you in that joint meeting. 

Staff need to know that this person is in charge and that they have your full confidence to be able to be successful in the role. If you aren’t able to establish this early, you will have staff confused on who to talk to and you may have staff not bringing concerns to the new supervisor.

Key Take Away: Transition needs to happen with all staff, not just the promoted employee.


Communicating with Staff Who Weren’t Selected

If you are lucky, you had more than one staff person apply for the position. Perhaps it was a difficult decision and maybe it wasn’t. Even so, you need to acknowledge those who were willing to take the risk, even if they weren’t successful. I like to see leaders going above and beyond for internal candidates by personally reaching out to them.

By not doing so, you can cause a lot of unnecessary hard feelings if you treat them like every other candidate, or even worse, “ghost” them. Be honest with them about why they weren’t selected, give them opportunities to grow and learn or help them find the right new role for them.

Key Take Away: Help internal candidates who weren’t selected be prepared for the next opportunity.


Internal Staff Won’t Apply for Opportunities

Sometimes you have staff who have been through the last situation too many times and have given up. They are certain the process is “rigged.” The decisions are already made, leadership is simply going through the process so what’s the point? Or perhaps they’ve been “ghosted” one too many time when they’ve put themselves out there. You can easily solve this by . Help them understand the process and be sure to follow up with them if they aren’t selected. Communicate with them about other growth opportunities that are available to them in the future and encourage them to continue working to prepare for those positions should they open up.

Key Take Away: Be transparent with your staff about opportunities.


Manager Selfishness

All of these above situations involve staff who want to move into a new role and we want to see them move. There’s likely been some encouragement along the way for the successful employee to move into this new role or a new role. Sometimes, however, we get in our own way before the applications process even begins.

We can’t imagine the person in this new role. Maybe this employee is young. Or older. Or they are really really good at what they really do. Or you just don’t want to go through the recruitment process to find their replacement. Whatever the reason, you don’t encourage them to apply for the new role or help them prepare for that opportunity. Ketan Kapoor, CEO & Co-Founder Mettl says, 

Most employees with high achievement orientation who look to widen their horizons with time are the first to leave the organization. A promotion in the form of a more challenging role aligned to their interests can help you retain them for good and slash attrition rates on the side.

You may find yourself telling them (and yourself) that they aren’t ready yet, but maybe “someday.”And here’s the thing, they will leave when that opportunity arises somewhere else. You will lose them; your attempts to keep them will not work.

Key Take Away: Be unselfish with your strong employees.


There are plenty of reasons to hire from within your company, most all of them will bring your company benefits. 
One of the biggest reasons to do so is you retain your most talented and hard-working employees as they grow together with your company. 

The pathway won't always be easy! Internal recruitment has some bumps in the road, but if you are open and honest with your staff about opportunities, if you prepare them for these opportunities, you can make the transition a smooth one and create a strong, loyal employee brand. 


Wendy Dailey is an HR Business Partner in South Dakota. With almost 20 years of experience in human resources, she has worked in a variety of industries including construction, airlines, banking, and healthcare. Wendy is active in her local SHRM group, DisruptHR and in the #HRTribe on Twitter. She is co-host of the #HRSocialHour podcast and twitter chat. Wendy was named to the 2018 SHRM blogging team and writes for Workology, Prosky and on her Personal Blog: My Dailey Journey

In her spare time, Wendy enjoys spending time with her family and leading her daughters’ Girl Scout troops Connect with Wendy on Twitter.