Promote from Within

In spite of an increase in layoffs, employers are struggling to find qualified applicants. When seeking a solution, consider heeding advice that works for many situations: Search within the organization. Promoting from within can shorten fill times, lengthen employee tenure, energize employees and reduce turnover.

Career development is a primary attractor for both job seekers and current employees. Eli Lilly and Company, a pharmaceutical firm with over 40,000 employees worldwide, uses internal promotion and career movement to meet ongoing needs for quality employees and timely project completion as well as the organization’s long-term needs to develop potentials for future leadership roles.

Using a career center for testing and determining aptitudes, Eli Lilly assigns employees based on two or three experiences in their original function or department, such as human resources, sales or accounting, and a rotation through other areas of the company, like legal, government affairs or purchasing.

“The company and individuals benefit,” says Susan Burleigh, senior recruiting and staffing associate at Eli Lilly. “As a result, individuals with significant experience move into senior leadership positions. Line employees get a clear picture of the people side of the business, especially regarding policies and procedures and how to manage people, and staff employees gain appreciation for financial and line responsibilities.”

“It is fun to do something totally different,” she adds. “We have less burnout, lower turnover and better trained employees through our process of internal career movement and promotion.”

Traditionally, only fast-trackers receive additional training and stretch assignments to ready them for in-house opportunities. To expand the internal talent pool, try this simple exercise and follow up as the results suggest. Ask managers to list their direct reports and take 15 to 30 minutes to reflect on each one’s strengths and weaknesses. They should list only skills that are lacking to the degree that this omission prevents the manager from suggesting the individual for a lateral or upward promotion. Human resources or the training staff should gather and analyze the results. They should then create a grid of the results, being sure to ask for clarification when combining what appear to be similar skills.

Some individuals will require function-specific skill enhancements. Chances are good, however, that four areas of need will emerge as existing throughout the organization: written and verbal communication, conflict resolution, team skills, and managing or influencing others. It would not be surprising to find that current managers also lack these four skills. An appropriate training program and plan can be implemented.

Smart employers don’t settle when it comes to hiring. Many employers have learned that if they post internal job openings, they will spark the interest of internal candidates, who may be far more interested in certain highly technical, niche positions than external candidates. And internal candidates may be the best kind because of their knowledge of the organization’s industry, market and culture. Augmenting an internal candidate’s skill set may be easier and results in a shorter learning curve than bringing in an external candidate who doesn’t know the organization’s environment and client base.