January 21, 2008

Do You Promote from Within or Hire Outside?

By Paul Bieber

We’ve talked about hiring, with an emphasis on everyday personnel. Let’s get into hiring managers and highly-skilled staff as every shop needs a mix of good workers and great leaders. There is an old, but very true, statement, that an Army moves on the backs of the Sergeants. A glass shop is the same. This week we will discuss hiring from within, next week hiring on the outside.

Hiring from within or going outside is a chicken-and-egg dilemma. As a general rule, hiring from within trumps bringing in an outsider. A current employee will know your business; you have worked with them and know their personality, and it shows a growth path for all employees. In house people know your paper flow, know which vendors service what product lines, and will know the people they will lead.

At UPS, just about every senior manager, at one-time or another, drove a brown truck. They grew into management posts. But when you have tens of thousands of drivers, a few will stand out and grow. In a glass shop with ten employees, you have to nurture one who can become a supervisor.

When you want to designate someone from your current employees as a leader look at their skills set. Are they a great glazier? Can they run a silicone bead smooth as silk? Can they cut a perfect angle in aluminum–the first time? Three ‘yes’ answers here gives you…a good worker. The questions to ask for a leader are:

•Are they trustworthy?

•Do they get the job done? Correctly and on-time?

•Do they care about the company and work like it is theirs?

•Do they ask questions and learn from the answers?

Any ‘NO’ answer should eliminate someone from consideration at this time. Maybe you want to further work with him/her to sharpen their skills, and then consider them at the next hiring opportunity.

My number one question was taught to me by Chuck Kaplanek, the owner of Floral Glass…it was simple…can we give the person the key to front door? While there may be many trustworthy people in your organization, you are looking for leadership qualities along with trust.

Look for the person that takes new hires under their wing and helps them learn the ropes. Do they act as a teacher as well as getting their job done? Do they use supplies carefully? Coming back with ten half-used silicone tubes is not what you want to see.

Does the employee talk with customers respectfully? Do they come back to you, asking a question that a customer asked of them, and go back with the answer? Do they represent your firm positively?

Look at all of these things before you decide if you should hire outside or promote from within.

The downside here is, it is harder for an employee to suddenly be the supervisor of their friends. This is absolutely true and has to be well discussed with the supervisor-to-be, and the work force. If you have multiple crews or job areas in a plant, move the new supervisor to another crew.

The biggest mistake that senior managers make is to assume that just because you have promoted someone to a leadership role, they have all the skills necessary to be a leader. A new supervisor needs education in their new job, just as anyone else would. Look into management training at local colleges or through trade associations. There are many fee-paid, one and two day management courses offered. Goggle “management training” and you will be inundated with offerings.

When you plan the promotion, create a budget for training; and don’t skimp on it. You see raw talent in a person, you must invest in that no differently than investing in a machine that needs to be upgraded. Meet with your new manager on a regularly scheduled plan, going over decisions and goal setting.

An important point in hiring from within is replacing the person’s previous job. Don’t expect a new leader to be just that, and still continue their previous job. It only leads to problems which will disappoint you and the employee. Plan carefully to have the job filled and then announce the promotion. Teach the new supervisor to let the old job go…it will be accomplished by the new employee.

Set a timetable for financial reviews with the new leader. Don’t wait a year to reward…have mini-reviews at three and six months, and give small raises to show you’re pleased with the job…or don’t and explain why your are not pleased. Teach what you want done…don’t expect a new supervisor to know until they are taught. You are generally spending a lot less on an in-house promotion than an outside hire. Spend the extra cost-savings as invested time into the career of the new hire.