Young people working and learning in modern office

Existing Talent or Future Potential: What Matters More When Promoting Internally?

Friday, November 8, 2019

Jared and Jameela run a small business, with Jameela handling all the HR functions. When it’s time to fill the position of a chief technology officer (CTO) internally, she must choose between her most senior developer (with a great track record during the last two years in her company) or another senior developer who has great potential and knack for learning new skills at an unprecedented rate but has spent only eight months with her company.

Recruiters may get stuck in such tricky situations due to various factors such as priority toward boosting internal employee morale, low recruitment budget, or a personal preference by the founders.

If you have already decided to hire internally, the decision usually comes down to a few candidates. But the problem with internal candidates is that you might not have seen them perform much outside of hired-for roles and responsibilities. You are also more exposed to their weaknesses at work.

Because of these factors, it’s hard to stay objective when deciding among internal candidates.

What Lessons Can We Learn by Internally Promoting High-Potential Talent Individuals?
In the modern gig-based economy, internal promotions are central to talent retention practices.

Because an external hiring pool is much wider, some recruiters find an internal recruitment process a bit of a drag because it limits their options. But hiring internally doesn’t have to be a compromise. There are a few ways to maximize the benefits of internal hiring.

The Salary Bump Will Be a Reward for the Candidate
When employees dedicate themselves to their role for a long time, it’s natural for them to expect promotion when appraisals are due. They want a larger role and they’re ready for it.

So, when you do promote them, the promoted internal employee is much more likely to take the added responsibility as a reward rather than as a burden.

A positive start sets them up for a positive journey in the new role. Of course, the reverse can also be true in some cases. Particularly, when the employee lacks one or more important skills, it becomes difficult to predict their success. They may want something beyond money and responsibility out of their work. For these employees, it’s important to understand this intrinsic motivation and use that while evaluating whether to promote them or not.

It Makes You Confident About Your Own Managerial Ability
If promoting an internal employee sounds like making a bet, then the Law of Averages gives us a prediction that some of these attempts might succeed.

Think of long-term planning. If you promote someone internally now, you will know where your skill development initiatives stand. As you interview all these internal candidates, you get to see the progress they have made since they were hired.


If you don’t see much progress, you will know where things are going wrong or what you should do differently to help your existing employees just by having an honest chat with them. However, some of your newly promoted employees may find it hard to tackle the new role or their performance may not be up to the mark.

Own this uncertainty and take pride in the lives you have changed through successful promotions. That being said, if you have two or more of these promotions that go differently than desired, take a step back and examine the process of internal hiring in depth to fix it.

What If We Promote Those With High Future Potential?
Occasionally, you might come across an individual with great past accomplishments and an amazing interview performance. However, their performance in the current role is not up to anticipated levels or they have not spent enough time in this role. While the potential is there, promoting them may seem like taking a risk. This risk, however, comes with its own rewards.

It Becomes a Learning Experience for the Promoted Employee and the Founders
Even if you promote internally, the employee will learn a few new things over the course of his time in the new role. It will also be a learning experience for the founders and other managers in the company; they have to work with each other and achieve optimum results.

The transition can be hypothetically viewed as transitioning from a long-term relationship into a marriage but with a salary. You are making a lifetime commitment with an acknowledgment that it might not last a lifetime.

Larger companies develop HR internal promotions policies over time. To build such policies, you need to be able to support individuals with a range of skills and not just those who are perfectly suited for that next promotion.

An Alternative to Internal Hiring
When looking for talent, knowing your options never hurts. You are not just limited to internal promotions or external hiring when looking to fill the talent gap within your organization. You can use staff augmentation for short-term or long-term projects.

Staff augmentation is a way to add external resources to your team as a “loan” from an external agency. An external agency will understand the requirements of your specific role and will provide you with options to interview and hire. The new candidate remains on their payroll but will be working with your team in your office.

There are different ways to leverage staff augmentation. Its biggest advantage is that if the candidate performs exceptionally well, you can even hire them for a full-time role.

Final Words
Comparing high-performing individuals to those with fewer currently visible achievements is a lot like comparing red apples to green apples. Selecting which one to promote when you have both types of individuals in the internal candidate pools is a complex decision. This is a good problem to have.

To find the right candidate among this pool, interviews with these candidates must be focused on their vision for the new role.

About the Author

Rahul Varshneya is the co-founder and president of Arkenea. Rahul has been featured as a technology thought leader in numerous media channels such as Bloomberg TV, Forbes, HuffPost, and Inc., among others.

Sign In to Post a Comment
The new TD Capability Model sounds like it will offer a more growth-oriented approach and that it makes practical sense.
I look forward to learning from the webinar and the book how we can continue the quest to develop and maximize individuals and organizations.
Thanks for the communication, Jennifer, and happy holidays to my ATD colleagues and friends.
Carol Rosener, Florida-based TD professional
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.
I think that: it is necessary, using the existing talent of existing employees, to transform knowledge and experience into new promising employees, providing newcomers with the opportunity for nontrivial development. At the same time controlling the vector of immersion in certain industries.
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.