In HR and recruiting, it seems that we are always on a quest to find the perfect candidate and to fill a seemingly unending list of job openings. Managers may be pressuring us to find candidates with enough experience that they can slide right into a job with little to no training. 

The reality is that such candidates can often be hard to come by, and the search for the perfect person could result in a job that remains unfilled for months. Companies often overlook the talent pool right in front of them: their current employees. 

As hiring increases and unemployment goes down, the pool of qualified candidates may appear to be shrinking; however, a good plan to develop internal candidates may be the answer to filling difficult job openings.

Identify Employees with Potential

One of the major perks of promoting internally is that you already have a sense of what type of employee the person is. You have seen them in action and have had a chance to see how they work with others — something that we do not usually get to see with an external candidate. The downside is that your internal candidate may not possess all the qualifications needed for a particular job.

To ensure that you have qualified talent in your internal pool, create a plan to develop your best employees. Look for people doing well, especially those in entry-level jobs that are easier to fill. 

If a manager notices a receptionist who has an interest in HR, send the receptionist to HR seminars and give him or her the chance to help out with some basic HR tasks when he or she has the time.

When hiring external candidates for entry-level positions, seek out candidates who have the potential to learn and take on more. Those entry-level jobs are a good testing ground to see how someone does as an employee and to see who could be developed into an ideal candidate for jobs that are harder to fill.

Provide Training and Shadowing Opportunities

We sometimes get stuck in thinking that our current employees are not qualified to move into different positions. Change this line of thinking by creating training programs that address skills gaps so your employees become qualified to fill open positions.

Open up company training to more employees, not just those who are required to go. For example, if you offer management training, save a few spaces for those not in management, and see who signs up. These employees could be your potential future managers. Find ways to offer these employees additional training so they are ready for promotion when a position opens up.

Give employees the chance to shadow someone in an area they are interested in. Suppose a deli worker at a grocery store has an interest in cooking but has never worked as a line cook. Schedule the deli worker for occasional kitchen shifts so they can shadow a cook and start learning basic kitchen techniques.

Create a Culture of Advancement

Having a plan for developing internal candidates ultimately leads to a culture of advancement. We live in a time where it is normal for an employee to job-hop every couple of years. Some say this is a condition of the millennial generation, but I see it happening across generations as many of us are seeking out new challenges and opportunities. 

When we look to our current employees as part of our talent pool to fill openings, we give some of our top performers the chance to rise within our organization rather than leaving and going somewhere else.

When I used to conduct exit interviews, I would often hear that common refrain as the reason for leaving: not enough opportunity for advancement. Workplaces need to adapt to this and find ways to develop employees so they are qualified to move into other positions within the company.

Stephanie Hammerwold

Hammerwold & Pershing Consulting

Stephanie Hammerwold, PHR is the owner of Hammerwold & Pershing Consulting and specializes in small business HR needs. Hammerwold writes about HR topics relevant to the small business community and gives presentations on a variety of job search and workplace topics. She specializes in training, employee relations, women’s issues and writing employment policies.