Should you promote within or poach from the outside?

An organization that scales is an organization that learns. Part of scaling is growing talent and bringing that talent from a functional role to one of management. It’s one of the true joys of being a founder – watching a young person grow into a leader. This feeling, however, creates a large emotional block. When given the choice of promoting within or bringing in outside talent, the founder almost always decides to promote from within. There is a feeling that bringing someone from the outside will disrupt the culture and cause existing employees to feel neglected. “How could someone from the outside know what we’ve built and gone through”.

In building my own business, I often times found myself always falling into this trap. It wasn’t until I took a leap of faith that I realized how important it was to bring in fresh faces. Here’s why:

1.       It’s hard to know if you’ve really got the best or optimal person in the right seat until you know what else the world has to offer. While it’s human nature to think that we’ve built and selected the best talent, it’s truly impossible to really know until we have a comparison.

2.       Cultures need to be stressed and tested. The challenge with only promoting from within is that a system can get stale. New ideas tend to fall away and fewer employees test the cultural norms. Bringing in a new talent, with a different background and unique set of life experiences, opens up the opportunity for new ideas.

3.       Edge. Everyone is human and it’s important for everyone on the team to know that they not only need to be the best in the company, they need to be the best in the industry. If a promotion is assumed, then the motivation to over-achieve wains. In no way are we suggesting that hiring from the outside is a threat, but rather we believe it keeps a strong sense of urgency to continue to push for better personal and company growth.

Like all things in life, there is no singular answer. At Tera we encourage our friends, companies, and partners to always decipher their bias’s and then put into action a plan to test themselves. We think urging managers to evaluate external talent is a way to challenge the bias of status-quo.