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Can you really grow your own?

I recently read an article by Riverview Law Chief Executive Karl Chapman on the merits of recruiting from within and his desire not to recruit externally http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/practice/practice-management/riverview-our-recruitment-approach/5041197.article . Its certainly true that Karl Chapman has always been bold in his desire to lead a ‘revolution’ in the delivery of legal service but is his assertion that “he should be fired if we’re still recruiting a lot of senior lawyers in five to seven years” his boldest statement yet?

I would imagine that it is the dream of every business to recruit its people from within. It clearly reduces recruitment cost, allows a company to keep control over internal pay scales and creates a stable environment where employees are indoctrinated in the culture of that business. This sounds great in principle but what are the disadvantages and advantages of a ‘grow your own strategy’? (Yes I’m a legal recruiter but I promise to be objective!).

Advantages

Staff morale – when an organisation continually looks at the external market for its new hires it can damage morale as current employees may feel this approach lessens their chances of promotion. By continually looking at your current employees and promoting from within you maintain a motivated work force, a true meritocracy, heighten productivity and increase staff retention as each employee strives to achieve their own goals safe in the knowledge that opportunity exists.
Culture – what I most loved about Karl Chapman’s article was the acknowledgement that cultural fit is critical. I have been recruiting in the legal market for nearly 10 years (the lion’s share of those for BCL Legal!) and I honestly believe that the importance of cultural fit is underestimated by both employer and employee. Culture is undoubtedly different from law firm to law firm and business to business, but it can be an allusive term wheeled out at recruitment fairs but rarely understood internally or promoted externally. To me culture means the characteristics of the employees of an organisation from top to bottom. It’s the values that underpin decisions in relation to training, growth, attracting talent and progression. It’s surely true that it is easier to get the cultural fit right if you rarely recruit from outside the internal talent pool (its easier…..but not impossible!).
Cost – It can be an expensive exercise to recruit externally! Finding hard to find, in demand and niche skill sets can be difficult to source. You can incur cost attached to advertising, recruitment agency fees, interviewing etc. There is also an added cost attached to training external recruits as whilst you can undoubtedly recruit a skill set you still have to invest time (and ultimately money) in ensuring that new recruits understand the internal systems and processes.

Disadvantages

The candidate pool – by looking both internally and externally when recruiting a position you undoubtedly maximise the candidate pool and ultimately increase the chance of identifying the right person for the job. You also increase the chance finding candidate that will help achieve diversity requirements. A diverse work force undoubtedly leads equates to a balanced work force.
The competitive edge – whilst I mention above the benefits in terms of morale in promoting from within, does fresh talent from outside the organisation keep current employees productive? We talk a lot about negatives of competition but having worked in a highly competitive industry for a long time I can honestly say the competition has kept me motivated, keen to get better and always striving to achieve more. This competition undoubtedly comes externally but I’m proud to say that is also always present internally and (certainly in the BCL culture!) is always healthy. Can bringing fresh talent from the outside push current employees to achieve more as they strive towards obtaining the next promotion?
A fresh approach – external recruitment can bring with it new employees joining with a fresh, and often refreshing, outlook on the industry. By targeting key people working at the competition you can get an insiders view on the good and bad practices in your competition. A business must never be afraid to embrace change and should always strive to get better; sometimes an external recruit can be a catalyst to this change.

I think it’s clear that each approach has its advantages and disadvantages. Perhaps the right approach is a balance of the two that embraces the positives whilst never forgetting the importance of keeping your current staff happy, motivated and ultimately keen to progress. If you feel that your firm would benefit from an injection of external talent, or perhaps you’re an employee looking for a change in the culture of your workplace, call Mary Nowell at BCL Legal.

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