Often the best candidate for a job is someone from within the organization. Internal candidates know the culture, know the systems and processes, know the players and performers, know the policies and procedures, know the political landmines, and they know how to steer clear of roadblocks and quagmires. Generally, they just know the best way to get shit done.

This can be such an advantage when hiring that large organizations (5,000+) can make a major positive impact when they create a position dedicated to scouting and brokering talent within the organization. In other words, appoint an internal headhunter. This person should be someone who has a longterm relationship with the organization, and who can watch talent grow. An internal headhunter can develop an intimate knowledge of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats; and help people and units work together to find the right fit.

There will be resistance. Expect cries of poaching and protests about other units stealing away their top talent. When this happens, here are the questions to ask those who are resisting and complaining:

  1. Do you believe the labor market should be a free market?
  2. Do you believe people should be paid what they’re worth?
  3. Do you believe the talent of top performers should not be wasted?
  4. Do you want your organization as a whole to be the best it can be?
  5. Do you believe top talent should go where they can make the biggest impact?

When anyone answers no to any one of those questions, you’ve identified a weak link in your organization. And when someone answers yes to all of the questions, they should be able to conclude that an internal headhunter is a good thing.

But they may still resist, and here’s why: progress is hard.

When some leaders know they have to fight to retain their top talent, they don’t like it. It means they have to up their game. It’s no longer a one-way relationship in which staff are grateful they just have a job. Instead it’s actually a healthy partnership in which both parties put effort into the relationship—working to make the other party is happy and engaged. To be blunt, a relation where one party constantly exerts power over the other party to keep them in place (rather than helping them grow and thrive) is an abusive relationship.

Some units within the organization will complain that the unit with more money than the others will always end up with the best people. Moreover the unit that does not generate their own revenue will end up with high turnover and low performers.

While it’s true wages are a significant factor in why people take a certain job or stay in their current jobs, it’s not the only factor. Other factors like professional development opportunities, personal and professional growth, making progress, healthy professional relationships, innovative strategies, and great bosses to name just a few, all play into what makes a place to work a great place to work. And when there is competition for the best talent, all units will have to pull out all the stops if they want to attract and retain the highest performers.

Constraints can be a good thing and often are. If a department can’t compete with another unit on wages, it will force them to figure out how they can compete. This is how competition and progress work. It may be uncomfortable, but getting outside of our comfort zone is how we grow. It’s how we get better.

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