Moving on up

A few years ago I wrote a post about internal promotion and the comparison to external candidates. It is fair to say that it raised quite a bit of debate at the time and a range of differing views. If you don’t have the time, or the inclination, to read the original post, my point was essentially that internal candidates should be given more benefit of doubt when being compared to external candidates.

One of the main challenges that internal candidates have is that their limitations and areas for growth most likely already known. Which, whilst some would argue is a benefit, can often be a reason to look beyond them. So does that mean that as an ambitious internal candidate you have to move on and look externally? Well obviously sometimes that’s the right thing to do, but before doing that, how about trying to address some of those gaps?

Every HR person and recruiting manager is different and of course I only speak for myself here, but when I’m interviewing or assessing an internal candidate I’m quite happy for there to be gaps between the role and the individual, it is only to be expected. But I want the candidate to be aware of that too. And that is particularly true if the role that you’re applying for is a promotion.

To put it more bluntly, no-one applying for a promotion should have nothing to learn. In fact it is entirely counter intuitive to believe that could be the case. Whilst there are always financial and other considerations, and I don’t mean in any way to belittle these, my experience is that the deciding factor for most people is that they want to pick something new up – more responsibility, a different team, a different department or function, a different business area.

Yet the moment you put them in the assessment process, the justification of worth can start and completely overshadow the very thing that I want to see. I want to know the individual has understood the requirements of the role, has assessed themselves against them, has made an appraisal of the areas that they can and can’t currently demonstrate and are willing and able to work on the gaps. I want them to have identified the very best person doing a similar job and asked themselves the questions, “how do I get to be that good?” not, “how do I persuade them I’m good enough?”

Being an internal candidate is hard – for all the reasons that I’ve mentioned in the previous post. No matter how we assess external candidates, they will always have the ability to add more spin and positioning than we will ever fully see through until they’re in post. But at the same time, internal candidates have a whole host of data, information and connections that they can use to their advantage. They just need to make sure that they absolutely do.

It’s your money I’m after baby

So most of us go to work because we need the money.  We can put lots of wonderfully worded, good intentioned arguments together about how money is not the motivator, but let’s be honest job satisfaction doesn’t cut it when it comes to paying the mortgage.  We may choose one job or one type of work because we prefer it and trade-off some money, but essentially we are all there because we have something that we need to pay; food, shelter, energy bills, addiction to Coco Pops etc.

Which is why pay is such a sensitive issue within organisations.  Ask any compensation related questions in a survey and you will get significantly lower results than for environment or leadership for example.  I’ve worked in organisations with very defined pay structures, I’ve worked in organisations with broad pay bands and I’ve worked in organisations where there was little if any structure at all.  And I’ve heard the dissatisfaction from employees in each different scenario.

But there are two specific things that are on my mind at the moment, which I think are interrelated: negotiating salary increases on internal moves and counter offering to defend against poaching. Both are event-based situations that occur outside of the normal salary management process and require both a strategic and tactical approach, because invariably they also involve your organisational talent.

I know that decisions in either case will depend on a number of factors, the employee’s current salary, their “demands”, internal comparators, affordability etc. However, those are the mechanisms, I’m interested more in the moral/emotional arguments that are expressed in these circumstances. Is it ok to negotiate a bigger increase when you are promoted internally or should you just get what you’re given? Is it right to counter offer or should you accept that people will leave and move on?

I’ve worked in cultures where if you were being offered a promotion and you tried to argue for more money it would be seen as a black mark on your career.  You were expected to answer the call of duty and THEN get rewarded when you delivered (although funnily enough, that was always after the next milestone….). But I know in other organisations it is run of the mill stuff.  Similarly, I know organisations that see resignations as the quick route to ex-communication, with no thought for trying to retain people, and others that will fight tooth and nail for their “talent” regardless of whether they are really…..talented.

So, more questions than answers I guess. Am I making too much of this and getting confused? I know the theory, but does anyone really operate like that or are we all in the quagmire of uncertainty when it comes to pay and talent.  Is it fair game for employees to use their skills to negotiate more if they can? After all they need to feed their families and over the past few years we have hardly done much as organisations to bolster the psychological contract.

Do we need to accept as employers that this is fair game? Work is part of a transaction for money and any opportunity that arises to improve your lot, you’re in your right to take.