Great employees can be retained if you promote from within with internal recruiting.When it comes to hiring certified nursing assistants or home health aides for a senior living facility, most hiring managers have their own systems in place. They know where to look, they know what to look for, and they know how to get the best people for the job — particularly if they’re using a hiring solution like one of ours. When an upper-level position opens up, however, hiring managers are often faced with a decision: Should we hire for the position externally or opt for internal recruiting?

For some, it really isn’t much of a dilemma. “It’s clear what human resources professionals need to do,” says David Wilkins, Chief Marketing Officer of HealthcareSource. “Significantly reduce your dependence on external hiring for critical, hard-to-fill roles, and instead focus your attention on growing those people from within.”

You know what? We couldn’t agree more. As a matter of fact, we’ve even seen it happen. Our clients have told us stories of employees who started on the ground floor and worked their way straight to the top. With the experience and perspective that journey provided them, they became invaluable assets to their organizations. There’s just no substitute for it.

But how do you do that, exactly? How do you implement internal recruiting the right way and make it a key part of your hiring strategy? We’ve got a few ideas.

Internal Recruiting Tip #1: Get It Right the First Time Around

Your employees are an investment; be sure to treat them that way. Spend the money. Take the time. Use all the resources at your disposal. Whatever an investment means for you and your organization, now is the time. When you hire the best fit for both the position and the organization from the very beginning, you greatly reduce the chance of a turnover — and increase your potential promotion pool.

There are several ways to ensure you’re getting the best fit for your open positions. First, you should use objective assessment tools to accurately measure necessary traits like job skill and judgment. Don’t rely on the information in job applications or resumes to choose who you interview; a study by Statistic Brain Research Institute revealed that four out of five resumes contain misleading or outright false information. Second, when it’s time for selecting and interviewing, make sure to involve the potential hire’s direct manager(s). They are not only familiar with the position’s duties and requirements but also the candidate’s potential team. You have a much higher chance for proper team meshing when its members are part of the process.

Internal Recruiting Tip #2: Give Them Somewhere to Go (and Grow)

If you truly want to embrace promoting from within as part of your hiring strategy, you need to make sure employees have a place to go. Build career paths for your positions and show your new hires there is room for advancement within your organization. After all, if the ladder is visible, your employees are more likely to be interested in climbing it.

Also keep in mind that growth can sometimes happen sideways. Maybe an employee is interested in learning a new set of skills that might take them on a different path. Keep an open mind when looking to fill your open positions; someone you may not have considered could be the perfect fit with a little additional training. Often, behavioral assessments can be used to identify who would be suited for these more lateral moves.

Kristen Wynk, Director of Independent and Assisted Living for Briarwood Village, began her career in long-term care as a dietary aide. She grew up about 15 minutes away from Briarwood and began working there evenings after school. As a junior in high school, she served dinner to the residents before heading home to concentrate on her studies. The job was a good fit for her school schedule, she thought.

“Soon, I was hooked on the residents,” she said. “I took nursing classes and started working as an STNA [i.e. a CNA] over weekends and summer holidays while I was in college.”

Internal Recruiting Tip #3: Pay Attention to Their Aspirations

The ability to lead isn’t necessarily enough. To be effective as a manager, an employee should also have the desire to lead. When a team member tells you they want to move up, listen to them. If they want more responsibility in their current role, let them have it. There are always special projects or events that require a bit of extra effort; these provide the perfect opportunities for your more ambitious employees to stand out and show you what they are capable of.

After working as an STNA, Wynk decided to shift her focus and pursue administration. While still attending college, she completed an Administrator-in-Training internship and ultimately accepted the position of Director of IL/AL. Through it all, she feels her experience gives her unique insight in her current role: “Working in dietary and as an STNA helped me out immensely,” she said. “I feel like I better understand the staff and their viewpoint, and I can relate at various levels within the organization.”

Internal Recruiting Tip #4: Look for the Leaders

Just because someone is good at their job, it doesn’t mean they’re ready to be promoted. It might simply mean that they’re just good at what they do. Your best workers aren’t necessarily going to be your best leaders. Before you select employees for promotion, look at skills beyond their position:

  • Are they well-respected by the team?
  • Are they able to manage multiple tasks and work under pressure?
  • How are their people skills?
  • Are they decisive?

These are just some of the questions to consider. When deciding whom to promote from within, make sure you’re choosing people with the potential to be leaders. Otherwise, you could lose a valuable employee who simply wasn’t ready for additional responsibility.

Internal Recruiting Tip #5: Give Them the Opportunity to Learn

If you want to create a culture of growth in your organization, you must be willing to nurture that growth. One way you can do this is by providing employees with the opportunity to officially expand and grow their skill sets. Subsidizing degree and certification programs will help employees become the specialists you need at potentially much lower costs than hiring for those positions externally. Plus, paying for these programs fosters more company loyalty than bringing in experts from outside. It shows that you believe in your employees’ potential and that you’re willing to invest in it.

William Otis, Senior Executive Director of Morning Pointe Assisted Living, began his career in long-term care as a resident assistant at the organization’s Greenbriar Cove community. A recent college graduate at the time, Otis began pursuing an MBA with an emphasis on healthcare administration. Morning Pointe ended up paying for his Master’s degree through its tuition reimbursement program, and Otis moved up the ranks of the organization while completing his degree. Morning Pointe invested in his career with them, and he now mentors other young professionals and inspires them to think about a career in senior health.

Internal Recruiting Tip #6: Keep Your Door Open

Creating an open, transparent managing experience for your team is also essential to promoting from within the right way. If your team feels like they can come to you with anything without feeling pressured or judged, they are much more likely to ask about moving up within the company. If they feel closed off, they might worry that asking about advancement could create tension, and that worry could possibly lead them to fulfill their ambitions elsewhere.

Promoting from within is a win-win situation for your organization and workers. It allows you to recognize and reward your standout employees. It sets up future leadership that is invested in your company and its culture. It helps you build and reinforce your organization’s character with every employee you move up the ladder. And when you do it the right way, you can narrow your focus to the bottom rung of that ladder, growing and cultivating each employee into exactly who you and your clients need them to be. Plus, your time-to-fill stands to benefit as well, since it tends to be easier — not to mention quicker — to recruit for those entry-level positions.

We get it; sometimes you have to hire from outside to fill a vacancy. Maybe no one is available to step up, or the ones who are available aren’t quite ready yet. But when you have the option, internal recruiting should always be your first choice. When you take the time to do it the right way, it’s an investment that will always pay off.

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Ryan Haddock

About Ryan Haddock

Ryan Haddock is a Marketing Manager for HealthcareSource, focusing on the company's senior living and staffing solutions. As a marketing manager, Ryan helps connect providers with a software platform that will help them hire, keep, and grow the right people. When he isn't scrawling plans onto white boards or tapping away at a laptop, Ryan enjoys reading, writing short stories, and spending time with his wife and three boys.