Dennis Michel was fresh out of college in the late 80s, looking for a career opportunity. He landed a good job in a Discover call center. Now, some 30 years later, he's the senior VP of customer service and engagement there. What was the secret to his sticking power? The company gave him a chance to learn, grow and advance in his career, instead of being replaced.
Loyal employees who are natural cultural fits
This concept may seem foreign to some recruitment teams; after all, they're continually hunting for fresh talent to fill a never-ending series of job openings. And this type of effort certainly can have positive effects, like improved diversity. However, there's also something to be said for sourcing candidates internally, as the best candidates are sometimes right under a hiring manager's nose.
Michel shared his story with HR Dive, explaining that, initially, his objective was to gain some experience in corporate America that he could leverage to pursue entrepreneurial interests. When he was hired, Discover was new and growing, "and that afforded me a lot of opportunities to stay highly challenged and enriched, which kept me highly engaged," he said.
But that wasn't the only reason Michel accepted the job and stayed so long. Culture played a big role in his decision to stay on board.
“Discover then and now has always been a company very committed to its employees," he said. "The culture is fantastic and there’s a genuine interest in ensuring employees are provided with the right support and development to realize their full potential.”
Michel says he's been committed to that philosophy from day one. "If your employees are your priority, and you do a great job of taking care of them, they will take care of your customers and your business," he said. "It seems like a very logical approach but Discover has genuinely committed to it since its inception and it has translated to a great place to work and great business results.”
Benefits of hiring from within
In addition to loyal employees who stand behind the corporate brand, recruiting internally has other benefits, including:
- reduced administrative costs for the company;
- the opportunity for junior level employees to move up;
- a pool of employees who are aligned with the culture; and
- improved employee morale and retention rates.
Michel sees all of this now in his role a leader.
“Promoting from within at Discover is a win-win," he said. "As a large company with many diverse opportunities, encouraging and allowing employees to explore new opportunities drives enhanced experience, enrichment and challenge, all of which translates to a more successful and engaged employee.”
Looking to the future, and communicating opportunities
Internal sourcing also is critical to future planning, says Paul Slezak, co-founder and head of marketplace at RecruitLoop. “There is a valuable existing employee core,” he told HR Dive, “and as recruiters we must always be building a dedicated sourcing plan for filling future positions — keeping in mind the community of people who will be suitable for that time.”
But it's not always easy. Accurately identifying employees who are actively plugged into the employer brand can be tough, Slezak says. These are employees who will be around in five to ten years. Employers should proactively introduce future roles to employees, he said, and keep communicating about career paths.
"It will soon become clear who is actively seeking new levels of responsibility and who is ready for additional development," he said, adding that it’s also important to focus on a mindset of true talent acquisition.
Michel agrees. “By empowering our employees and giving them the tools and support they need for long term success, we will also grow as a company," he said. "This includes maintaining an open dialogue and making sure they feel fulfilled and valued in their role while giving them the opportunity to express interest in other areas of the business." This enables employees to bring a broader perspective to their new role and, from a business standpoint, an employer make the most of its talent by distributing it throughout the organization.
And while the conversation about career opportunities and training benefits must be ongoing, what about employees who stay on the fringe and don't outwardly express an interest in moving up?
Jaime Fall, director of UpSkill America at the Aspen Institute says it starts with encouraging all employees to participate in learning on the job. After all, learning new skills can improve performance, and highlight those ripe for a new opportunity. It’s not about singling out specific employees; it’s a matter of providing a culture that promotes learning from day one, Fall told HR Dive.
“Internal development needs to be a part of the culture of the company, and this should initially happen during the hiring phase," he said. "Applicants should be able to go on a company website and know before they apply what the career path looks like in the company, what it looks like to move up."
Fall also has a warning for employers who don’t highlight career paths: “If an employee cannot see a future for themselves, they will be looking for an exit strategy.” Every candidate should be introduced to a personal development plan immediately, with no restrictive wait times, he says. "They should be encouraged to use their learning benefits early on.” This can be especially critical when hiring and retaining millennials and Gen Z employees who will move on to other organizations unless they have a clear picture of their futures.
Fall says he sees organizations fall into one of two categories: those that view learning and development from a cost perspective (that needs to be controlled), and those that view learning as the foundation of their culture.
It's critical that organizational leaders take the latter approach and look at employee learning and development as more than just another benefit. Instead, learning should be an ongoing process that’s woven into the fabric of each company’s culture and objectives. By doing so, the internal pipeline will grow, making internal recruiting and promotion that much easier.