Promoting from Within: Employers Are Motivated, But It’s Not Always Easy

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May 7, 2014

A recent survey by the College for America, The 2014 Workplace Strategies Survey, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, reveals that employers prefer developing employees to hiring new ones by a 2 to 1 margin.

This is a smart and cost-effective talent management strategy to be sure,  but preferring to promote and being able to promote are two quite different things – as this study points out.

  • For low-level team leader positions and middle management roles, 73 percent of survey respondents stated that developing current employees’ skills (vs. hiring new) best reflected their company’s talent strategies.
  • For senior management and executive roles, 67 percent of respondents reported that developing the skills of current employees (vs. hiring new) best reflected their company’s talent strategies.

The results are clear — companies want to promote from within!

Developing leadership skills a key goal

The College for America survey sourced information from 400 senior business leaders responsible for HR and/or administration at companies of 500 plus employees, between Dec.6-16, 2013.

Though these employers prefer promotion to new hiring, the data also shows that developing leadership skills and addressing skill gaps remain significant issues to overcome. When asked about the challenges faced when developing employees,:

  • 94 percent of respondents reported that the need to build talent and leadership was a very or somewhat important challenge;
  • 87 percent said that employees missing skills for promotion was a very or somewhat important challenge; and,
  • 85 percent felt that finding well qualified candidates was a very or somewhat important challenge.

In addition, the survey also shows that companies with 50 percent or more full-time employees were hit harder by the skills gap than companies with 50 percent of more part-time employees.

Biggest challenges

“Heavily full-time” organizations (again, with 50 percent or more full-time employees) reported that the three biggest challenges their organizations faced were:

  1. Talent and leadership;
  2. Qualified applicants; and,
  3. Employees having the right skills for promotion.

Companies with 50 percent or more part-time employees reported their top three challenges as:

  1. Talent and leadership;
  2. Retaining workers: and,
  3. Having sufficiently engaged employees.

A beginning step to promoting from within

The good news from this survey, though, is that many organizations are instituting employee development programs, and a high percentage of organizations are offering tuition reimbursement.

The College for America’s survey reports that 76 percent of organizations offer tuition reimbursement to employees to help them pursue a college degree. With this, 79 percent of organizations report that tuition reimbursement is available to the majority of employees (executives, senior level managers, supervisors and middle managers, and workers without a college degree).

So the beginning step of making degree programs affordable for workers at all levels is being offered by a majority of employers. Supporting degree completion and further supporting internal mobility are next — if — employers will truly be able to meet their strategic plan to promote from within rather than buying new talent in the open market.

This originally appeared on China Gorman’s blog at