Hiring from without or within? Which is “best”?

September 2, 2011

As a current job searcher, this post really resonated with me (I would be in the “free agent” category since I have relocated to our area due to my husband’s employer):  http://willmanley.com/2011/09/01/will-unwound-542-home-grown-or-free-agents/; here is the link to the comments:  http://willmanley.com/2011/09/01/will-unwound-542-home-grown-or-free-agents/#comments

I have seen both sides of this, and believe it really does depend on the talents of the existing staff and atmosphere of your library.  To promote just for the sake of promoting (as if someone is “due” a promotion just for “sticking it out”) doesn’t always make morale better, nor should someone just be hired from the outside for the purpose of bringing in “new blood.” 

I have often been the “new blood” person. I felt that it was important to take the time to gauge the atmosphere first, and be respectful and even cautious initially in inundating my new coworkers with new ideas.   There may be really good reasons the current staff haven’t embraced a technology or a program (IT department, cost, etc.), so it is important not to make assumptions or act like a “know it all.”  Once you know what has worked, what hasn’t, and why, then you can offer your ideas, and brainstorm on new ways to make the idea work.  Sometimes having a new person help to make an existing person’s idea come true can be a great morale booster!

Unfortunately, most of my own experiences have been with managers or coworkers promoted from within, and in almost all the cases, it was not a good thing.  I think this usually happened when the promotion was done out of either laziness,  a misguided idea of raising morale, or because the person was a “known quantity” and the people hiring felt they could count on the person to not make waves.  Sometimes, a person actively expected and lobbied for a formal promotion, without meeting any  goals towards that end!  Kind of like grade inflation…’I have shown up, so I should get an “A.”‘  Unfortunately, none of this did anything for either the library, its staff, or its patrons.   It caused much frustration on the part of the employees, and often caused major stagnation in the library as an entity.

I agree with one of the commentors on the above referenced blog that it should be the “fit” that is important.  That person from within may be the obvious and best fit for the position, and if that is the case, then they should be hired.  However, if no one within the system really fits what the library needs and brings the energy or passion necessary to keep the library on a forward path, hiring managers should not be afraid to look to others who can bring their experiences to the betterment of their institution.  Morale often goes up when the person hired is certainly the right one, no matter if  “home grown” or “free agent.”  When you have happy, engaged employees, your public and patrons will reap the benefits.



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