Hire New or Develop Existing? A Leadership Dilemma


The Senior Manager says: “What if we train and develop our people, and then they leave us?”

The CEO says: “What if we don’t train them, and they stay?

No doubt you have seen this meme circulating in recent years. It’s true, though. It’s also very insightful. Think about the mindset of an organization that is reluctant to develop its workers for fear that those workers will leave. As a worker, would you want to work there? And then, think about the organizations that want to train their workers so that those workers can conquer anything. Do you think those workers would really want to leave?

Some senior managers don’t believe they have the right people for the job. This is often because the worker doesn’t have the best work performance. I often ask, “Why are they not performing well?” I cannot tell you how often it ends up that the worker just wasn’t sufficiently trained. Or, at the very least, not training in the way that the worker best receives the information. What if we could refocus?

Large organizations spend a lot of money attempting to identify the critical competencies for superior work performance. The attempt aims to find the “gaps” in their workforce and rectify identified challenges. This helps smarter organizations focus resources on incentives, coaching, and training programs.

It’s about helping the workers refine and progress in the necessary competencies required for the job or their industry. Of course, it also helps with identifying proper candidates for open positions. Such identifications benefit employee development, but recruitment would benefit substantially if the organization could pinpoint the key competencies needed.

Recruitment may not be necessary, though. Competencies can be learned, and there is a good chance that the organization already has people who can learn the necessary competencies within their ranks. Proper and unbiased evaluations are always recommended. I say this because I often see good people being overlooked due to poor performance, even though they were placed into a position that did not align well for them in the first place or when the necessary tasks were not properly conveyed or trained on. This is probably a good time to remind everyone that good people leave bad companies, bad managers, and because of a lack of personal development. Don’t be on that list!

Competencies are the ability to do something successfully or efficiently. We must remember that different people are geared differently but that proper training and development are always necessary. Efficiency and proficiency usually take developed skills, knowledge, and talent. However, these can be relative, and we need to keep this in mind as leaders. This is especially true when we consider the individual task at hand and any training that we will send our workers to.

Substantial problems can arise when the organization doesn’t know precisely what they need or when they don’t know how to properly develop the people they already have. This is usually when a leadership development practitioner can come in handy but knowing what you need ahead of time is critical. Now, IF the necessary competencies have been identified and IF the organization cannot find the individuals that can successfully develop the necessary attributes, recruitment might be necessary.

Skills can be improved, knowledge can be gained, and given talents can usually be developed, so perhaps the initial selection of employees should come by deciding if the potential employee is competent, capable, and a person of good character in the first place. Perhaps what they have done already is not as important as their learning ability—selecting these types of candidates (instead of by accolade, pedigree, etc.) might save the organization time and money in the long run.

Just a thought.

Interested in learning more? Be sure to check out my article titled “Leadership Development Strategies.