Contributed Column

Personnel Points

by Dave Mount, Westaff

Promoting Cathleen

We recently had a meeting of our company regional managers and owners. The afternoon session was devoted to personnel matters. Principally, there was one branch manager position open, and the collective management also had decided to create another position that would be a promotion for one of our employees. We wound up with two promotions from within the company.

When I left full-time management of our company, most of our managers were promoted from within. We had created a system of regional managers as we grew to 13 offices, and management had become a bit cumbersome.

There are a lot of reasons to promote from within. I will enumerate a few.

• People from within the company know your systems. An outsider has to learn everything from scratch.

• When we promote someone from within, there is an improvement in morale among most of the other employees. There may be a problem if there was a competition for the position, but that is usually a rare event.

• Employees usually rally around a newly promoted employee.

• A newly promoted employee is a known commodity. You know the employee’s temperament, work habits, strengths, and weaknesses.

One of the problems with promoting employees is that that newly promoted people may need skills that they don’t have, such as supervisory skills. Those can be taught, and the cost of a course to teach those skills is miniscule when compared to the cost of a bad hire from the outside.

I certainly have not had only successes when I have promoted from within but the success rate has been pretty good. One time, I promoted our credit manager to be the company controller. We promoted one of our credit specialists to be credit manager.

The controller performed wonderfully. She continued her career with our company and then had positions of increasing responsibility elsewhere in corporate America.

The new credit manager turned out to be a disaster. Of course, disasters in personnel don’t normally happen instantly; they take weeks and months to mature. Our new credit manager had an inferiority complex that caused her to shift blame and throw her employees (former colleagues) under the bus whenever there was a problem. We had a serious problem and we had to terminate her. I probably should have given her more training — maybe a course or two — and been a better mentor, but in the end, I had to end her career with our company.

Now to the two people we promoted during our meeting. One was an employee in one of our most successful branches. She knows all of our systems and procedures and has great experience. She has been with the company for some time and will be able to slot into her new position with ease and with the support of her former peers, now employees.

The second, Cathleen, is no stranger to promotion. She started out with our company after she relocated from another state. She had just graduated from college and needed a position to get her career going. We started her in the lowest clerical position in the branch. That was not because we did not see her potential but because we did. She was promoted twice and became the branch manager of our largest branch. At the meeting, we noted that a nearby branch needed some loving care and some discipline at the same time. What better person than the manager of a close-by branch who excelled?

We invited Cathleen to our meeting after the decision was made. The look on her face was worth a million dollars. She had a look of confidence and of gratitude. She was grateful that we had seen her ability and knowledge and confident that she would not let us down.

I had seen these looks before — every time I promoted her.

Dave Mount is the founder of Westaff in Burlington.

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