Internal Promotions & External Hires: A Conversation With Michael Abbott

on 06 | 02 | 2014

When you’re building a company you generally want to try and promote from within existing ranks. This helps to create a sense of good will among your employees, while also leading to the development of stronger, more cohesive teams. However there will be times when the best person to fill a management position will be someone from outside the company. In those cases you should take steps to try and smooth the transition process, and help to integrate the new hire into your organization.

Recently a small group of rising industry professionals had a chance to discuss hiring strategies with Michael Abbott in an intimate fireside chat. A renowned expert on enterprise infrastructure, Mr. Abbott was able to successfully oversee the growth of Twitter from 45 employees to 400 in less than two years time. When the topic of external hires came up, he was kind enough to share some of his wisdom on the subject.

The first thing that he stressed is that internal promotions are almost always preferable to outside hiring for management positions. It’s much easier for the leader, and it creates a better corporate culture by rewarding employees who have invested their time in the company. Of course situations like the one he handled at Twitter do arise when an organization has to rapidly scale its teams, precipitating the need for outside hires.

One of the most important things you can do when filling a management position with a new person is to try and bring them on as a member of the team for at least a few months before hand. This will greatly increase their chance of success by allowing them to get a sense of the group’s dynamic, and meet the other members on equal footing. Once acclimated they can then more naturally take on a leadership role.

He also stressed the necessity of creating a work environment that encourages people to take the steps necessary for them to be considered for promotions. You should create opportunities for your employees to stand out and take on more responsibility. The best companies will be merit based, rewarding for results rather than hours logged, or relationships formed with those higher up. In this way you will make it easier for quality leaders to emerge from within existing ranks.

In general, it is better to promote current employees to management positions than it is to bring in outside hires. This leads to the creation of stronger, more cohesive teams, while promoting a corporate culture that shows rewards for those who have invested time and effort in the company. When hiring someone new for a leadership role is unavoidable, you’ll have better results by bringing them on as a team contributor for a few months before promoting them.

Riviera regularly hosts fireside chats with some of the leading minds in tech. Recently a group of up and coming industry professionals had the chance to sit down with Michael Abbott of KPCB – this is the second of a series of posts recapping key insight.