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The Employee Experience Platform | Culture Amp
Hiring internally v.s. externally
Blog - Didier Elzinga, author profile

Didier Elzinga

Founder & CEO, Culture Amp


One of the really interesting questions that we struggle with as a high-growth company is whether we grow someone internally or hire somebody that has done it before and can bring a new perspective. If we’re truly a Culture First company we have to prioritize our people because we believe that we will grow by growing our people.

But that doesn't mean that we should never hire anybody new into senior roles. Importantly, it also means that we may need to support you to grow somewhere else because that’s where you will grow faster.

As our business grows, the same roles become more complex

In a rapidly growing company, like Culture Amp, there are always new opportunities. As we grow, our business also becomes more complicated. This means there are more things to do, more responsibility to take on and plenty for you to go after. But it also means that the path to growth isn’t always linear.

As a company scales there are two things at play – the job gets bigger and it also gets more complicated. As a base case, the role you’re doing today will probably be about four times more complicated next year just due to the underlying growth. At the same time, the role above you will also have become four times more complicated which means, if you want to step up to the next level, over the next year you need to make a jump that’s maybe 16 times more complex than what you’re doing today. That’s an exceptionally high rate of personal growth, even for the most capable of us.

This is a big challenge for a Culture First company because we want to prioritize our people’s growth. While we need to help them step up when they’re ready, we also need to make sure that they have the skills to do the role.

So when we have a new role to fill we first ask ourselves if we think any of our people could do that role six months from now. If we believe they could get there in six months then we will give them the training and support to get there rather than hire someone externally. This is part of being Culture First. If we think our people can grow, we give them the chance.

If we don’t think there’s anyone who could fill a particular role within six months we will look externally. Of course, it's only natural that some people may feel that this inhibits their own growth. That’s when we need to have an honest conversation. The truth is we honestly may not believe they will get to the next level within our organization because of the scale that we’ve grown to or the skills that are required. These conversations are hard, but it’s important that we have honest discussions to untangle exactly what our people want to do and then support them to get there.

Bringing in new hires is also a good thing for our people and our organization. New people bring new experiences, new thoughts, and ideas. These provide opportunities for all of us to learn and continue to grow.

Sometimes you may grow faster somewhere else

Sometimes, the best way for people to grow the fastest may be outside of Culture Amp. While there are always lots of opportunities in a rapidly growing company, at a certain point in time, people may benefit most from continuing their journey at another company.

For example, you might be a Director of Engineering with a 50 person team. If you want to move up and become a VP it may be best for you to be a VP with a 50 person team (which means stepping down in the overall scale or stage of the company). You can learn the bigger role and take on more responsibility without having to deal with the issue of scale.

It’s quite unusual for people to just keep taking on bigger roles in a company that is scaling rapidly because the scale makes the jump so much larger. That’s why sometimes people benefit most from taking on a bigger role at a smaller company. While this isn’t an easy conversation to have, it’s important because it’s about personal growth.

As a Culture First company, the growth of our people matters to us more than just about anything else. We will always prioritize it and want to actively give people new opportunities to get where they want to go. Sometimes that means that they may need to learn from someone else, or they may need to grow as an individual at a different company. Regardless of which path is right, our commitment is to always be honest with our people and support them to grow.

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