Why Promoting From Within Worked for Us: The Optimove HR Dogma

It happens often, not only in the Hi-Tech industry: Young talents in a professional role find themselves managing teams and workers, with no real background or managerial experience. But there are more opportunities than worries in that scenario. Optimove's CEO explains why

Posted in , on 27 September 2018 by:

It happens often, especially in today’s business world. Growing companies are struggling to hire the right people for the right positions. It’s more than the tedious process of advertising the job and screening candidates, the many stages of interviewing and the resource-intensive onboarding process. It’s also about a loss in productivity and, sometimes, losses in real business. That’s a lot for any growing company to take on, so they often choose the “easier” way - promoting inexperienced employees to fill in the gaps and placing them in managerial positions.

During my nine-year tenure at Optimove as co-founder and CEO, I promoted most of the employees who started with the company at ground level to managerial roles. But I can’t say it was all a compromise or out of necessity. I found these promotions had a unique effect on our company culture, as well as our organizational structure. Here are my reasons for doing so while the company was still young, small and somewhat cheeky.

A contract for life 

I started the company straight out of college as an entrepreneur. I didn't have any relevant experience, not to mention no managerial training, but I did have a clear goal, good instincts and a talent for dealing with the changing reality. That’s why I believe others can do this straight from the classroom as well.

In a sense, it’s like being married. You sign a contract for life, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll succeed. You have to take it day by day. You have to evolve within your role to face the changes. For me, it was always trial, error, and support - being there to help each other if and when any of us made a mistake. The big advantage - and you can’t treat it lightly - is that these people know the company in all its particulars from top to bottom, and it’s a strength that an outside manager will need time and extra skills to match.

Just as important is the emotional aspect. A person who’s been working in your company for five years has an invaluable emotional attachment to the people, to the brand and to the DNA of the company. Our managers, who were promoted from within, look at the company as something they are responsible for and treat it as much more than a job, much more than a workplace. Pardon the cliché - it’s home.

Embrace the mistakes

It all derives from my human resources philosophy. We aim to not put workers in a box and to create a culture of diversity. It’s in our DNA. We couldn’t bring in new talent in the beginning, so we had to find creative solutions. One time it was to move an employee from the marketing department to the lab, and other times it was spotting a real talent in our office manager who, after growing professionally, completing her studies and more, is now our CFO. I take pride in the fact that I’m able to recognize real talent and I’m not afraid of offering change. There are always new challenges and new problems to solve, and we are always trying to create new roles to answer new needs.

I’m also not afraid to say that sometimes I got it wrong - like the time I promoted a guy who was with me from the start to lead a department. He couldn’t handle the pressure and his merits just got lost. He was unhappy and I recognized it. I didn’t want to lose him completely, so we both swallowed our pride and did what it took to keep him with us in another role.

To be honest, it happens less and less now. We have grown substantially and many times I find the benefits of taking an experienced manager for a specific role. But I haven’t changed my core: If I believe in the talent, whether I’ve known the person for six years or six months, I’m not afraid to make mistakes. The only thing I care about is if the person is real and has a heart. The rest just falls into place.

This article was first published on Forbes Communications Council.

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