When you invest in the education of your employees, you give your company the gift of a long-term solution to your talent needs

The Talent Right In Front Of You - Udacity

The following quote has been variously attributed to everyone from Lao Tzu to Maimonides to Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie:

“Give someone a fish, and you feed them for a day. Teach someone to fish, and you feed them for a lifetime.”

Given its ubiquity throughout modern history, it’s clearly a resonant message, and part of its appeal has to do with its broad applicability—it’s germane to so many different use cases.

The quote is generally interpreted as a lesson about self-sufficiency, but it’s also sage advice when thinking about short-term “band-aids” vs. long-term solutions. Why solve something for a day, only to have the same problem again tomorrow? Why not embrace a long-term solution that eliminates the problem once and for all?

Hiring managers and recruiters confront this issue every day. After all, hiring is essentially an act of problem-solving—a company has a need, and the right hiring decision will solve for it. But what IS the right hiring decision? If you’re a company in need of talent, the solution is often right in front of you!

Let’s take the example of a company website.

Company X is a small company. They have a website, but it’s not very good, and it’s becoming a problem. They need a new site, but no one internally has the skills to do the work. What should Company X do? One solution is to hire someone from outside their organization to do the work. In theory, this makes sense, because professionals will know what to do, and how to do it. The challenges with this approach, however, are multi-fold. One obvious issue, is that there’s no real way to know whether the outside entity will do a good job. But the bigger question is, how can you know whether they’ll “get” you? A website isn’t just functional. It’s a symbol of brand identity. It communicates values as much as it provides services. So you want to work with someone who understands who you are as a company. Finding an outside entity that is both reliable, and that understands your brand, is difficult, and even if you DO find someone, they’re not yours for keeps. They do the work, then they’re off to the next client.

Hiring an outside entity often results in a “fed for a day” solution. If all goes well, you’ll get your new site, but as your company expands and evolves, you’ll be hungry again soon.

So what’s the alternative?

If you’re in a Company X kind of a situation, take a moment to look around you. What do you see? Chances are, what you see are dedicated, reliable, hardworking individuals who are committed to your company, and who most definitely “get” you. But at first glance, you might not be seeing the people who can build your new site.

Or are you?

Here at Udacity, we think you are! We think there are people at your company right now, who are just a Nanodegree program away from giving you exactly what you need. Don’t believe us? Poll your employees today. Find out whether someone at your company harbors an interest in web development. Chances are, there’s someone who’d jump at this kind of opportunity.

So, here’s a suggestion for companies in need of talent. Instead of investing in a one-time, short-term approach, invest in a Nanodegree program on behalf of one or more of your employees instead, and give your company the gift of a long-term solution to your talent needs.

Employees, this is an action item for you as well. If you’ve got a passion for something, and you think pursuing your passion can help your company, speak up! That’s what Kat Halo did. Her company hired someone else to do their marketing, but Kat knew she could do a better job. She took it upon herself to learn digital marketing with Udacity, and now, she’s doing marketing for her company!

There are a great many tangible benefits to hiring from within. A recent CareerBuilder article affirms that you’ll save money and see better performance, and Adam Foroughi, writing for Entrepreneur, notes the following:

  1. Motivated employees work harder.
  2. Opportunity, happy people = higher retention.
  3. Internal hires adapt better to new roles.

And finally, as noted in a recent article from Inc., “Wharton research shows that external hires cost 18 to 20 percent more than those  promoted from within.”

Let’s now return to our quote:

“Give someone a fish, and you feed them for a day. Teach someone to fish, and you feed them for a lifetime.”

The key lesson here lies in the distinction between “a day” and “a lifetime.” As a company, when it comes to making hiring decisions, you want to invest in a long-term solution that works for the long term, and that’s what investing in the development of existing employees is all about. When you need talent, you often need look no further than the people right in front of you.

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