8 – From Programmer to VP Sales and Marketing

One more way to retain and attract people: a “grow your own” process. You ask each employee what they’d like to be doing 5 or 10 years in the future, then actively support them as take the risk of trying something new. You can help them get the education and skills and training to be able to fill those roles, and assure them that they can revert to their original position if the new one does not work out. Two personal examples:

  1. When I was IT manager at Faultless Caster in Evansville Indiana, I learned that one of our shop foremen was really interested in programming. I brought him into the IT department and gave him the education and training so that he could blossom.

  1. At Burroughs Corporation (now Unisys), one of my programmers was a natural schmoozer. He was a good programmer, but he talked with people whenever he had the opportunity. And he made LOTS of opportunities! So we transferred him to the sales and marketing department. He rose through the ranks, eventually becoming the VP Sales and Marketing of a large computer manufacturer.

In each case, we helped the employee develop their innate talents and grow far beyond where they would have if they had remained in their initial career path. Both they and the company benefited greatly.

A second way to grow your own is self-managed work teams. One of their major benefits is that they naturally incubate leaders. When I help a client create self-managed work teams, I have each team rotate positions of team leader and scribe every month until everyone has filled both positions. Then I let the team decide whom they would like as their leader. That person is a candidate for future promotion. Promoting from within has a major impact on employee loyalty and retention; it is especially attractive to the best and brightest.

But what about people who want to remain where they are? Perhaps they’d be interested in being the mentor or trainer for new hires. Or doing something else to widen and enrich their position. Even those people who want to remain right where they are with no changes whatsoever will appreciate that you respected them enough to have the dialogue with them.

What does it cost? All it takes is an open mind and willingness to listen to an employee and help them see what might be possible, then support them as they take steps toward their dream. If that attitude permeates your organization, why would anyone want to leave? And why would a candidate that you’re recruiting choose any other organization instead of yours?

Have you seen this work in your organization?

This is the 8th blog in the series, “How to retain and attract employees”.


Gary Langenwalter

Portland Consulting Group

Wisdom for Exceptional Results



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