This post attempts to answer the question “new blood has replaced internal promotions because…”
‘We need new blood’. I’ve heard this phrase a few hundred to a few thousand times, always uttered by someone in management. Sometimes it’s ‘new energy’ or maybe a ‘new perspective’. Sometimes it goes by other descriptors, but the ‘new’ is usually part of what they are asking for and ‘new’ almost always represents a new person to the situation. The idea is that someone new to a role can fix what was wrong with the position, and this new person is typically new to the organization, i.e. a recent hire or a recent transfer. There are upward/positive spirals in the world and there are downward/negative spirals. I am pretty sure, and when I say pretty sure I mean very sure that the ‘new blood’ mentality typically results in a negative spiral for the organization. I say typically because ‘new blood’ is a fallacy steeped in truth, but i’ll get to that in a bit.
The belief in new blood is better than internal promotions persists because sometimes New Blood is actually needed…
Let’s start with the truth part of the fallacy steeped in truth. The trick here is that sometimes it is true that new blood is absolutely needed, the fresh perspective is invaluable. The new eyes that says ‘this is really stupid, stop it’. Of course you have to be empowered to actually make things stop.. There really are situations when people get too comfortable in their roles. Usually, at the PIC level this relates to some B2B situation. If your in some form of outreach, and you’ve outreached to a market or a group of companies again and again, month after month, year after year, it makes sense that you can get burned out. Yes, the situation may change and they may be ready for your product/service, Yes, the existing vendor may screw up, or maybe they have finally gotten over your company’s massive screw up from the past and are ready to give you another try. Unfortunately these types of changes in the environment are so rare that it’s easy to see where after hitting your head against the wall for so long you just give up. Your conditioned to believe that all you will ever see is a ‘no’. Why try to reach out, they will probably never engage with you again? In this type of scenario it’s easy to see why the continual ‘refreshing’ of the outreach position may… I repeat… may… be a good thing. Ditto with most management, again.. The new blood is only going to be as effective as they are empowered to be. It’s the old line about the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
The belief in new blood is better than internal promotions persists because of the false belief that someone from outside the organization will work harder / better than the existing employe.
The idea behind someone coming in from outside the organization is built around the belief that someone who has new ideas or new initiative will do a better job than someone who is ostensibly jaded by the current situation. If management believes (correctly or incorrectly) that it’s going to take extra hours and extra effort to make something happen, they may believe the existing person in the role may not have the initiative or belief that the extra hours will benefit them or the company. If management doesn’t think the organizational issues are all that great and that the existing Professional Individual Contributor is hiding behind them or using them as an excuse they will double down on their belief in the necessity of new blood.
Reality Point: Productivity ≠ Activity
One of the greatest issues facing organizations with ever more thinned out management is that the people who really are managers have less ability to understand their individual contributors. They make mental notes based on limited exposure and circumstantial evidence. They aren’t bad, it’s all they can do with the time / focus bandwidth they have. The manager may see someone coming in a half hour later every day, and leaving a half hour earlier and think that that person is being lazy. Yet, put someone new in the role, and they may work three extra hours a day and still not be as effective as the ‘lazy’ person who understands the situation. The manager sees all those extra hours the few times they interact with the new-to-the-organization person and feels like they made the right call.
It’s the rainmaker mentality. Wall Street pushes companies, and the company management, to make something happen that may not be realistic. This is why everyone wants the rain maker. The person who’s going to go the extra mile and bring it all together. Maybe it’s sales, but it can also be organizational efficiency, it can be any number of difficult tasks in the work environment. To exceed where others have failed repeatedly usually means a bunch of luck… but the myth persists that there is that one person, the rain maker, who can make it happen. Even when it doesn’t happen the high activity levels of a new worker gives the false perception that they are setting the organization up for a bunch of big wins.
The belief in new blood is better than internal promotions persists because of the corporate / organizational structure that demands it.
In larger organizations relocation is not just a necessity, it’s a fundamental need that’s evolved to corporate policy. Sometimes it’s because organizations don’t want managers and employes to get too set in their ways. Sometimes it’s because organizations want to cross-pollinate ‘rising stars’ with different experiences. Sometimes it’s because organizations want to drive productivity by having the hardest workers go fix problem area after problem area. Sometimes it’s simple logistics.. The organization has a business where the work locations are small and far enough apart that they require relocation (telecom, building maintenance).
These types of positions tend to be heavily populated by younger members of the workforce. It’s really hard to bounce from region to region for the purpose of working your way up the career ladder if you have a family. The only organization I know of in all my years of experience that does this with any efficiency throughout the course of an entire career is the United States Military. The reason they do this well is because they take the whole family with you, lock, stock and barrell. They have a complex infrastructure to support the entire family’s transitions from location to location. I can safely predict that most people reading this will never see anything even close to this structure in the private or non-government sectors.
The belief in new blood is better than internal promotions persists because of the lack of incentive for anyone to stick around.
This is not only the reason why there is a belief that someone needs to be moved on, but it’s also a reason why there is the ongoing search for the purple squirrel. Organizations don’t really invest long term in their own people. It’s a daunting thing to invest time, money, and effort into someone when you don’t know if they are going to be around for a second longer than they are obligated for. It does happen here and there. The truly high need programs will train the individual if they promise to stick around, but generally speaking investing into people is not part of the conversation.
Let’s go back to wall street and the quarterly earnings review. When was the last time you heard of a news story that talked about the quarterly earnings report call where the story was about the company’s unique or extraordinary investment in training people? We hear of investment into share buybacks, partners, infrastructure, R&D, but the front page will not say, we are investing 25% of our profits into training our existing workforce to be better prepared for the next level we would like to move them to. Do you blame them? With the average tenure at a job measured in just a few years a CEO would be highly criticized for investing in it’s own people. Since these CEO’s are mostly compensated by stock options, it stands to reason they are going to do whatever investors think should drive up the stocks, and that’s measured much more in actions that will drive the quarterly numbers vs the extreme long term stability of the enterprise.
Companies also don’t invest in the things that keep people sticking around. To get raises or promotions employees realize they have to jump from organization to organization. They leave before they become highly effective at their jobs, and this perpetuates the idea that ‘new blood’ is needed.. When there simply wasn’t enough time for the old person to really comprehend the complicated environment that is the world of the professional individual contributor.
A long term plan to internally develop the needed purple squirrel is definitely more long term investment than short term gain, better for corporate leadership to just try and find one on the workforce market.
The belief in new blood is better than internal promotions persists because of the lack of understanding on the value of knowing your organization.
Companies and organizations are made up of people and people have their respective personalities and priorities. Knowing this is important. Person X will work better in this situation, Person Y is motivated by this. Sometimes you know why (you know of some life or professional experience they had) and sometimes it’s just trial and error. Only by being around these people over time can the professional develop a real understanding of the nuances needed in being effective in achieving their goals.
Reality Point: Institutional Knowledge is not a bad thing.
It’s not just people, it’s cultures of departments. This department is picky because they interface with government policy and every I has to be dotted and T crossed. This department is high stress because they are continually understaffed.
Think how long it’ll take ‘new blood’ to figure this stuff out.
What should the professional Individual Contributor understand and / or do about the belief in new blood is better than internal promotions?
This situation isn’t going to change. So because of that today’s professionals should think about the following:
Jumping around different locations is a challenging proposition. Make sure if your doing it your doing it for a real benefit.. I.e. don’t jump unless there is an actual and clearly defined exit strategy that doesn’t include leaving the company after you are burnt out completely. If your at the beginning of your career and single, be aware that the promises you are being given about future stability in your placement may not (most likely won’t) pan out the way you have been promised. How many people have been hired by that building maintenance contractor who actually make it to the regional level and how many don’t? Hope for their positive exit strategy but plan for your own.
A professional who jumps from job to job or location to location is at risk of always being in an unsolvable problem. It’s best to understand that your role really is to just be the next in line to show initiative, maybe focus your efforts at making a small positive change rather than the big change the powers that be are asking for. It will allow you to be seen as someone who has value and should be kept around rather than just the next in line to be thrown against the wall and see if you stuck.
Keep in mind how your Career Trajectory looks to potential other employers: If your ‘jumping around’ or can be seen as a path of growth, then you are good. If your just jumping around to ‘fix problems’ with the same title for different organizations, that’s not a good thing. Even if your doing very different jobs at the individual contributor level try and get the title. Someone who is well versed in sales, engineering, and operations of XYZ niche industry just may be component’s of someone’s purple squirrel.
Companies don’t invest in their people to the extent that they have in the past. If your jumping from A to B to C job, then make sure you are investing in yourself and amassing whatever credentials you need along the way. Then just maybe you can dodge the hire-burnout-fire cycle and actually be one of the few exceptions who goes up the ladder.
Both being and getting ‘New Blood’ can be exciting, and have some promise.. Sadly that promise most likely won’t result in a promotion or career stability. It’s ok to be ‘new blood’, even if that’s your career cycle of always being the ‘new blood’ just prepare yourself so your not emotionally, physically, and mentally bled to death.
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[…] participation in a no-win spiral. The employer is holding onto the odd hope that the ‘new blood’ will be able to bring enough change to the department/territory/initiative to drive high […]