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Is the internal vacancy an employer con trick?

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What a wonderful world, where jobs in your organisation are advertised internally, open for anyone to apply. It’s fair, it’s liberating, makes good use of available talent and experience and shares opportunities around. In a new report, the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) reveals what really happens.

As Wendy Hirsh, co-author of the report explains:

"Managers are used to choosing people and putting them where they want, based on who they know and what they know about them. This is a real power that open internal advertising of jobs takes away from them. Putting jobs on noticeboards and intranets won’t stop managers bucking the system, especially if the system seems bureaucratic and slow."

"Good training and careful monitoring are essential, so the pay-off between fairness and efficiency is accepted."

So does internal job advertising really work? The IES study, based on six case study organisations, workshops with twenty organisations, and a mini survey, is illustrated with real stories and quotes from the people involved.

Managers who go through the motions.

What employees dislike most are managers who advertise a vacancy but have already really decided who they are going to appoint. This can waste a lot of people’s time and may mean strong candidates do not get looked at seriously. One way round this problem is to make sure someone with no axe to grind - like a manager from another area or someone from personnel - acts as a quality control on the process to ensure fair play.

Employees who lose out.

Employees who are good at managing their own careers find an open job market liberating. But there are quite a lot for whom it doesn’t work. Some of these are simply not very good at putting themselves forward and need advice and encouragement.

Other groups have problems because they need a job at a specific time, and in an open job market you have to wait for the right job to turn up. Such groups include those returning from secondments or career breaks or staff who need redeployment. Extra support is needed for such categories of staff to get them back into a suitable job as quickly as possible.

Rules that tie you in knots.

The open job market requires rules to run fairly, but all those rules and forms slow things down and create a lot of paperwork. Some employers, especially those in the public sector, have emphasised the need for fairness at the expense of the quality of the final decision. As Penny Tamkin of IES says:

"In striving to make their systems as fair and transparent as possible, some organisations go too far in tightening up procedures and rules. In doing so they can end up achieving exactly the opposite of what they strive for as they build in rigidity and ignore the real track record of applicants."

As one member of staff put it: "It’s all down to the application form and interviews - just that 45 minutes.... You may have the best team in the world, passing all targets and expectations, providing excellent service; but an absolute lemon in the job may get the post because they are good at the interview."

When will the computer find me a job?

Computers are already helping to speed things up as internal ads go on intranets; some organisations encourage on-line job applications. But employees still hate scrolling through lists of jobs looking for something which suits them. It’s also embarrassing if you are doing this when your boss walks in.

As Emma Pollard from IES says: "They long for the day when they can type in the kind of job they are looking for and the computer will send them a message when something suitable comes up."

That day is getting close, as is the chance to put just one CV on the intranet and save much of the work of those lengthy application forms.

The study.

The public and private sector case studies are:

Rolls-Royce plc;
HM Customs and Excise;
British Gas Trading;
Halifax plc
and the Department of Trade and Industry.

Employees, line managers and HR professionals were interviewed. The Cabinet Office also shared wider public sector experience, and twenty employing organisations made an input through workshops and a mini-survey

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