Hiring versus Training

Should you hire new employees or train existing employees? This is really a trick question. Why? Well, there is no actual right or wrong answer as the hiring versus training decision depends largely on the actual situation.

A Case in Point

It is not unusual for a company to decide they need to hire someone from outside the company because nobody working for them has a particular skill. If you ever look at job postings it is common to see within the requirements things such as:

  • Must know QuickBooks Enterprise
  • Must have a background in real estate and/or construction
  • Must be experienced with Microsoft Dynamics
  • , etc., etc.

Now here is something to think about. Let’s take the example above that someone must have QuickBooks Enterprise experience. Further, let’s add that the reason this position is being advertised is that the company is implementing this particular software and there is no one already on-board that knows it. It seems logical that they should immediately begin looking for someone from outside the company that they can hire to fill this need. But hold on just a minute. Let’s look a little deeper by considering other requirements of the role.

A Deeper Look

In the example above it would be wise to consider all the major requirements for this position and then decide whether to move someone from within the company to the role and get them the additional training needed or hire someone from outside. Incidentally, a decision to hire from outside presents a similar dilemma I will discuss shortly. So, for this example imagine these other critical requirements for this person:

  • Excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Creative problem solver
  • Quick learner
  • Ability to develop employees working for them
  • Work well with other department leaders
  • Uncompromising integrity

We could add more, but this serves our purpose. Now, imagine you have someone already in the position that has all the essential qualities except that they don’t know QuickBooks Enterprise. What do you think is harder; finding someone from outside who knows the software but you really don’t know whether they have the other “softer” elements listed or training the internal person in QuickBooks Enterprise? I think the answer is straight-forward. As long as the existing employee has the bulk of the other requirements and has demonstrated the overall ability to learn and grow, it may well be more efficient and productive to train them. On the other hand, if you simply don’t have someone already working for you that can be trained or that simply is a poor match for other reasons, then you will need to hire from outside, and as I said this presents another dilemma.

Another Dilemma

If you come to the realization that you must hire from outside you are really faced with a somewhat similar decision. That is basically, “What skills can be taught and which one are more character based and perhaps unteachable.” For example, uncompromising integrity is a character trait. Granted, character traits can be developed but there is no guarantee that it is possible in this case and probably not something you want to take a chance on. The same goes for the other requirements in the list above. So, now the hiring versus training decision takes on a new dimension.

Now, if we take the same list above that includes excellent written and oral communication skills, creative problem solver, quick learner, ability to develop employees working for them, work well with other department leaders, and uncompromising integrity, and add to this list “must know QuickBooks Enterprise” we are in a sense back at square one. Let me suggest a deeper look.

The New Dimension to Consider

If the so-called soft requirements which are largely character based are essential, then you have a decision. If someone has all of those but lacks QuickBooks Enterprise experience, do you pass on them or dig deeper into their experience. Suppose that when you dig deeper you learn that their “quick learner” trait has shown itself over the years in their ability to learn new software rapidly. In fact, imagine that you learn that they not only learn the software quickly, but their proficiency tends to develop to a level where they are a go-to person for questions. Now, which would you want; someone who either lacks or it is not clear possesses one of the essential soft-skills, or someone who it is clear fits all the requirements except the knowledge of the particular software yet has a history that demonstrates their ability to quickly learn new software?


As you can see, the hiring versus training decision is a little more involved than it may first appear. So, when you decide you need to fill a role you owe it to yourself, your employees, and even those from outside the company you might hire to take a good hard look at what you really need.

Who knows, you may even be able to hire someone from outside on a part-time or temporary basis to get you through this transition. It’s something to consider.

If you want to know more, contact AimCFO – Contact

As always, your comments are welcomed.


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