Is lateral hiring the answer to fill the gaps in your team?

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Posted: Jul 2022

There are no two ways about it, the talent market has been a rollercoaster over the last few years. At the onset of the global pandemic in early 2020, economies were thriving and unemployment was low. Companies were packed with high-performing talent, but as the working world navigated the challenges of social distancing and relearning roles for remote and hybrid work models, candidate and employer expectations changed.

Companies are now faced with a talent shortage. And this is not new news. If you haven’t re-evaluated how to address the shortfall of people to fill roles, now is the time to look at all the ways to fill vacant roles and get clear on your retention strategy.

There are few jobs, if any, in which a new hire can slide into a role without appropriate training. But in many cases, hiring managers make final decisions based on which candidate needs the least amount of training – that’s what makes them most qualified. It’s cost-effective in terms of time and money to spend the least amount of your budget getting a new hire up-to-speed in their new role. Unfortunately, you no longer have this luxury when the talent market is thin. In fact, your most qualified candidates may require more onboarding than ever before.

Time to widen the net – and invest in lateral hiring!

The premise of lateral hiring is logical: recruit a high-performing professional from a similar organisation or move an experienced professional in your own business to undertake a different role at a similar level. This will help shake things up and bring new energy and ideas to the team, although from a place of knowledge. You get someone with a wealth of relevant experience who can hit the ground running. The idea is that it’s more efficient than hiring and training someone on their way up, or promoting from within, which can leave more gaps to fill.

Surprisingly, it may not always be a seamless process. It can take 6 months for a lateral hire to come up to speed at a new firm. And when it takes another two or three years to recoup recruiting and compensation costs, it’s important that new hires don’t end up being loss-makers for the firm. Furthermore, it’s critical to ensure that lateral hires don’t muddle along and never become productive – this will increase your losses even further.

A robust retention strategy is not that difficult to develop once you understand the problem is usually related to employee integration and company culture. You could break down your lateral hiring retention strategy into five steps:

1. Welcome

Plan a holistic welcoming and onboarding strategy for lateral hires. We encourage companies to ensure that senior managers take the time to personally welcome all new hires, ideally in person. We also recommend planning a variety of ‘meet-and-greets’ and socials to give employees the chance to get to know the new hire outside of work projects, and for the hire to understand and fit into the company culture.

2. Inform

Make sure the new hire has easy access to all the information they’ll need to do their job. A robust orientation programme, supported by a concise document that introduces and links to relevant files, folders and processes is incredibly helpful to a new hire.

3. Connect

Assign a mentor or peer guide to help the new hire settle in and navigate their first few projects. Introduce them to the various networking groups they can join or invite them to join a particular group.

4. Involve

Show your new hire that you value their input by assigning them a more challenging project, or inviting them to join a cross-departmental group project.

5. Feedback

Offer your new hire regular, real-time feedback – and request feedback from them to find out how you are doing, and how they are settling in. Provide training opportunities or ask a senior hire to coach them through a new project.

With the right approach to lateral hiring, you can increase your return on investment and reduce the rate of culture-damaging turnover.

The Works Search: a search consultancy specialising in PR and corporate communications. We have unrivalled matching abilities and known for finding the top 5% performers in the industry - the ones who deliver and make your reputation great. For more advice or market insights, do get in touch with us on 0207 903 9291 or email

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