I cringe every time a hiring executive tells me they use Topgrading. My reaction is visceral when people mention “Hiring A Players.” (So naturally I cheered when Harvard Business Review published the far more sensible “Let’s Hear it for B Players.”)
I acknowledge that Brad Smart is a very credentialed guy and he has built quite a dynasty on the Topgrading concept - I just never see it applied intelligently in small and midsize enterprises. Never. (Remember, I work hard to avoid using absolutes in sentences, so I must be adamant about this).
OK, so I also freely admit that I gave up and only made it halfway through the book (worst beach read ever). I just find Topgrading too rigid and impractical. And no way will most managers first learn the interview techniques and then spend 3 hours in a CIDS interrogation, I mean interview. . . no, I mean interrogation.
What I object to most about Top Grading is the vague definition of an “A Player” - “the top 10% of available talent for the compensation level” - like anyone could possibly determine who exactly qualifies. But this is what really irks me; even if you did figure it out, it would NOT help you hire correctly.
One thing I know for certain: top performance in one environment does not necessarily predict top performance in another. Simply hiring Olympic athletes or poaching your competitor’s top person guarantees you nothing. Nothing.
So rather than filling your company with mythical “A Players” here is strategy that will dramatically improve both your results and the quality of your life: Read the rest of this entry »
There is a consistent theme emerging from my conversations with CEO’s lately. Loyalty. While many people enjoy bashing Fortune 500 CEO’s for showing no loyalty to employees – and for dumbsizing, the bigger issue for smaller organizations is too much loyalty. I see too much loyalty to long-time employees who are not performing, and too little loyalty to everyone else who is. Truth be told, I’m not really a fan of Jack Welch, but he did have an interesting column about misplaced loyalty in BusinessWeek.
Most business leaders really struggle with their loyalty to long-time employees who are no longer effective, and while I think loyalty in general is both admirable and good business . . . blind loyalty is not. It is dangerous. The context matters.
Sometimes the person’s performance just waned over time – they “got comfortable”, sometimes the person was simply over-promoted (Think: Peter Principle), sometimes the person took on a job that appeared similar but required different skills (Think: salesman promoted to sales manager), perhaps the most common is when a growing company simply “outgrew” one of the original employees.
Increasingly in this recession, the problem person was a good steward of a function during normal times, but simply cannot adapt to the chaos of the current environment. They resist change, ignore market signals and get in the way of new initiatives – doing what is comfortable and familiar, instead of what is right.
My conversations with CEO’s generally go something like this: Read the rest of this entry »
If you care at all about hiring, education or even football, don’t miss Malcolm Gladwell’s riveting article in The New Yorker. “Most Likely to Succeed – How do we hire when we can’t tell who is right for the job?”
Seriously. The article is long, but worth every word. Here are a few key points: The students of a good teacher will, on average, learn a year and a half’s worth of material, while the students of a bad teacher will learn just half a year’s material. That’s a difference of a year’s worth of material in a single year. Since a good teacher costs about the same as a bad one, one of the biggest improvements school systems could make would be to hire great teachers to replace poor teachers - except for one detail – it’s devilishly hard to determine who would make a great teacher in advance.
In predicting teacher performance, none of the “resume” credentials seems to matter, not teaching certification, not a master’s degree, not even test scores. Great teachers exhibit qualities like “with-it-ness” (translation: “eyes in the back of your head) and “regard for student perspective” and giving direct individualized feedback to students.
Good luck finding ”with-it-ness” in a job description, or a resume, or even in an interview sequence. Hmmm, why oh why do I think this conundrum does not just apply to teachers?
Ok, we’re in a recession - it’s official. So fear and panic are evident in decision-making and mostly we see people frozen in place. Waiting to see what happens. And not driving results.
Do you know who in your organization will get you through the downturn? Look around. Your top performers are still driving results, taking on new responsibilities, trying new things, improving your current processes, cutting expenses, suggesting new ideas, challenging outdated thinking, doing work on their own time, solving problems and accepting the reality of the current market without making excuses. Anybody not doing this is just wasting your salary budget.
Sadly, most performance review systems don’t really identify the people you need most, because what it took to succeed last year is not necessarily what it takes to succeed right now. In these turbulent times, you might need more people in one department and less in another, or you might suddenly need people with very different skills. There is nothing like a downturn to shine a bright light on your mediocre people. So if you can’t tell who to keep and who to cut, you might be tempted to follow the herd and implement a hiring freeze, or just be sluggish in hiring (which has the same effect). Except here is the problem. A hiring freeze locks in place your mediocre performers and prevents any better people from getting in. Big mistake.
This is the time to freeze the budget, but not the people. It’s “Trade-In Time” – when you can finally afford to replace your underperformers with winners. Read the rest of this entry »