Topgrading - How Leading Companies Win by Hiring, Coaching and Keeping the Best People - Bradford D Smart, Ph D Smart
How leading companies win by hiring, coaching, and keeping the best people
Bradford D. Smart
Publisher: Paramus, NJ: Prentice Hall Press
This is a synopsis only. RESULTS.com recommends you buy the original book.
Top-grading = filling every role in your company with “A” Players
“A” players are the top 10% of the people available for the position
“The toughest decisions in organisations are people decisions –
hiring, firing, promotion etc. These are the decisions that usually
receive the least attention and are the hardest to unmake” (Peter
“The ability to make good decisions regarding people represents one
of the last reliable sources of competitive advantage, since very few
organizations are good at it” (Peter Drucker)
“Nothing matters more in winning than getting the right people on the
field. All the clever strategies and advanced technologies in the
world are not effective without great people to put them to work” (Jack
“I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and
developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on
strategies” (Larry Bossidy)
The job no leader should delegate; having the right people in the right place (Larry Bossidy)
Research shows the difference in performance between top performers and
average performers in salespeople is up to 250%, in knowledge workers
it is 100%, in assembly line workers 20% (McKinsey)
What you pay for a role is not the prime consideration:
- You don’t save money by settling for low quality hiring and set pay scales
- Instead, focus on the value “A” Players can bring to your company in all roles
- Having a team of “A” Players makes your job easier and more fun
- Having a team of “A” Players helps your company succeed faster
- Consider the true cost of weak performance and having to replace a hiring failure
- The cost of a hiring failure is calculated at 15 x base salary (actual and opportunity cost)
- Conduct a talent review and rank your current staff A / B / C
- Start with the company leadership team and get this right first
- (cascade down through the organization later)
- Conduct a talent review and rank your current staff A / B / C
- Have more than one person evaluate individual rankings to help reduce bias
- People tend to rank people higher that:
- They have personally hired
- Are “like them” in appearance and behaviours
- Are “on their team” (to make them look good as a manager)
- Sub rankings
- A1 – Senior Executive potential
- A2 – Management potential – but only 1 or 2 levels above
- A3 – “A” player but needs to stay in, and specialize in their current role
- Determine what actions you need to take to support and grow your “A” players
- Redeploy B and C players into other roles where they can become “A” players
- Low performers can consume most of your management time
- Instead you should be spending time with your “A” players
- You must have courage to remove low performers – fast
- Consider legal obligations and be humane with people
Does not achieve
Achieves performance standards
- “B” Player
- Train & support
- Change role to enable them to better play to their strengths
- Fire them (if you can’t raise performance within set timetable)
- “A” player
- Recognise & reward
- Coach & develop
- Handcuff to business
|Does not live
- “C” player
- You have made a hiring error
- Fire as soon as possible
- “B” Player
- Wrong “fit”
- Fire them
- Need to show you are serious about values behaviors
- It takes courage to build a great company
"A" Players tend to hire other “A” Players:
- B’s hire C’s
- B’s tend to hire people who do not threaten them
- CEO needs to champion Top-grading in a company
- “A” players:
- Make things work
- Push for progress
- Come up with solutions
- Are magnets for other talent
- Can exist at all roles / levels in the company
- B & C Players:
- Impede organization performance
- Resist change – encourage the status quo
- Stifle creativity
- Tend to hire people like themselves – further weakening the organization
Barriers to implementing top grading in a company:
- It takes time and discipline to implement top grading
- Managers take hiring short cuts to quickly fill a role with the first likely looking candidate
- Managers insecure in hiring people better than they are
- Managers think they can “fix” B & C players and spend too much time trying to do so
- Reluctant to get rid of B & C players because they are considered “loyal” to the company
- Build your virtual bench of “A” Players to meet your future hiring needs
- Be on the lookout for “A” Players all the time – they are seldom unemployed
- Your “A” Players will likely know other “A” Players
- Build relationships and keep in touch
STEP 1 – Create Scorecards for each role / Design recruitment ads to attract “A” Players:
- Don’t use typical job descriptions
- Create scorecards which clearly describe accountabilities, KPI’s, and “fit” requirements
- Describe key accountabilities
- Quantify with numbers (KPI’s) what “A” Player performance looks like
- Clarify the strengths / talents that = a good “fit” with the position
- Clarify the values that = a good “fit” with the company
- Use these scorecards as the basis for your recruitment ads
- “A” Players want to know the score – they will be attracted to roles with accountability
- B & C players will deselect themselves from applying for roles described in this way
STEP 2 = Screening Interview:
- Get people to fill out a career history form first before you phone / or meet with them:
- educational grades
- employment for every year and month since they began working
- compensation – base pay and bonuses for each role
- name and title of each supervisor
- what they liked most and least about each role
- what they are good at and not so good at
- what they are not interested in doing
- what each boss would indicate they are good at and not so good at
- Clearly indicate that you will require full reference checks for the successful applicant
- Clearly indicate that you will choose the referees you wish to call
- Conduct 1 hour phone screening interviews to filter out B’s and C’s at the start
- Screening interview format:
- What are your career goals?
- What are you good at professionally
- What are you not so good at professionally?
- Tell me the names of your last 5 bosses. How would they rate your performance?
- What questions do you have for me about the role?
STEP 3 = Top-grading Interviews
Conduct at least 2 interviews on separate occasions – 3 hours duration
Use different interviewers from your team (working in tandem) – one
asking the questions – the other taking notes:
- Allow 3 hours for a top grading interview. By 3 hours you start to get the truth.
- CIDS format:
- For every job they have had in the past ask:
- What were you hired to do?
- What were your specific accomplishments?
- What failures or mistakes were made and what did you learn from them?
- What calibre of staff did you inherit?
- What calibre of staff did you end up with?
- What was your boss like and how would they rate you?
- Why did you leave?
- Ask questions to elicit the desired competencies for the role as outlined on scorecard
- Past performance is the best predictor of future performance
- Ask for specific examples of where they exhibited the desired competencies in the past for their previous roles
- What do you want and need from your next job?
- What do you want 5 and 10 years from now?
not sell the position to the candidate at this point. The purpose of
the face to face interviews is to get enough data, and to compare the
candidate’s answers the different interviewers obtained to see if
candidate is a good fit. After completing the 3rd interview - the
“right fit” is your selling point to the candidate
STEP 4 = Reference Check Interview: (TORC – Threat of Reference Check)
- You choose the references you want to check – not the ones the candidate supplies
- Ask candidate to make the reference interview phone appointments for you
- No references – no job offer!
- “A” Players will not be put off by this
- Ask the referees the same Top-grading questions you asked candidate to cross check
- In what context did you work with this person?
- What was their role and responsibilities?
- What were their strengths in your opinion?
- What were their areas for improvement?
- (When I spoke to XX, they said you would mention YY as an area they need to improve. Tell me more about that?)
- How would you rate their overall performance?
- (Outline your scorecard criteria for the position being applied for)
- How well do you think they would fit these criteria?
Coach and keep your “A” Players:
- They are valuable and liable to be poached
- You need to keep them engaged
- Spend your time supporting and growing your “A” players
- (not trying to “fix” B and C players)
- A players want attention, appreciation and to be surrounded by other “A” Players
- Keep in touch with how they are feeling regularly
- Assist them with their personal and professional development
- Help them play to their strengths and manage their weaknesses & blind spots
You need to market your company and its vision to potential employees
with the same vigor you use to attract potential customers. The best
firms attract the best applicants.