Great Leaders Know How to Find and Develop Valuable People

January 19, 2021

How to Hire, Motivate, and Retain Top Talent for Your Team

To kick off the new year, I challenge you to ask yourself these four questions:

1.     What is my plan to have the best team on the field this year?

2.     Do I have the right people in the right seats?

3.     Would I enthusiastically rehire each one right away?

4.     How would I feel if any employee resigned today?

Now having thought about them for a little, I want you to look at what Jim Collins, a best-selling author who investigates what makes companies tick, wrote in his book, Good to Great, on the importance of having the right team. He states that:

“[Of] all the greatest leaders we studied in our research, they always took the approach of ‘I don’t need to figure out where to drive the bus, that’s not my first question. I need to first figure out who should be on the bus. Who should be in the key seats and who should be off the bus?’ By focusing first on getting the key seats filled with the right people.

[By] getting that bus filled with those people and then figuring out where to drive it, we can best deal with uncertainty. Because if you can’t predict what, and I promise you can’t predict the what, then your ultimate hedge against the uncertainty of what is coming next is to have the people who can adapt to whatever might be coming.

All we know is that it will be a surprise and then another surprise and then another surprise. This is just life. If you were going to go up and climb a big scary mountain that has never been climbed before, what is your single most important decision? Who [do] you have on the other end of the rope?”

As you begin 2021, ask yourself, “Who is on the other end of my rope?” And if you answered “no” to any of the questions above or are unsure, I have four tips for you to implement in the new year that will help you arrive at “yes.”

1. Employees Like Clear Finish Lines

If you haven’t already, consider creating a “scorecard” or goal sheet for every position in your organization. Any effective scorecard should:

·       Measure an employee’s responsibilities with metrics or business outcomes  

·       List the minimum performance expectations for an “A player” with metrics such as productivity, efficiency, quality, timeliness, accuracy, talent management and customer service

·       Determine the business results that each position would have to deliver to be considered an A player

The scorecard concept is part of Topgrading, a system created by Brad Smart that is designed to improve an organization by recruiting, hiring, and developing teams of top performers. Brad made it his mission to discover just how companies could hire almost all high performers. Soon after Brad had founded his own firm to put his methodology into action, he was approached by Jack Welch, the then CEO of General Electric, to interview, hire and promote candidates for senior positions.

It worked: more than 90% of candidates hired and promoted turned out to be A Players. It worked so well, in fact, that Jack wanted Brad to teach all GE managers how to use the Topgrading method, so it could become an embedded part of GE’s hiring practices. Brad trained 100+ HR managers who, in turn trained thousands of managers, and together they achieved a rate of over 80% A Players hired and promoted across the company.

GE became the most valuable company in the world, shooting up in market cap from $39 billion in 1987 when Topgrading started, to $574 billion in 2000, just before Jack retired. Welch's successor chose not to continue Topgrading – and you've seen the results.

Not every company will share GE’s story, but every company can experience the benefits of using Topgrading and its scorecard to clearly communicate expectations and core competencies to its people.

Employees want to know where the finish line is for each assignment and project they touch.

2. Focus on the ‘Who’ of Your Team, Not the ‘What’

It is more important that your team shares common core values, a purpose, and a vision than their individual skills, talent, and experience. The essence of “who” they are as team members is more vital for success than the “what” they can do for an organization. Yes, it’s important hire talented people, but that’s secondary to hiring people who work well together.

After making sure you have the right people in the right seats and doing the right things, you must investigate whether they are doing them in the right spirit. I’m not asking if they are following the right processes (which is important); rather, I want you to see if they are embracing the company culture of your company and living the core values.

Here is a good tool that your leadership team can use to quickly evaluate themselves and their teams, complete with actions that encourage successful growth. Think of it as a high-level exercise that should rather than a replacement for regular evaluations, coaching and normal HR processes.

1.     Evaluate your direct reports with a spreadsheet.

a.     Label the x axis “Productivity.”

b.     Label the y axis “Core Values.”  

2.     Evaluate each of your direct report's performance relative to your company's core values and productivity. Assess on a scale of 1-5 or 1-10.

3.     Use the following questions and thought exercises:

• What percent of time is this person productive per the productivity stated for their role on their Scorecard?

• What percent of time do they live the core values?

• Place their initials on the graph based on your evaluation.

• Compare to last quarter. If improved, put initials in green font and if one or both of their scores slipped put initials in orange font

• Did some of your direct reports leave voluntarily or involuntarily? Of those that left voluntarily, how many were A Players? Did you exit any toxic employees?

As an example, if you assess on scale of 1 – 5:

• 5 means they exceeded the productivity, KPIs, and the core values per their Scorecard. Such people are your absolute superstars, your true A Players.

• 4 means they achieved the productivity, KPIs, and the core values per their Scorecard. These people can be coached up to become A Players.

• 3 means they did not achieve the productivity, KPIs, and core values per their Scorecard. Since they came close to #2, they can also be coached up.

• 2 means they’re B Players and unfortunately toxic. They perform well but do not behave according to core values. These are potential superstars who perform on the field, but they are poison in the locker room.

• 1 means they’re C Players. They neither perform well nor do they behave according to your core values.

In my experience, you must deal with B’s and their toxicity ASAP. If you don’t, they erode morale quickly since you are sending the message that as long as you produce results, anti-company culture behavior is acceptable. Only confront C employees AFTER dealing with toxic B’s.

3. Your Team Must Be Properly Motivated

To illustrate this point, I want to tell the story of John Ratliff, former founder and CEO of Appletree, a call center business. It’s a great example because it is a boring industry, nothing exciting or sexy about it. The industry is filled with entry level hourly employees with massive turnover. Industry average is 200%, changing out all the people twice a year.

Despite industry norms, John’s business grew and scaled beautifully. Yes, it had a lot of problems that are familiar to that industry, but John solved them and achieved stellar results. How? By pursuing two specific ways to motivate his employees. Not only did he find abundant financial success, but he changed the lives of his employees and turned them employees for life.

The business had a complicated metric for quality that was used commonly by the industry. But when John looked at the data, he noticed a correlation between the most profitable call center and the happiest employees and then between least profitable and most unhappy. John decided he needed to take care of his employees.

He started by asking them one question: “What’s one thing he could do for his employees to make their lives easier at work?” Their answer: “We want better chairs to sit in.” Which means so much sense! It’s a call center. People literally have to sit down to do their jobs.

John responded by purchasing them expensive Herman Miller Aeron chairs. These are the sort of chairs usually given to managers and rising tech people, whereas call center people typically get generic, low-cost Costco chairs. But as soon as he gave them these chairs, it began to change the culture within hours.

The second thing he did was starting an employee care program they called “Dream On.” Modeled after Make-A-Wish, all the employees got to nominate other employees, and based upon the nominations, the management team picked one employee to make that person’s dream come true. By simply committing to take care of its people, the company did something beautiful. People became happier, profitability grew, and John improved his business.

Watch this 8-minute video and be sure you have a box of tissues nearby. You will need it:

What’s one thing you can do for your people right now in this really challenging time? What would motivate them and make a big difference in their lives?

4. Show Your Top Employees They are Valued

In their book, Hello Stay Interview, Goodbye Talent Loss, Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan Evans ask leaders a very basic question:Why do you ask employees what you can do to get them to stay in an exit interview, which is almost always too late?”

They propose conducting regular “Stay Interviews.” With this leadership tool and technique, managers listen to what employees are thinking and feeling and then take action on what they hear. Not only does this increase talent retention, but it also develops more engaged, committed, and productive teams.

Some organizations have even begun to mandate stay interviews, holding managers – not the actual employee – accountable for reporting on what they are learning and doing. Kaye and Evans create a playbook that outline the process, complete with hints and tips about dealing with requests. They also share stories of managers who’ve used stay interviews to keep their valued employees engaged and on their teams.

Stay interviews are just one of many strategies in a successful manager’s playbook. The book offers a simple idea, but it’s designed for the not-so-simple task of letting talented people know that you value them, need them, and want them to remain as contributing members of your team. If you aren’t holding stay interviews, you’re just guessing at what your talented people really want from you, their team, and their work – and you could be guessing wrong.

You should want top performers to stay—at least for a while longer. They are your stars and your highfliers. They are also your solid citizens, the people who show up every day to do the work you need them to do. Your competition wants them, and you can’t afford to lose them. You shouldn’t have to cling desperately to your talent, but you should find ever opportunity to show them that you value them as employees and people.

If you want help and guidance for attracting, developing, and retaining the best possible people for your company, contact Burst Consulting today! We are experts in getting to the heart of what drives your leaders and your teams so you can correct course and achieve success in 2021 and beyond.