No two employees are the same. It is not easy for managers to make apples-to-apples comparisons of their workers — an engineer handles vastly different responsibilities than an accountant does. However, it is easy to see high-performers. They have more potential than the rest in their respective areas.
High-performers work hard day in and day out and possess the innate skill sets and motivation necessary to take your organization to the next level. They aspire to assume more responsibilities. They are thoroughly engaged with the work they do.
According to the Harvard Business Review, roughly 5% of any organization’s employees are high-performers. Chances are you likely know who your high-performers are already.
This article is about increasing the likelihood that your subsequent recruits will be high-potential employees. Given challenging work, and supporting their development, high-potential employees will become high-performers. These employees outperform average employees by up to four times. To stay ahead, identify, attract, develop, and retain these top employees.
Our analytics show that employees who consistently meet or exceed expectations have these five core behavioral competencies:
- Maintains Accountability
- Strives for Excellence
- Manages Stress
- Demonstrates Character
- Connects with Customer
High-Performers Meet Their Goals — Always
They are as reliable as they come. To a certain extent, managers do not even have to track their progress because they deliver time and time again. Having well-established business goals is essential to keeping high-performers.
High-Performers Get Things Done on Their Own
While many employees need lots of guidance to do their jobs, high-performers do just fine working autonomously. They are motivated, determined, and never miss a deadline.
High-Performers Show Initiative
Instead of sitting around waiting for management to come up with new ideas, high-performs show lots of initiative. They are always brainstorming new ideas and do not mind taking on additional responsibilities to make the company even stronger.
High-Performers Ask A Lot of Relevant Questions
Because they want their organization to continue growing and becoming even more successful, high-performers are always asking the right questions. They see shortcomings where others might not. They notice things that are brewing before their peers do. Since they are interested in the company, they actively devise ways to make it better.
High-Potential Employees Take the Lead Whenever They Can
Working in group settings, high-performers often assume leadership roles. They delegates tasks and serves in a coordinating function. In addition to producing great work on their own, they also strive for excellence to make sure their teammates are doing amazing things too. High-performers do not mind taking orders when the situation calls for it.
High-Performers Make Strong Decisions in Fast-Paced Environments
They have their sights set on moving up the corporate ladder. To this end, high-performers are always trying to get their bosses to notice their skills and their competence. Great leaders need to make decisions quickly. Understanding this, high-performers can make the right choices in fast-paced environments.
Recruiting High-Potential Employees
How you plan your recruiting is essential to find the right person for a job opening. The costs of bad recruitment decisions can be very high regarding both time and money. Your goal is to attract the best-fit person for the job. The right person will make a direct difference to your bottom line, helping to raise your service and quality level.
SuccessFinder consistently pinpointed high-potential store managers for a large global retailer based on a customized benchmark. Once hired, these high performer managers generated an average of $15,000 more revenue per store per week ($375K/year).
I have previously written how planning in reverse chronological order helps you have a clearer view of tasks to execute and improves your performance.
Backward planning starts by creating a vivid description of your envisioned future. Pick a specific timeframe and an event. For recruitment, the envisioned future should be at least a year after you hire the candidate — at the first annual performance review.
Next answer the questions
- “What would have to be true to achieve that?” (identify the major areas)
- “What would I do right before that?” (build all the steps for each area — back to today)
The following are some of the major areas that you need to consider. The specific steps will be unique to your business. However, it is essential that you have excellent recruitment, onboarding, development, review, and succession planning processes. We use behavioral insights in each of these processes.
Conducting the First Annual Review of Your New High-Performer
Generally, no one on either side of the table likes or enjoys the process. It’s time-consuming for the supervisor and creates anxiety on the employee side and involves talking about the positives and negatives that came out of your last review.” — Fred R. Cooper
Unfortunately, many of today's performance reviews are not anywhere as effective as they could be — need to be. In fact, Fast Company reports that 74% of younger workers leave reviews unsure about what their managers think of their performance.
You know that no matter how happy an employee is with their job, they have no love for their annual performance review. They see it as a rite of passage, where you sit down with you and determine what they have contributed to the company, if their future goals align, whether they have exceeded expectations and if a promotion and salary hike is in the cards.
Imagine that you are doing a performance review one year after your new hire is on board. It is the most positive review you have ever given. You likely think the person is indispensable. Check out my Indispensable Quote Quiz. It may help you start to develop a vivid picture of success for this event.
What Would Have to Be True?
At the performance review, your discussion is a re-emphasis of critical points. In your vivid picture of success, the employee would:
- have been met or exceeded all performance goals
- be functioning well in his or her job
- contributed positively to corporate culture
- been a team player
- have implemented some efficiencies into the existing processes
- grown professionally
- see your company as a dynamic place where people want to work
- know what future opportunities they should be preparing for
- be comfortable with review as they would not receive any surprises
The job description would serve as the bases for the review. Evidence on performance would be available regarding all parts of the job description. Irrelevant and missing elements would be identified, and a process to do timely updates would be in place. Your discussion is forward focused. You both are seeking clarity about what is reviewed and what future success would look like.
For each element in your vivid picture, think about what would have to be right in each of the recruitment, onboarding, development, review, and succession processes for your envisioned future to happen. Think about the best time too.
When is the best time to establish business goals?
Before you post the job, the first step is goal setting. The job posting should list the five or six goals you want to achieve in the next 12 months, which if achieved, you would say the employee is a high performer. If these goals are challenging, you will recruit better candidates. Throughout the recruitment process, ensure the candidates understand the learning and growth opportunities that you can provide. You are looking for the best-fit candidate —someone who wants to grow with your company.
Getting and keeping them on the right track
Anyone who truly wants to grow within the organization should be able to take constructive criticism.”
An employee should never hear about positive performance or performance in need of improvement for the first time at your formal performance discussion meeting unless it is new information or insight. As a great manager you will have discussed both positive performance and areas for improvement regularly, even daily or weekly. Doing this from the outset reinforces that you have a learning culture.
In the interest of providing regular feedback, performance reviews are not an annual event. Formerly scheduling quarterly meetings with your employees, alternating job planning, and evaluation sessions. Both should occur twice a year. Plan for these four meetings.
What Talent Stack Is Required for Success?
Once you have business goals established, you can assess the talent stack you need someone to have to be successful. I use talent stack — skills, knowledge, wisdom, behavioral traits, and accomplishments rather than education and experience. I know several people who have been in a job for 25 years — they do not have 25 years of experience — they have one year of experience 25 times! Research suggests companies may be harming themselves by hiring employees who are overqualified for the roles they are doing. The work may not be demanding enough to keep them engaged and occupied. Smart workers can damage your organization. There is little correlation between education and experience and high performance. It is all about the best-fit staffing.
Look at the six business goals you defined. Think about the skills and knowledge that are required to achieve these goals. Are there other traits that are essential to your corporate culture?
In our talent analytics, we have benchmarks for over 500 roles. We can tell you the behavioral traits that align with high-performers in a similar role.
Our post Predicting Job Performance: Do Personality Tests Work? was the first article in our two-part series on predicting job performance. In Part Two - Behavioral Assessments Work!, we set out the research on validated tools for predicting success in a given role that have an 85% reliability.
An Insurance company found that 93% of sales advisors pinpointed by SuccessFinder as high-performers met or exceeded performance expectations one year later. The company avoided over $150K in training and onboarding costs due to better hires with higher retention rates.
In your interview focus on the accomplishments. Learning how a candidate tackled a problem and turned it into a success provides insight regarding their wisdom.
Nurturing the Relationship
Once you have a process to recruit high-potential employees, you need to cultivate the relationships they have with your organization. After all, these individuals may be your company future leaders. So, take them under your wing and support their development. The future of your company may depend on it.
Effective onboarding can make or break success for high-potential employees. Less than a third of organizations actively support their new employees to adapt to the cultural and political climate – which rank as the top reasons new employees fail.
Onboarding improves new employee integration and streamlines their path to ultimate success.
Too many businesses believe they are successfully bringing newly hired employees into the fold by merely covering administrative basics. That level of onboarding is outdated and largely ignores the most challenging obstacles for new employees – unfamiliar cultural norms and expectations. The consequences of improper onboarding include financial repercussions and talent retention issues.
According to a global survey of senior executives who had recently transitioned into new roles, organizational culture and politics, not lack of competence or managerial skill, were the primary reasons for failure. Almost 70 percent of respondents pointed to a lack of understanding about norms and practices — and a poor cultural fit was close behind.
When asked what would reduce failure rates, they emphasized:
- constructive feedback
- help with navigating internal networks
- gaining insight into organizational and team dynamics
This advice applies to any level of employee.
Effective onboarding leads to career success and satisfaction. We based the onboarding plan on the behavioral assessment and is available before the employee starts. At your three-month check-in, the onboarding plan evolves into the development plan. Focusing on development for day one solidifies that you are a learning culture.
Failing to develop leaders is the single most expensive mistake a leader can make.”
Our analytics also identify their gaps. Given that you are a learning organization, you will want a person that is prepared to generously leverage their strengths and develop ways to manage their challenges so these areas do not get it the way.
Managing a developing your employee’s full talent stack is a holistic way of growing an individual. From the employee’s perspective, their talent stack is their Career Capital. It is something they can take with them to the next job within your organization or elsewhere.
Offering career development opportunities to employees are hugely beneficial to employers. Informal and formal learning experiences provide employees with a more comprehensive skill set and reassurance that you recognize their value. Presented with new knowledge and abilities, employees will be better prepared to handle new technologies and innovations and may be able to contribute to enhancing your organization’s systems and procedures.
Career development planning for employees should be scheduled twice a year. Do not do it at the same time as the performance review. Development is a different conversation than a performance discussion. We offer a development plan based on the behavioral assessment. It dovetails with our succession planning approach.
Be A Dynamic Place Where People Want to Work
How your workplace is perceived or positioned will affect how candidates respond to job postings. To stand out in the job market. You must offer something different from competitors.
If you have had trouble in the past generating suitable responses from job postings, ask yourself how you are perceived as someone to work for and how your employees feel about the business. Find out how you compare to competitors regarding salary, work environment, vacation, and job duties. Moreover, remember that money is not always what people are looking for—frequently, it’s the intangible benefits that keep potential employees interested.
In the Society for Human Resource Management 2016-Employee-Job-Satisfaction-and-Engagement-Report, respondents ranked (very important or important)
- 89% — “job specific training”
- 87% — “opportunities to use your skills and abilities at work”
- 86% — “the organization’s overall commitment to professional development”
- 83% — “opportunities for career advancement within the organization”
- 83% — “career development opportunities”
- 82% — “company paid training”
- 80% — “networking opportunities”
Becoming known as a learning organization will enhance your image and develop excellent employees.
Treat Future Performance Reviews Like a Job Interview
Performance reviews are vital to offering helpful feedback to a manager or employee. But not knowing what to say or write can make the process downright painful. When feedback is such a crucial part of boosting employee engagement, it is essential to get it right.
Once you have established your high-performance plan to recruit a new hire, use the process for the performance discussion. A performance review could lead to a promotion, additional responsibility, a transfer to a better department and a salary boost. It is all about being on the same page with your employees.
Remind your high-potential employees of all the preparation they did for your initial interview when they applied for your job. Let them know about all the work you did to hire them.
Consider People-Finding Strategies
You find staff for your business through short-term and long-term recruiting techniques. Short-term techniques are designed to generate an immediate selection of candidates. Long-term methods involve developing relationships with key people and the community and promoting your company as a rewarding place to work. The focus is on keeping long-term relationships with people who have the potential to work for your organization.
It is a good idea to plan to use both short and long-term recruiting strategies. Developing long-term relationships can include strategies like offering scholarships to university students, donations and sponsorships to community organizations, or opening your business for high school practicums.
Two Pools of Candidates Always Available
Promoting from within can help create a culture that shows that hard work is rewarded, and you may find that the most qualified person for your job posting is already working for you. Once you have an effective succession planning process in place. You will know if you have a good fit before going to the external market. This saves a tremendous amount of time and expense.
Friends and acquaintances of employees are always a good place to start. You may want to think about offering a recruitment incentive to encourage employees to spread the word (for example, a cash incentive or gift certificate if the person they recommend is hired).
When posting jobs, ask yourself if the selected newspapers, journals, websites and mailing lists that reach a diverse pool of applicants.
Automate the Process
We recommend the use Jazz-HR to manage your recruitment process and BambooHR as your Human Resources System to ensure you are overseeing employee development. Both systems are cloud-based and give small and medium firms the power of large systems at reasonable costs. Showing prospective employees that you use state-of-the-art tools for recruiting contributes to your image as a dynamic workplace.
Be sure to allow sufficient time for both internal and external recruitment.
Once your outcome-based job ads are posted, be sure that you are clear about your selection criteria. What skills do you need to add to your business? How will you choose one candidate over another?
We recommend our best-fit staffing process. We can predict the likelihood that a candidate will meet and exceed expectations with 85% reliability. We assess candidates against benchmarks of high-performers in the same role. You know that you are genuinely getting a top performer. Not just the best of a bad lot! Short-listing is the first step in identifying the candidates who display the talent stack you require—your “A-list” candidates. We assess your A-list and identify the five to interview. We complete a comprehensive analysis of the final two or three.
The process needs to include reference checks and background checks. Determined a salary offer based on market, qualifications and internal comparisons.
Follow Through After A Candidate Has Accepted
After your offer has been accepted, advise other employees within the company setting out the start date. You will also want to inform the other candidates that the position has been filled. Your next high potential candidate may be in that group.
High-performers need to have high-performing talent management systems in place. You'll be in a better position to hire high-potential employees and have them become high-performing talents that will drive your business success.
In the paper we share the competencies that are:
- Always On: Only two behaviours from manager to C-Suite
- Leap: “Bridging” behaviours for moving between each management level
- Lead: Unique behaviours for every stage of management
- Leave Behinds: The “once and done” list— suitable only for where you are, not where you’re going