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  • Writer's pictureMark Hordes

One Great Performer is Equal to Five Average Performers in Your Company


Do you believe that one great performer is equal to four to five average performers in your company?

That’s an interesting question to ask within your company. Most of you probably would say yes. It’s also an interesting productivity issue to consider when developing your Human Capital and Talent Management plans.

But how do you know who are really “best and brightest” and how do we keep them moving forward and operating on all cylinders when others simply end up running in place, but never really creating the kind of results that our “Star Performers” produce, time and time again?

The reality is that most of the training budgets we deploy are focused on the average, new or low performing employees due to gaps in performance reviews or the need to get everyone up to speed on the basics.

Quite often the “star performers” are left alone, usually because we perceive they are doing great already, so let’s not bother them.

How to Determine Who Are Your Star Performers?

1. Ask employees.

Sometimes the most obvious answers can be found by simply asking others. Who do you believe are the “star performers” in our company? Andy why do you believe they are “stars”?

Typical answers often include:

-These are the individuals who think “out of the box”.

-Always produce results.

-Sets targets that are achievable.

-See challenges as opportunities versus problems that can’t be solved.

-Have personalities that inspire others to act.

-Are proactive versus reactive.

-Always see options and alternatives to issues.

-Customers always ask for this individual

-Is seen by customers as a “trusted advisor”

-Can usually outperform an average performer by a factor of 10

-Volunteer to lead a team even when they are twice as busy as everyone else

-Receives the highest customer satisfaction scores

-Always exceed quotas

-Always stand out from the crowd as they possess unique knowledge and skills and have sharp instincts related to customer needs, wants, issues and expectations

-Understands the impact of decisions on people and processes.

-Are intelligent and are fully skilled in understanding the business, financial and social sides of things.

-Always act like a professional even in conflictual situations.

-Sometimes demonstrate unusual behavior, and although accepting of cultural norms are good at socializing, sometimes work around existing systems that are constraints to quick and effective action.

2. Identify the Behaviors and Actions of Your Star Performers

So, we all can identify who are star performers are in our company, either by observations, customer feedback, and visible rewards and recognition identification.

But this is not enough.

In order to leverage the skills that star performers possess we need to clearly identify what the specific behaviors are that these individuals demonstrate. The list of behaviors mentioned above is just a start. Having a formal process of “star analysis” is a good way to begin.

Additionally, we need to spend time with our “stars” by observing and interviewing them in varying situations, e.g. (company and employee meetings in training workshops, and documenting how they run their teams and demonstrate how they interact and communicate their skills and abilities.)

Since many “star performers” may not be aware of how they do what they do, conducting debriefing sessions, role plays and focus groups with them after events can yield many insights on the following topics:

• The four top five things they always do when working with customers, e.g. (active listening, observing body language, flexing to other personalities and styles in meetings, asking “open-ended” versus “closed-probe” questions and listening twice as much as they talk.”

• Identifying their “lessons learned” from various customer and organizational situation. Important here is not only have them identify “lesson” but how they learned not to repeat what had occurred. Too much organizational effort is spent on “lessons” identification and not enough on how the lessons were applied later.

• Critical incidents or “war stories” that provided them with their greatest learning experiences.

• How they utilize their strengths and minimize their deficiencies. And,

• How they transform change resistors into supporters.

3. Knowledge Transfer: What’s Required?

All the above identified characteristics can be captured and incorporated into job description profiles, recruitment/behavior-based interviews, training designs as well as benchmarks to compare against average performers. You can also utilize this data to create “competency” profiles, succession plans and career paths as well.

4. Assess Your Workforce Capabilities

Conducting a yearly employee capabilities assessment is a good thing for every company to do. Below is a simple capability profile for you to consider determining the skills your workforce possess today, and to determine what may be required in the future. When an entire company completes the profile, you can better gage the future investment costs of hiring new people, conducting new training programs, or even where to make even stronger investments in your “star performers” activities.

Capabilities Assessment Profile

Instructions: Think about your personal performance for the factors associated with each capability and circle your perceptions for each then compute your total and average score.

Strongly Disagree Strongly Agree Don’t Know

(Place an X for each area that represent you!)

People skills:

1. Effective at building rapport

2. Effective listener

3. Good relationship skills

4. Effective communicator

5. Effective people engagement skills

6. Work well in teams

7. Manage conflicts effectively

Business skills:

8. Think and act like a business person

9. Good at understanding financials

10. Good at business development

11. Good at identifying critical business issues

12. Good at understanding customer issues

Process skills:

13. Good at process mapping

14. Good at using our technology

15. Good at integrating other processes

Total X’s___________ Average Score__________

As you calculate your results, the next step is to determine what the alternatives are for moving forward, ask the following questions:

• What is the impact for not closing the gaps that have been identified?

• How large is the gap between how “star performers” and “average performers” scored?

• What type of training is now appropriate and for whom?

• How can we apply “coaching” processes to increase our employees’ capabilities?

• How can we more flexible in creating hiring “top talent when it comes to compensation and “fast tracking” the “best and brightest?”

• How can we ensure that every employee has a formal development program?

• How can we encourage everyone, especially our “star performers” to write and speak at events, trade shows and association meetings?

• How can we ensure that every employee has a tailored training program?

• How can we encourage our leaders to mentor and coach our “high potentials?”

• How can we require our management to identify “great employees”?

• How can we accelerate a “fast-track” process to identify and hire great talent?

• How can we encourage that the best talent is hired regardless of immediate need?


Someone once said, “Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to accelerate that talent into unchartered territory.”

Become a “best practice” talent organization, but also continue to motivate, and encourage everyone to always reach for the highest level of personal and team performance so that there are only “A” players in your company.

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