Wild Dog Barking

Talent Is Available, So Start Thinking NOW About Top Grading

October 20th, 2009 · No Comments · Uncategorized


By Jim Altfeld

First and foremost, no company can attract and retain top talent if the company’s culture is going to grind them down, eat them up and spit them out. For example, authoritarian, tightly controlled companies need not bother looking for top talent because they will only stifle and snuff them out like a candle.  Also any company that accepts mediocrity, has few if any measurements in place, holds almost no one accountable, gives cursory annual reviews and does not deal with its non-productive personnel should not be seeking top talent, either.

Therefore, the first step in attracting and retaining top talent is to identify your own company’s culture.  Unfortunately, most small to mid-size companies give little thought to their company’s culture.  It just seems to grow, develop, form and shape itself on its own.  Every company has a culture but not every company knows what it is.

If, after assessing and evaluating your company’s culture you discover that it fosters, encourages and rewards a sense of inquiry and a continuous quest to make things better, your company has a great chance of attracting and retaining top talent.  If you find that you’ve created a learning institution that generates a passion for learning how to do something new, you’ve probably already have top talent beating a path to your company’s door.

Every business has a choice.  It can either be a company consisting of a group of individuals who come to work, punch in, do their job and go home, or it can be a coalition of people with common goals and interests.  The truly great and world class companies that are known for attracting and retaining top talent have created cultures that binds their people together.

Why so much importance needs to be placed upon your company’s culture?  Because it defines not only jobs, roles and rules for proper behavior; it also sets goals and establishes what counts as success. It provides the company with a sense of identity, stability, organizational boundaries and acts as a guide for the types of behavior that will and will not be tolerated.  By establishing these boundaries, your people can gauge the appropriateness of their corporate thoughts, behaviors and actions.  They can determine the norms and values from your cultural rules and beliefs.  And, they can make decisions that positively affect the company.

If your goal is to attract and retain top talent, you company’s culture should generate a shared feeling that its goals and objectives are worth the effort, sacrifice and toil by those who work in it  It’s that “Purpose Beyond Profit” that every company has. The excitement and passion instilled within these great companies has little to do with money, profits, increased sales or market share.  They have created something far greater than that.  Profit, increased sales and greater market share will normally come as a result of it, but it is not what is driving the passion.  There is a tremendous sense of giving, sharing, learning, teaching and personal growth and development going on.  It is that sense of personal growth, mentoring, wanting to know more, wanting to do more and wanting to contribute that has become the spirit, or deeply felt emotion within these companies. Like a tornado or hurricane, they pull in and attract those who want to be a part of it and spit out those who don’t.  There will be A and B players beating a path to your door to get in.

But all of that comes as a result of the company’s willingness to share and a willingness to make information available.  It comes from having wide open communication and encouraging cooperation and collaboration throughout the business.  It stems from the company’s desire to become horizontally integrated, strategically aligned and customer focused.  It comes from having that type of culture and a passion to become truly World Class.  For that matter, when you get right down to it, World Class Performance is predicated on World Class Trust.  And trust is a result of open-ness and the sharing of information, experience and expertise.

Accomplishing all of the above will require you to:

·     Equip your people to make decisions by clearly defining your company’s culture

·     Align the systems, policies, practices and procedures with your values  (just like the systems, polices, practices and procedures you set for your children).

·     Measure, reward and recognize people who protect and promote the culture.

·     Indoctrinate new employees into your culture through one on one teaching and education (at Nickelodeon, all new employees get a Welcome Wagon package).

·     Make the values and your culture center stage (Don’t hide your photos in an album.  Display them on a bulletin board.  Have a photo gallery showing the years and your people).

·     Hire the right talent.

Next, the company next needs to determine what its values really are.  What do you look for in yourselves, your people and those you hire?  What are the primary beliefs, traits and characteristics that the company holds near and dear?  For instance, if integrity is a value, it means that anyone working in the company must have it, without exception.  The values must be made clear to everyone in the company and everyone must believe in them and live them, from the top down and the bottom up.  These must be shared beliefs, with all non-believers extricated from the company to avoid disharmony and disruption.  To make this picture a bit more lucid, imagine if you will a woodpecker on board Noah’s ark drilling holes in the bow.  You can forget about a Hegel’s Dialectic and arriving at any type of synthesis.  It is going to get ugly and completely disruptive.  It is the same in business.  Either everyone believes in the values and the culture of the company or at some point in time, it is going to get ugly.

As long as everyone throughout the company knows and understands the values of the company and what is expected of them regarding those values, there is far less chance of someone doing something contrary to the company’s beliefs.

Finally, you need to determine the type of top talent you are looking to recruit.  Management must set distinct goals for all positions and measure each individual’s performance.  Through this process management can then identify the high and low performers.  Management must also establish a set of competencies required of their managers that includes the skills and behaviors expected.

Create a criteria for each job and determine what would be the highest score required to fill the job with a high quality player.  Be professional.  Be prepared.  Be able to hand them a job descriptions with expectations, goals and objectives.  High quality players want to know first and foremost that you have your act together and that you will be able to challenge them for the long haul, and that they will be actively involved and a contributor to the business.

One of the greatest challenges you’ll face in trying to continuously upgrade your talent pool will be improving and replacing the lowest performers while raising everyone’s game.  To ensure this, the leadership of the business must hold their managers accountable for building a strong talent pool.

“My main job was developing talent”, said GE’s Jack Welch.  “I was a gardener providing water and other nourishment to our top 750 people.  Of course, I had to pull out some weeds, too.”

Five Keys to Successful Top Grading:

  1. Make talent management a critical part of every manager’s job
  2. Provide a compelling reason for an A or B player to want to join and stay with the company
  3. Inject high performers throughout the company in every area and improve or eliminate the non-performers.
  4. Implement stretch goals, candid feedback, coaching, mentoring and open communications to grow management’s talents
  5. Confirm each individual’s unique contributions to the company and each person’s performance.

If you can create an extraordinary system, operated by involved, informed, inspired and extraordinary talent, you can count on their producing extraordinary, exceptional and world class results.  The choice is yours.