When you have just a few employees, you naturally want to make every hire count. One way to do that is to actively seek top performers. The thing is, top performers aren’t like other employees. Here’s what you need to know:
1. They’re not good at everything: In his influential piece for CBS Moneywatch called “Why geniuses don’t have jobs,” Dave Logan writes, “(A) genius is a person with some ability that would rate a 9 or 10 on a ten-point scale … The heart of the problem for geniuses is that they are probably a 2-3 in other areas.”
So fair warning, if you’re bringing someone onboard who is a total rock star in one area, be prepared for that same person to have weaknesses in other areas, which will need to be creatively managed.
2. They don’t cost that much more: When looking to hire a top performer, you might think they are out of your price range. Not necessarily.
Top performers will expect to be paid at least the average or median rate, but often don’t go to the highest bidder. Instead, they are looking for something that’s even harder to find from their perspective, which is a work environment that really fits.
And here’s where small companies possess an advantage. Small companies can offer the things top performers really crave, which include the opportunity to take on larger responsibilities, and most importantly, do interesting work. As a small company, you also have the flexibility to offer meaningful perks, such as the ability to bring a pet to work, or work odd hours, or freely expose piercings and tattoos.
3. They flock together: In addition to a fair wage and an accepting work environment, top performers also want to be among their own kind. They don’t all have to be good at the same thing, but there’s something that an elite sales person can recognize in an elite project manager or an elite graphic designer, which provides a magnetic pull.
If you already have one or more average performers on your team, you may have to re-think your staffing strategy. Successful small companies are often tight-knit with everyone speaking the same language, so if you have clock-punchers setting the tone, it can be difficult to attract and retain top performers who tend to have a “take-no-prisoners” approach to their work.
4. They’re worth it: In his book “Essentialism,” Greg McKeown cites the thinking of Nathan Myhrvold, former CTO of Microsoft on the value of top performers in his field. Myhrvold believes that the top software developers are “ten thousand times” more productive than average developers.
If that strikes you as outrageous math, try thinking about it this way: ten thousand average writers can’t equal the output of one Shakespeare.
So the next time you’re hiring and looking for the best, remember that great talent comes at a price, and that the price is not measured in dollars, but rather in a company culture that truly gets and supports great talent.
Jennie Wong, Ph.D., is a Charlotte-based executive coach and the creator of the product quiz website www.ABorC.com.
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