It goes without saying that all companies would prefer to hire high performers over low performers. What constitutes a high performer is always company-specific, but in almost all cases they at least achieve their targets, are flexible in a changing environment, innovate new solutions, execute their work in time and with great quality and are eager to learn to become even better and take more responsibility. A study suggests that top performers can be up to 400% more productive than the average employee.
But how can you attract these unicorns of the professional world? I went through multiple corporate guides for hiring the top talent and noticed that a lot of the advice was not created with startups or scaleups in mind. This is truly a shame because hiring quality is even more crucial when a company is hiring their first team members since every new hire has a huge impact on the success of the business. To help you out, I’ve created a list of my best tips specifically for scaleups and startups for hiring and keeping top performers.
Tip 1. Analyse the skills of existing top performers.
In case you already have people on board that perform fantastically in your company, find out what kind of abilities they have, what motivates them and include those abilities in your recruitment screening process. Even better if you are able to quantify your top performers’ skills and abilities because that will make it easy to compare the skills of your new candidates to what you already have in the team. If you don’t yet have top performers in your company or are having trouble identifying the key skills of success, you can rely on industry data. What is working for companies in a similar growth stage for similar roles?
Tip 2. Shift focus away from past experiences.
We’ve been preaching this for a long time now, so you’ve probably already heard it but just as a reminder: Past experience does NOT translate to future success. Just because a candidate has worked in the same industry before, maybe even in a similar role, doesn’t mean that they will be a high performer at your company. And here’s also an extra twist for us smaller companies: more experience equals smaller talent pool and higher salary requests. I believe that people should definitely be paid according to their performance level but the tough truth is that a newly established growth company cannot compete with Google in salary levels. Instead, you should assess skills and cognitive traits that predict how the candidate will perform in the future, not how they performed in the past. These abilities differ between companies and job roles but some good indicators for scaleups are, for instance, learning ability, flexibility and problem-solving skills.
Tip 3. Start enabling your employees rather than disabling.
Even if a candidate has the skills and motivation to become the best employee ever at your company, it still takes two to tango. If the expectations aren’t clear, the onboarding is not organized well, there are no KPIs or they aren’t realistic, it’s difficult for anyone to perform great. To enable your promising employees to live up to their potential, you need to make sure that your teams and processes are ready for that. Are you ready to trust your people and give them the autonomy and responsibility to shine? Micromanaging is the surest way to kill a potential top performer’s motivation and make sure that they will leave your company soon.
Tip 4. Look into your averages or low performers
85% of employees report that they are not engaged at work. That’s a huge number. I bet that the employees that are categorised as top performers by their employers are not a part of this figure. I’ll even add that most of these people in the 85% do not want to be disengaged! It’s a basic human need to want to feel like you are appreciated and your work matters. That’s why my final tip is to take a critical look at your existing workforce who you don’t think perform at the top level. Do they have what it takes to rock their current role? Could you give them more training or new tasks that would help with their engagement and job satisfaction? Maybe their skills might be more suited for another role and they could still end up being a top performer in your team. Don’t give up on your staff before you’ve tried everything!
I hope these tips help you look at high and low performance from a new perspective and make you more empowered to find the specific factors that make a top performer in your company context. If you are interested in finding out more about assessing your talent pool and existing employees in a data-driven way, let’s have a chat!
Equalture has enabled 250+ scaleups to find out their ideal team composition to reach new growth levels.