High Performance Through Talent Differentiation

I came across this interesting blog post by Josh Bersin. He clearly outlines a possible approach an organization might take to identify high performing teams, replicating such success and what all of this means for HR.

How do you Differentiate? Who are really the High Performers?

The more difficult question is identifying who these high performers are. When one team outperforms another (e.g. a sales team), is it because of a single person, the manager, the teamwork they have, or just luck? How does a manager identify what we may call the “pivotal” talent in the team? And just because a manager gives one person a great performance appraisal, does that really mean that this person is “the top contributor?”

One way do to this is called “high performer analysis.” One of the companies we’re working with (I will talk about who this is soon) is a large consumer brand with thousands of stores throughout the US. This organization looked at store sales across all its geographies and selected the top 40 performing stores. They then did a detailed analysis of the store managers in these stores and compared them to the store managers in the 40 “average” performing stores.

They looked at age, tenure, experience, personality characteristics, skills, competencies, and a variety of other factors. What they found was essentially a “heat map” of the specific characteristics which “define” high-performing managers in this particular company.

How do you Create More of these High Performers?

Once this work is completed, the next step is to redesign the employee branding, recruiting, succession, training, and leadership development for these roles. This redesign will build directly upon the upon the key characteristics of these high-performers.

In this particular case, for example, the client found that one of the attributes of a high-performing managers is a passion for quality. In this particular business store cleanliness, order, and accuracy have a huge impact on sales. The managers who are meticulously organized and quality-oriented drove much higher sales. (This may or may not be true in all businesses, by the way.)

So what does this Mean to HR?

Which gets me back to the original point of this article. In the “fourth stage of HR” (and I will describe these four stages soon), human resources professionals stop spending so much time worrying about “overall employee wellness” and spend far more time helping the business leaders “find and replicate” high-performance.

Look at it this way. Businesses spend 3-5% of payroll on HR and training-related activities. And much of this is dedicated to must-have programs like compensation, benefits, employee communications, and record-keeping. With the discretionary training and HR dollars we have, shouldn’t we spend most of them on finding and replicating high-performance? I think so.

What do you think? What is your approach to differentiating talent and building high performance teams?

2 thoughts on “High Performance Through Talent Differentiation

  1. Finding and differentiating workers is an age-old challenge. We’ve found one of the most positive ways to do this is through strategic recognition, which encourages frequent and timely recognition of employee behaviors and actions that reflect your company values in contribution to your key objectives. You can easily find the power performers and those who may be lagging to intervene as necessary. This is possible on the individual level all the way to the business as a whole.

    Consider this: if you recognize “Joe” frequently for his efforts and tie each recognition to one of a clearly defined list of reasons for recognition (again based on your values and objectives), you can begin to see patterns — for example that Joe has been recognized frequently for teamwork but rarely for innovation. This could mean that Joe simply isn’t assigned to projects requiring innovation, or perhaps he’s in the accounting department where innovation may be frowned upon! But if Joe’s a member of the R&D staff, then you’ve clearly uncovered a problem in need of intervention! If you discover you’re entire R&D team is rarely recognized for innovation, you’ve found a potential company-killing problem.

    I write about this freuqently on my own blog. Click through for more…


    • Hi Derek – Thanks for stopping by my blog. Great comment there – I frequent your blog and do like what I see. Recognition could definitely be one of the strategic tools to achieve this objective.


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