Q: What is the definition of Topgrading?
A: There are several definitions:
1. Packing the team, the entire team, with high performers, A players, stars.
2. Achieving 75% (preferably 90%) high performers in every job.
3. Topgrading is the practice of creating the highest quality workforce by ensuring that talent acquisition and talent management processes focus on identifying, hiring, promoting, and retaining high performers, A players, in the organization.
4. Here is a longer explanation: Experienced Topgraders frequently say that Topgrading is just “common sense,” but it’s not common sense to:
a. Use two interviewers, using a 4-hour chronological interview, as the major practice in hiring, promoting, and auditing talent. After all three applications are part of a company's culture, with up to 90% of those hired and promoted turning out to be high performers, of course such rigor seems "obvious." And when managers want to do a talent inventory, an audit to figure out who are their A, B, and C players, and who has the greatest potentials, it seems "obvious" to use the same technique as used for hiring and promoting! (The only difference between hiring and promoting or auditing is that external references are checked for hiring, but the Topgrading interviewers actually talk with internal bosses, peers, and subordinates when using Topgrading for promoting or auditing.) These methods require rigor - 90% hiring and promoting success has only been achieved when the interviewers are trained and follow the Topgrading interview guides.
A: Actually there are several visions:
1. One is for every hiring manager, even in a company with two employees, to improve hiring and promoting success using Topgrading methods. Perhaps the world’s businesses and non-profits would be just a little bit better.
2. Another is for you, assuming you are a hiring manager, to improve your success picking talent … so that your career, your organization, your balance in life, will all be a little bit better. Topgrading professionals continue to be used to offer “second opinions” on positions reporting to the CEO, but for more than 10 years my vision has been to make Topgrading professionals’ interviews unnecessary for 95% of all jobs.
3. A third Topgrading Vision is a download. Click here to see the 12 Topgrading Hiring Steps, what problem they solve, and what skill solves them.
Q: Can I become a certified Topgrader?
A: We certify people within single companies - that means they can run workshops and say they are Topgrading workshops, and do Topgrading assessments and coaching, but only within that one company.
You can attend one of our quarterly workshops in Chicago and then advertise that you have been trained by Brad Smart and embrace Topgrading methods. And you can buy a license for the forms and guides, and email the Career History Form, download forms, etc.
You can become a Certified Smart & Associates Affiliate by submitting a marketing plan and, if accepted, becoming certified by attending a workshop, purchasing the Topgrading Toolkit, and several other steps. Contact Chris Mursau at at 847-244-5544 ext. 365 for details.
Q: I’m a huge supporter of Topgrading but my company won’t embrace it; what do I do?
A: Stealth Topgrading! You, as a manager, can Topgrade your team and you will find your life improves dramatically, due to the fact that your team no longer drags you down. And, as it becomes obvious to others that your team is functioning much better than others’ or than it used to be, you’ll find your peers asking you for advice on how to improve their teams! Give ‘em a nudge with Topgrading 101: Avoid Costly Mis-Hires! Click here to download your free copy.
Q: How can I get managers to buy into Topgrading?
A: C players will never really embrace Topgrading. Focus on your A players. To initially expose them to the ideas, get them to download the free 50-page eBook, Topgrading 101: Avoid Costly Mis-Hires. Next consider sending a couple of A players to a quarterly Topgrading Workshop. Click here for more information. Finally consider a pilot project with an internal workshop to launch it, or roll out Topgrading throughout the organization if a critical mass of A players is supportive.
Q: Are Topgrading methods useful for tiny companies with 5 employees?
A: Topgrading is more important for small companies than large ones. Ninety percent of start ups fail in the first year, and one bad hire can kill a company. All the Topgrading methods work as well or better in small companies.
Q: What are impediments to Topgrading?
A: C players will quietly undermine Topgrading, as will lazy HR managers. The single biggest impediment is a boss who lets people compromise on the high performer standard.
Q: How do you integrate the company’s core values into Topgrading?
A: As you create job scorecards, just include competencies representing your core values.
Q: What exactly is Topgrading?
A: It’s packing your team with all high performers, at every salary level. Topgrading, by the definition that we wrote because we created the word, includes the world’s most proven, most effective hiring methods, but more: It’s also the best practices for promoting people, coaching, and retaining top talent.
Q: How do companies, hiring managers, and human resource managers benefit from Topgrading?
A: Let’s start with companies. The focus of companies is to maximize benefits for shareholders. Make more money, make more profits. Almost all the case studies we report in books have CEOs who say that Topgrading is a major reason why their company as a whole is actually doing better. As for hiring managers, the benefits are that almost all high performers reporting to them perform better. Those managers get promotions faster. And finally, our experience over the years has shown that Topgrading managers enjoy a lot better balance in life. Why? Because they can delegate to high performers.
Q: What is the evidence that Topgrading hiring methods truly are the best?
A: Let me refer to Chapter 5 of the 2005 version of Topgrading, the big, fat, 650 page book. In order to qualify for case studies, well-known CEOs had to personally verify the authenticity of that data, the intellectual honestly that in fact many of them had improved from 25-30% hiring and promoting success, to 85-90%. That’s more than tripling their success hiring and promoting people! So, the names of the companies are there, and the CEOs and heads of human resources all attest to the validity and accuracy of the data.
Q: Why do Topgrading hiring methods work so much better than any other methods?
A: We’ve identified twelve steps in the Topgrading hiring process:
1. Measure company hiring success. What percent of people hired actually turn out to be high performers? And what are the costs associated with those mis-hires? It's really important to measure the success hiring and those costs.
Q: What are common roadblocks to the implementation of Topgrading?
A: The major one is C players. C players who never exhibit much creativity on the job for some reason sense that Topgrading could be a threat to them and so they huddle together and find all sorts of creative ways interfere with the implementation of Topgrading. Of course we have some ways that we recommend that you use in order to combat the C players.
Q: What are the easiest, quickest ways for managers to understand the basics of Topgrading hiring?
A: That really is easy. There are two free ways. Go to our home page and you can download a 50-page eBook called Topgrading 101: Avoid Costly Mis-Hires. It’s an easy read. It covers all the basics of Topgrading. It might take a half hour to read that book, but if you want something even quicker and easier, watch our Topgrading Movie. It is an 8 minute movie that was created for YouTube and it gives some of the essence of Topgrading, including three of the major commonplace methods that many companies use that produce about 25% hiring success, and the three best methods, the time-tested, proven Topgrading methods that have enabled leading and small companies to more than triple their hiring success. And so those are two of the easiest, quickest ways for managers to learn the basics of Topgrading.
Q: How do I implement Topgrading?
Individuals - Consider attending our quarterly 2-day Topgrading Workshop. Click here for more information.
Small Company - send all key managers to our quarterly 2-day Topgrading Workshop. Click here for more information.
Larger Company - send two key managers to our 2-day Topgrading Workshop, and then run internal workshops, conducted by Topgrading professionals. Click here for more information. And, consider our New Topgrading Toolkit model in which internal trainers use the New Topgrading Toolkit. Click here for more information.
Every organization is unique, and we would be happy to talk with you, to explore the most cost-effective approach. Arrange for a call with Brad Smart or another Topgrading professional by calling 847-244-5544.
Q: How are A players different from B and C players?
A: An A player is someone who is in the top 10% of talent available for the job – “available” meaning at a certain comp level, in that location, in that industry, and reporting to that manager. B players are in the next 25%, and C players are in the bottom 65%.
Q: How can you tell if someone is an A, B, or C?
A: Ultimately you have to follow Topgrading hiring methods so you interview and reference check finalists to be sure of how much talent is “available” and willing to take the job. Another indicator is a pattern in which the person has consistently received top performance ratings. A third indicator is if the person is tops on key competencies. For example, the following chart separates A, B, and C Players.
Q: What is the #1 weakness of A players?
A: The #1 flaw, shortcoming of most leaders is mediocre listening. That's the bad news. The good news is that improved listening is the single most powerful improvement most leaders can make. Why? Because when leaders progress from mediocre to very good listeners, their team considers them much improved as leaders overall, and specifically as motivators, team players, coaches, developers of talent, and yes - better Topgraders!
The best news: I've seen hundreds of leaders improve their listening skills. Being regarded as a very good leader also helps you Topgrade, because during the hiring process A player candidates ask others on your team, "What's (your) leadership style like?" "What do people on the team like and dislike about working for (you)." "How are decisions made?" "Is (the boss - you) a good listener?" No A player wants to work for anyone, even a super A player, who is a lousy listener.
Having surveyed over a million people and coached a couple thousand senior managers, my files are loaded with my interview notes from co-workers whose boss or peer is a mediocre listener. Even super A players toss a lot of banana peels in their path when they are mediocre listeners: Co-workers feel diminished ("He's always interrupting before I can finish." "He does emails when I'm talking."), unappreciated ("I have good ideas but she won't listen.") and stifled ("How am I supposed to grow with my ideas squashed?"). At worst, sharp members of the team quit and it's hard to recruit A players.
At best, performance and teamwork are lessened. Of the 6,500 executive assessments I've done, the single most common weakness listed, even for A players, is listening. Of all the executives I've coached, the single most common area I've offered suggestions to improve is ... listening.
Let's tweak that - most leaders need to improve at active listening. Listening is just grasping what the other person said. Active listening is playing back to the person what you heard, engaging in a dialog to really understand not just the words but what the person really meant to say, and the feelings, emotions, and passion underlying what is said.
Q: How can A players fail?
A: Even a super A player can fail because of:
1. Bad luck. As you know, business involves taking risk. A players can do all the due diligence in the world to mitigate risk, but they can still fail. There are plenty of A players at Bear Stearns, UBS, Citi, and Merrill Lynch who got terrible results and were tossed out onto the streets because of the sub-prime crisis. Hey, they all didn't cause the mess!
Bad luck comes in the form of new competitors, economic blips, terrorist acts, some country overprotecting competitors in your industry, Congress withdrawing subsidies, Supreme Court vagaries, your coming down with a nasty disease. Hey, ca-ca happens.
2. Bad boss(es). I've assessed/coached 6,500 executives, each with an average of 10 jobs, and so I've asked all the Topgrading questions about all their jobs - how they succeeded/failed/made decisions/etc. I've accumulated 65,000 of those case studies. Since a high percentage of executives I interview are A players, I've heard a zillion examples in which really sharp executives were hindered because the boss imposed a futile strategy, refused to listen to good ideas, failed to Topgrade the rest of the team (so peers were C players), or felt threatened and actively undermined the A player.
Well, you say, aren’t A players sharp enough to do due diligence and not take a job with a lousy boss? Yes, but in a lot of cases they worked for a good boss for a couple of years and it’s when that boss left and the lousy boss was imposed on them that they could not succeed.
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