Topgrading “CliffsNotes”

Below is your “One-Minute Topgrader” summary for your reference as you begin to Topgrade your organization from top to bottom.

1.  Measure your baselineEstimate percent high performers you’ve hired and/or promoted, and use the Cost of Mis-Hires Form to estimate the cost of a bad choice and the number of hours wasted (by everyone, not just you) annually fixing problems the low performer caused.  Why:  The results of measuring will motivate people to Topgrade.

2.  Create a Job Scorecard.  List one-year measureable accountabilities (including minimum acceptable ratings on Competencies).  Be so thorough that if both job accountabilities and competencies goals are met, your hiree/promotee is an A Player.  Why:  Job descriptions are vague, and the Job Scorecard step reduces costly mis-hires.

3.  Recruit through networks.  Ask every manager and employee to stay in touch with high performers they have worked with and “connectors,” people who know a lot of high performers.  Pay “bounties” to employees who refer high performers.  Why:  This method is cheaper (no fee), quicker (candidates already screened), and better (almost all high performers) than using recruiters or running ads.

4.  Use the Topgrading Career History Form and Topgrading Snapshot to pre-screen candidates.  Screening from resumes is a waste of time because C Players know how to write A Player resumes.  Why:  Screening with the Career History Form and Topgrading Snapshot saves time and gets better candidates in for interviews.

5.  Conduct Telephone Screening Interviews.  With the Career History Form and Topgrading Snapshot, ask Topgrading questions for the most recent two jobs, and then discuss the job opening and candidate goals.  Why:  It takes less time than face-to-face screening interviews.

6.  Conduct (3–6) one-hour Competency InterviewsAllow the candidate 15 minutes in each interview to ask interviewers questions. Why:  High performers insist on getting their questions answered.

7.  Conduct the Topgrading InterviewUse a trained tandem partner when interviewing for management or high-level individual jobs.  The two of you study the Job Scorecard, resume, Career History Form, and Topgrading Snapshot of the candidate. Then you use the Topgrading Interview Guide: Ask all the questions. Both of you take notes (but secondary interviewer takes more notes).
Why:  The Topgrading Interview is the most powerful hiring and promoting method – more important than all other Topgrading Steps put together.

8.  Interviewers give each other feedback.  Use the Interviewer Feedback Form.  Why:  So that both will continue to master interviewing techniques.

For example, probe for specifics.  Ask yourself “so what?” and use follow up questions to understand exactly what occurred and the consequences.  “Missed three deadlines” could be terrible (“I couldn’t get organized, and was put on probation,”) or positive (“Everyone missed more, and so I was given the President’s Award and a vacation in Hawaii.”) Why:  Penetrating probes reveal truth, and ineffective probes result in inaccurate conclusions.

Use a Summary of accomplishments, failures, reasons for leaving, what was liked, etc. (every 10 minutes or so). Why:  It shows you’re listening and prompts addition disclosures. 

Use Active Listening (playing back content and feeling). Why:  It’s a powerful rapport builder.

9.  After the interview write a draft report.  Thumbs up or thumbs down?  You and your tandem interviewer separately refresh your memories by reviewing your notes, and both rate the candidate on the competencies in the Job Scorecard.  Then discuss all your conclusions. Why:  Two heads are better than one; the two of you will resolve differences and end up with objective, accurate conclusions.

To move ahead, ask the candidate to arrange personal reference calls.  You and your tandem partner pick not only bosses, but others you want to talk with.  If the candidate won’t permit you to talk with the present boss, ask to talk with someone else at the boss’ level, someone who left the company.

10.  Conduct the reference calls.  The candidate should get back to you within a day or two with, “Yes, they will talk with you,” and the references’ mobile numbers and availability.  Use the Topgrading In-Depth Reference Check Guide.  Why:  To validate conclusions and get good suggestions for how to best manage the new hire.

11.  Coach your new hire/promotion.  You promised coaching and A Players want it.  Within two weeks sit down to review all your conclusions and developmental suggestions. Hand the Sample Individual Development Plan (in the Topgrading Workbook) to the new hire/promotion, and ask that this model be followed (what, when, why, and how results will be measured).  Why:  To assure a) smooth on-boarding; b) maximize success in this job; and c) start high-potential A Players on development for promotion.

12.  Annually measure hiring and (separately) promoting success.  Track whether Topgrading methods were used or not.   Why:  The Topgraders will pack their teams with high performers, the not-Topgraders won’t, and the organization will demand Topgrading.

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