Topgrading has definitely made the company more successful. We started the company with Topgrading and got great results hiring and in the business. We let Topgrading slip, we saw the business hurt, and so we’ve relaunched Topgrading, with great success. – Tim Heronimus, Principal

Azura Living

AZURA (220 EMPLOYEES)

Industry: Rehabilitation and Assisted Living Centers Highlights:

  • Pre-Topgrading hiring success un- known, but with Topgrading, 75% of all employees hired throughout the company have turned out to be A Players.
  • Topgrading slipped, and hiring success declined to 40%, but because of the negative impact on the business, Topgrading has been reinstated.

Chat with a Topgrader Call:

Brad:  … And now I’d like turn this over to Tim Heronimus.  Tim, thank you again for being willing to share your Topgrading experiences.  If you will just tell a little about the company, yourself, and what you’ve done, lessons learned.  Just a reminder to everyone listening in; while Tim’s talking and you have questions ask, e-mail those questions to me.

Tim:  Thank you Brad.  Good morning and afternoon to everyone.  My name is Tim Heronimus and my partner Josh McClellan and I started a company called Azura Living about two years ago with the purpose of transforming the culture of care as it relates to housing and specifically to nursing homes.  We’ve both been in the care industry for about 15 years and have been successful in operating facilities and companies over those 15 years but together we said it was time to change how we’re going to provide care to our seniors in the nursing home.  We recently opened up Azura Lakewood which is our first venture in a facility from the ground up.  We knew that as important as a correct physical structure was it was just as important to hire the correct people to be on our team to provide care to our guests coming to our facility.  We learned about Topgrading and before we hired anyone we decided to invest in Topgrading as our choice or our philosophy at how we would hire our personnel.

Brad:  Just to chime in on that Tim.  We have quite a few people who are in health care and are interested, having questions about how do we hire entry level people because we want our health care facilities to have positive, upbeat A Players.  Maybe A Players at ten dollars an hour, but are still A Players.  You told me the other day, about 110 people for this initial facility and you want to grow to about ten or fifteen facilities, that’s 700 to 1,000, 1,500 people in the next few years or so; you’re really interested in making this first facility successful.

Tim:  Correct.  We actually have 135 employees now.

Brad:  Oh wow, just in the past couple of weeks?!

Tim:  Twenty new team members joined us yesterday for orientation.  We’ve used the Topgrading process for every single hire and we’ve been fortunate.  We had over 700 people apply for the jobs with us.  And Brad, as you shared earlier; just the process of going through the Career History Form (which we use as our application) we looked at a large percentage of those and then through the training and learning of what we’re looking for we weed out the rest of those and we end up with what we believe to be is the A Players for every position here at the facility.

To add what you said a few minutes ago, we have jobs that range from nine dollars an hour up to forty dollars an hour and everyone goes through the same process.  After having our training last December in Chicago we realized that no matter what job you may hold there is that top 10% for every job or every career out there.  We have CNAs, personal care givers, we have RNs, housekeepers, culinary staff who all go through this process and when they get hired one of the first things we talk about when they walk into the company is congratulating them on being hired and have them look around the room and as they meet their peers, being the top 10% of their career group.

Brad:  How about any advice you have; you’re getting started but you’re in it enough.  There are a lot of people calling in, they have their toe in the water, just getting started and saying, what is the main advice of people who have already slain some dragons or overcome some obstacle?

Tim:  What I would share with everyone else is that you need to commit yourself to doing this and ensure that everyone involved in the recruitment and hiring and everyone working there understands why Topgrading is so important to the success of the company.  What we learned is if you take short cuts (and you’re told not to take shortcuts, we knew this) but if you end up taking a personal biases or you say, well we know this person, that you may end up making a mistake.  Additionally you’ll have from your rolodex people reaching out to you saying that they’d like to apply for a job or you reach out to them.  What I learned early on was that instead of telling somebody, I think you’re a great candidate you should apply for this job, let the individual know there is a position open and that they may apply for it because in my personal experience was this person I thought was the best hire for the position ended up not getting the job.  So the lesson we learned was, encourage them to apply but offer no promises.

Brad:  With each sentence, you’re answering some questions that I would have answered so if you have the time I’ll ask you to stay on the call because I think you might be better equipped to answer some of these questions.  So stick with the process and don’t cut corners.  Let me ask you something, I don’t want to bias the answer.  Is part of the reason for communicating to everyone (you suggested) what Topgrading is all about is that frankly if there’s a consensus among the A Players that this is good for the company?  Hiring A Players that serve the older people who go into our facility is something that’s part of what’s meaningful to me; it shuts up the C Players who don’t want any part of Topgrading.  I just biased the response to that, but what’s your sense of that Tim?

Tim:  You’re right.  The A Players that you end up hiring are committed to excessive organization from the onset and A Players love working with other A Players.  Everything that we’ve learned about from talking with our staff that have been here over 90 days is that when they work with A Players it helps them motivate themselves to keep doing that little thing above and beyond that what may even be part of the job or responsibility, it all comes back down to customer service.  No matter what business we’re in, whether it is business to business or business to customer, the customer service part is what guests remember.  We’ve had more compliments on the quality of people that we have working here from our guests who are leaving.  A lot of the compliments are, “I don’t know who found them but you have some of the best people working for you.”  That’s an incredible compliment to us and an incredible testimony to the process.

Brad:  We have two beta tests going on with abbreviated Topgrading methods for entry-level employees.  One is a grocery company and they are so excited, it’s the best store opening they ever had, good news bad news.  The good news is just as you were suggesting, they have gotten notices that are even being published in the Chicago Tribune.  I’ll even tell you who it is, it’s Roundy’s.  The CEO is Bob Mariano.  It’s Bob Mariano’s Fresh Market in Arlington Heights.  They have the friendliest, friendliest, most energized, positive store employees that people have ever seen.

The bad news is; the Arlington Heights store is more than double what their high expectations were for sales.  Now that’s the kind of problem you want!  It’s so successful that they rolled it out across the entire company.

Just FYI to everybody; with a caregiver company and with this Roundy’s grocery company we’re kind of fine tuning the Topgrading process, a slightly different Career History Form (you know that Topgrading Snapshot that Gordon is going to be experimenting with?  He has a lot of people with part time jobs.)  It will look different but still extremely useful.  For those of you and I think about a third of you are familiar with Topgrading, you have licenses and with that license there is no additional charge when we have what we think are good templates for abbreviated Career History Forms, telephone screening, we’re down to a 45 minute single, not a tandem but a single Topgrading Interview, one reference check not eight like you would for executives.

I’m wondering Tim:  How did you modify any of the Topgrading processes for entry level people?

Tim:  We took up the same Career History Form and the job section may have been smaller.  We do a phone interview and went down to a one, one hour interview but still did three reference checks.

Brad:  The existing Career History Form is just fine.  We spent over a year on the software to create a different form, it looks like a Monster.com application form but to have it produce the Topgrading Snapshot we need to change a bunch of things and for part timers we wanted to make it very simple.  For part times if they’ve had just eight jobs they go through it fast but it can get really complicated is if the part timers think they have to account for every single full time and part time job they’ve had in their career (that’s the way the existing Career History Form reads) but of course people don’t do it.  On the Topgrading Snapshot version we make it very easy for them saying to go back just eight years.

We have some questions coming in; here we go with the first question.
Do you have recommendations on crafting job ads to attract top-level people you want and what not to be included in the ad?

Tim:  We use a variety of different (we don’t actually do print ads for jobs we actually do a lot on Craig’s list and avenues like that) What we did for the initial group is we went through the Score Card Wizard and used that as the basis of creating the ad to attract candidates, we also put in the ad that we utilize Topgrading.

Brad:  We do experiments (that’s what beta tests are all about) we tried I think three different ads; when we had just a standard ad that didn’t mention Topgrading, did not mention that you’d have to arrange for reference calls with bosses we got a flood of resumes and boy were they junky.  The huge advantage to using the Topgrading Career History Form is with that threat of reference check in there, it’s right there in the instructions that the final step is that you have to arrange for reference calls with bosses and it really does discourage most, but amazingly not all C-Players and so you have fewer responses but they’re much better.  Has that been your experience Tim?

Tim:  Absolutely.  Those who took the time to fill the Career History Form out are the ones that are excited about the opportunity to share with you what they’ve accomplished so far.  We actually have it on our website for people who come to apply for a job; on the website they take the careers path and there is the Career History Form they must fill out.

Brad:  That is great.  Now Tim made reference to templates for Job Score Cards and people are saying, “What the heck is that?”  When you have a license (you can go to Smarttopgrading.com and buy one of those licenses and use all the forms and guides) you can modify them, put your logo on them, make them your application form, you can change them; there’s a question about international you can change.  Education and military are different in various places, I have to approve those but I’ve approved 100% of the requests to change for, level, industry or for our part of the world or what ever it may be.

Someone asked about “sales” Job Score Cards.  There are several in the book, Topgrading for Sales, but also when you license it you get some more, not just templates where you fill in the blanks but samples and we’re developing more and more of a catalog that people are finding very useful.

A number of callers said, Tim, “Boy I’m having trouble getting this Job Score Card” (it’s one of the early steps in Topgrading) People don’t want to go through the work trying to figure out  what the first year measurable accountabilities would be.  What would your advice be to them Tim?

Tim:  I think it is work but when you look at the goals of what your company are then you can say, “I need this person to be this part of the team to accomplish the company goal.”  So this person must do these five things successfully to help the company succeed and if they do those things not only will the company succeed but they’ll succeed.

Brad:  This is what we Topgrading professionals do every single day.  I’m going to dramatize this a little, someone calls and says we have a candidate (for me it might be CFO) and if they’re not yet Topgraders, they just heard “get a second opinion from a Topgrading professional” but they’ve never been to a workshop or haven’t even read the book and they send a typical vague job description; they get on the phone and say, I’d kind of like to spend 20 minutes and fill this out just a little bit more.”

Here’s what I’m thinking, (I apologize to any clients that are on the phone) I say, what a crummy vague job description, I don’t have a clue as to what I’m supposed to look for.  I’m going to spend four to four and a half hours interviewing this person.  I don’t know why the last person has failed, how decisions are made, I don’t know how you are going to decide whether the person is an A, B, or C Player a year from now.  So I ask the questions about first year accountabilities and how decisions are made, the culture and what sorts of people might work out or not work out then make it a “Job Scorecard.”

This just came in, this is from Barbara:  Hi Brad I’m in the midst of hiring for five positions; is there any way I can get a copy of your Snapshot form?

Brad:  There’s good news bad news.  I just made a note to myself since I referenced the Topgrading Snapshot I’m going to ask one of my assistants to send all of you; you’ll see two Topgrading Snapshots, both real.  One is a really positive one of fictitious (only names have been changed) the fictitious name is Erik Dorsman and he’s the on going case study in our new Topgrading Tool Kit, seven hours of DVDs, all the 12 Topgrading Steps that are not only described but demonstrated. Erik is sharp and this is what you want.  If you’re sending out the Career History Form and you want to get a Topgrading Snapshot it takes 20 seconds for you to look at the Erik Dorsman Topgrading Snapshot and see, well is he at the right comp level and if he is everything else is great, terrific boss rating and he’s been promoted several times.

Okay, now I have something funny.  The second one is also a real Topgrading Snapshot and one of the people who work for me interviewed this terrible candidate for a Senior Executive position in a health care industry.  It was a friend of a friend of the CEO.  This is a Topgrading company but they did not even administer the Career History Form until they sent him Smart & Associates.  Now here’s where it’s funny, when I read an ad for Topgrading professional, I was looking through the resumes and went wow, this resume looks familiar I sent it to my guy and asked, “Is this the guy?”  He was such a terrible candidate, fired from three or four jobs looking for a (??38:48??) job in ten years.

I’m a little embarrassed to tell you this, but we’re all friends, right?  Just for entertainment value I sent this person the same sort of e-mail “Thank you for responding to our ad, please complete the Career History Form” and he sent it back!  This is John Doe!  This is a horrible Topgrading Snapshot that you’re going to see, it’s unbelievable, and you couldn’t make something like that up.

More seriously, Barbara and anyone else would like to be one of our early adapters or beta test for the Topgrading Snapshot here’s what’s in it for you; For Gordon who’s on this call and for the other company that’s doing it, effective today the charge is one dollar.  Monster.com looked at this methodology a decade ago and then they fired their whole R&D department but they went through five steps including beta tests with companies and they concluded the value people are willing to pay is fifty dollars per Topgrading Snapshot.

In the beginning phase of Topgrading new sales manager and the management team has never implemented Topgrading; I read Topgrading for Sales that I want implemented.  What is the best first step?

Brad:  My reaction to that is; you read Topgrading for Sales there is a Career History Form that’s kind of modified for sales.  I would say to use the Career History Form, if you don’t want to buy a license just get some of the hard copy version of the Topgrading for Sales Career History Form.  If you don’t do that you’re just going to be wasting your time with mediocre candidates.  Then do what Tim suggested, do the Telephone Screen with the Career History Form at hand and then when you get people in face to face use the Topgrading Interview.  Tim, is there anything you would add to that?

Tim:  I agree with that very much, but the one thing I would add is (I’m not sure if everyone on this call has been to one) to attend one of your training workshops.  I just sent two more personnel this month to your training and I told them, “You’ll learn more about what we’re not doing with Topgrading and what we need to be doing with Topgrading.”  So the training itself is critical to understand the entire philosophy of Topgrading.  Also the licensing is not that expensive and the updates you get with that and the tools you get with it are well worth the fee to have that available to you as a company.  The tools help you create that specific focus toward that job that you’re trying to hire for.

Brad:  Next question is how do you find great sales candidates? An inexpensive price and the standard Topgrading solution is to use your network of A Players.  I don’t know how large your organization is but if you have five A Player sales people, beg them to contact other outstanding sales people.  The network is the cheapest and best way to generate candidates.  The next best is run all your ads, post it as Tim does on the web site.  Have them fill out the application but then make sure they complete the Career History Form so you don’t waste your time with lousy sales people.

What are the best techniques for cascading strategy?  (There are about six of these questions.)  One question says, “Brad, you say in your books, ‘Topgrade from the top down.'”

Brad:  You Topgrade as well as you can.  At the senior level you have A Players there if you have C Players at the top level they’re not going to want to Topgrade, they’ll just do everything they can to interfere with it and cascade it down.  Having said that, that could take years and years and in the meantime you have to get people trained at all levels because the A Players at all levels will want to hire and promote nothing but A Players.

One of my general response is, hey human recourses people when you say, “How do I get my boss or general manager on board?”   That is really crucial and really hard for you to do it yourself.  You can just do it, you can have my book right there, send out some Career History Forms, you can do Topgrading Interviews, and as you tell others, “Since embracing Topgrading I know we’re hiring better people don’t you want to learn it too?”  You can do that but having the key person involved is crucial.

Tim, see if you agree with this perspective.  For several of you and your fairly substantial companies, (doesn’t make any difference if you’re a small company or a large company) if the key decision maker is not on board e-mail me, include some information about your company or your division, how large it is and so forth and we’ll be able to judge whether it’s one of the people who works with me should talk to you or if it’s one of the mega companies I’d be happy to talk to you or talk to that CEO.  We do this all the time.  Once you have the key decision maker on board and driving it you can be successful but if you can’t get the top person supporting it, you can probably do it in your own function well but almost impossible to get it spread throughout your entire organization.  Do you agree Tim?

Tim:  Very much so.

Brad: Next question, I’d like to know what customization is appropriate in working with a small company.  Tim’s already addressed it, I said we would sometime in the next two or three months be releasing our best advice in an abbreviated form, and abbreviated interviews.

Clark asks, “What about internationally?”

Brad:  All these big companies that Topgrade are all over the world and they have licenses that are expensive but they’re e-mailing me all the time because they’d like to modify something, for Bangalore or Dubai and I’ve always said yes, I’ve never said no.  And what is modified in the Career History Form and of course in the Topgrading Interview are questions around education and military, after that it works pretty well, there’s not much modification necessary.  One other things is for the interviews, have a local trained in Topgrading Interviewing and for management positions the tandem pair should include someone local.  In Japan or China, the responses might baffle you or me, (if we’re Americans) we’re not quite able to read between the lines but the local can.  So in societies for example where team work is valued so much a person would just not say, “I’ve achieved this success single handedly, I was resourceful, I did this, I did that.”  They just never do that, it’s more the “team” was able to do this or to do that.  It’s how they phrase that and the local can figure that out while we might shrug our shoulders and wonder what was said there.

There’s someone here, Cheryl, I think you attended a workshop a couple of years ago and you said you’re having some difficulty implementing this across the firm.  My recommendation was to talk to Chris Mursau, our lead Topgrading Pro.

There is another one here, Angie.  You’re new and interested in Topgrading and you said that you’re looking for better ways to recruit top talent.  Kevin Hummel, I think is supposed to be talking with you soon.  Dr. Hummel is a cool guy so ask him all the questions you want.  There’s no charge, by the way, for those wanting to get started calls.

Andrea suggests, Instead of Topgraders (Tim, see if you agree with this) Do not skip any steps in the Topgrading process, if you pick and choose the steps you want to follow you’ll likely go with your gut feeling and miss something crucial during the interview.

Tim, I think you’ve already said what your opinion is on that but once you repeat it….

Tim:  You cannot skip the steps.  I spoke to Brad last week before the conference call and we looked back; if an employee leaves our company we do a review of “did we miss something” in the Topgrading.  We’ve been fortunate in that we’ve had one employee that we asked to leave our company out of 135, and we looked back at it, we did use our personal biases to convince ourselves that this person was the right hire, when everything on Topgrading said not to hire this person.  And so this is a black & white example for everybody, if you do skip those steps or you try not to follow the guide lines correctly that is the chance to make for a mistake.

Here’s April from a huge company.  Do the techniques work if you’re never meeting the interviewees in person?

Brad: Okay, understand in huge companies people in recruitment capacity might but your job is pre-screening.  The Job Score Card is important, using the Career History Form to phone screen people is really crucial.  If you want a good overview on what those 12 Steps are the cheapest, easiest way to do that is to get the Topgrading Workbook.  It’s what we use in all the workshops, it has the 12 Steps, it explains the Score Card and Career History Form and has the Telephone Screening Guide (and that really does work).  When people go through those steps by the time someone interviews people in person, they’re all sharp people not necessarily perfect for this job but you don’t have what you’re probably experiencing right now because Global 100 companies experience everyday too many face to face interviews whether the competency interviews or the longer Topgrading Interviews are wasted time, we never should have had this person here.  It all but eliminates that.

What does the current economy mean for Topgraders?

Brad:  That means that there is more talent available than ever right now.  A Players unfortunately don’t know how to get jobs, they’ve never had to go out and find a job, they’re embarrassed to even let their network know that their available.

Following Topgrading methods, using your networks and others networks you find these people.  Heck, my son had one for me last night.  Geoff Smart, he has 30 Topgrading Professionals and someone he said was one of the sharpest executives he’s ever met.  The guy is on the street and you get that high of a recommendation from Jeff Smart then sure there are several people I’d be glad to put him in touch with.  Just assume there is a lot of talent out there, not necessarily looking.  Just milk your networks and ask people who is really sharp out there that might not be looking.

Here’s another question; What if your enterprise is so small there aren’t enough people to do the tandem interview?

Brad:  Well, then you must be a solo person.  You have one other A Player in your organization; teach that person a little bit about Topgrading.  You can do that at no expense if you go to Smarttopgrading.com and go to the Topgrading Shop, you can scroll down to the Topgrading Career History Form, there is a 27-minute course on how to use the Topgrading Career History Form.  No charge.  Then scroll down to the Topgrading Interview Guide where you can buy a hard copy or the licenses are mentioned.  But, you want to know how someone else in your firm who maybe doesn’t ordinarily interview people can learn to be a tandem partner to you there is a 47-minute free course (I’m the talking head there) click on that.  Find someone, if there is no one in the company who can literally be a tandem partner then find someone outside, they can be anyone who’s sharp.  Just doing those two things I suggested to you can help make better hires.  And then when you get a bigger company do what Tim suggested, send people to our workshops!

Here is something from Michael.  Topgrading, use of Topgrading beyond initial hire, how do you use this as a management tool to establish a culture of individual high performance, accountability, and a growing desire to balance individualism with achieving results through collaboration?

Brad:  I kind of interpret that with what I’m getting involved in with Peopleclick Authoria and Mercer.  With Peopleclick Authoria Topgrading is not just for initial hiring.  It ties right in the Job Score Card, it becomes part of the performance management system (which is a separate module for Peopleclick Authoria) it ties into development and training because as you know Tim, when people go through the process and are hired or promoted they get feedback and coaching, put together individual development plans within a couple of weeks so there is development in there and succession planning, it all ties together.

Tim, do you integrate the Topgrading with performance management and succession planning?

Tim:  We’re working on that right now in fact because we’re ready to add some middle management in nursing.  And of course we open that up to our current employees as well as recruiting from the outside and it’s a matter of having them come through the Topgrading process again but maybe the competencies are changed because of the job their applying for even though it’s still in the clinical environment for them even if it’s a promotion from within.  We’re developing that part now for the performance reviews.

Brad:  Others that have been on these calls in the past know that I’ve been guilty of just focusing (for a quarter of a century) on Top executives.  In the past ten years however my client has said, you know, you should go down to mid manager and then lower and now entry level.  And the clients are saying some version of Topgrading is appropriate for every single job in the company or you probably should not have that job.

We get this question all the time.  What do you think of DIC as a selection test or Myers-Briggs?

Brad:  I’m knowledgeable and informed on this and with the Topgrading Snapshot they’re purveyors of these tests.  The test purveyors love the Topgrading Snapshot and I’ll form some affiliation with them.  The kind of sticking point I’ve had with some of these companies (and because I want to form affiliations with them I’m not going to be too specific) but I looked at how they validated the test for selection (by the way Myers-Briggs doesn’t even claim to be a selection test) they should not be selection tests, I have yet to see a personality test as good as the Career History Form and the trouble is, if they’re not truly valid they wipe out A Player candidates and the way a lot of these tests have been validated is in my opinion, unethical.  Go to Topgrading Tips Archives about personality tests, I critique it in there.  So what I’ve done with a couple of these companies is say, “I will not encourage my client to use your test for selection.”

Because in my opinion they truly are not valid but for on boarding, for simulation in the companies, for workshops where we get the INTJs in one corner and another group in another and we talk about how we can make decisions together.  Terrific!  The lie detectors in these tests don’t work.  They claim to work but they just don’t work.

The point I’m getting at is; once people are hired they’re on board they’re motivated to be honest in filling out these forms.  They really can be useful for helping people work with each other better.

If you want to find out if people, for example, this grocery chain wanted to hire people for cashier and checker who were friendly.  So we just put in the Career History Form, “How would each of your bosses in the past eight years rate your friendliness and enthusiasm?” You can put the competencies in there and because they know that they’ll ultimately have to arrange for reference calls with one or more bosses, they’re apt to be pretty honest about it and it works.

I’m kind of curious Tim, we made some tweaks to the Career History Form in the past year (and one of the things we’re trying to do is to get back and be sure that our e-mails didn’t go into spam) but were you aware that the current version we’re encouraging people to include competency ratings by bosses, do you do that or were you even aware that we’ve suggested it?

Tim:  I wasn’t aware there was a competency rating by bosses.

Brad:  Okay, as you’ve known for years it’s been, “what is your best guess how each boss would rate your overall performance.”

Tim:  Oh I’m sorry, yes, yes.  Isn’t this the section that talks about strengths and weaknesses?

Brad:  Yes, now that’s standard it’s been around for years.

How about this for a question, and this goes across to everyone listening in.  How do you implement Topgrading in a culture resistant to change?

Brad:  Almost every culture is resistant to Topgrading change.  Topgrading will really be a way of life of embracing high performance standards, performance management, in job descriptions or job score cards, and succession planning.  Tim, how do you implement Topgrading when you know there are C Players out there who will try to undermine it?

Tim:  I think that, for us we were very fortunate because we embraced it.  Josh and I embraced it from the beginning we knew it was important to our philosophy and success.  Even though that some can make it through the system, they’ve made it into your company then you’re A Players are the ones you then depend on to help identify the short comings in those that got through the door somehow and the A Players have confidence in themselves to address it with the C-Player and also if the C Players is not responding to it they know that the company as a whole is not going to support someone not being an A Player or advancing their skills to an A Player because they’re just not committed to it.

Brad:  Well said.  For those of you listening in if you didn’t catch Tim’s initial case study, he’s one of the owners, founders.  For everybody else, whomever the key person is in your division or function (in the huge companies where Topgrading is highly successful, the GE’s the Barkley’s and so forth,) the CEOs have to drive it.  (Two weeks from now I’ll be with Jack Welch and he’ll be asked the same sort of question and he’ll say, “To drive change, it’s all day every day.”)

There’s always people who want less accountability, lower goals and are fearful of Topgrading, fearful if they’re not a high performer they’ll be replaced.  It’s really, key people all day, every day and in cahoots with the A Players.

Heidi, interested in your company, you’re a new employee, wants to know more about Topgrading.

Brad:  I’d be interested to know if your company is Topgrading I just wasn’t aware so please e-mail me let me know who your are, your level so I can either e-mail back or call.

It’s interesting you’re a new employee, typically new employees in a Topgrading company and they need to get up to speed there’s a workshop, internal workshop scheduled three months from now.  For anyone who wants to learn more, if you want to just get people in the company more knowledgeable about Topgrading without spending any money just have them go to www.smarttopgrading.com click on the seven minute movie, it tells the whole story in seven minutes and then have them download the 50 page E-Book, “Avoid Costly Mis-Hires” it’s a quick read but has a whole lot in there.

In a large company with a lot of different stakeholders how do you get them creating or participating in a good recruiting process?

Brad:  Educate them about the 12 Topgrading Steps.  You talk about recruiting and I don’t know if you mean literally, recruiting or you mean more broadly, selection but if it’s recruiting then networks are very important.  You might need to e-mail me a follow up question to that.

Here’s a suggestion.  Regularly stack rank performance and make it general knowledge and information.

Brad:  Jack is going to get questions on that next week and I have my own opinion.  The short story is I introduced stack rating which is forced rating, forced ranking best to worst, I have a Topgrading Tips that you can read on this about a month from now and here’s my recommendation to Jack and he didn’t follow it.  My recommendation was everyone should stack rank everybody, force rank them best to worst, get your arms around the superstars and make sure they don’t go somewhere else, take a really careful look at the bottom people and hold them accountable (this is performance management) so if they repeatedly failed to achieve the goals they said they would meet they fire themselves they go get another job.  That’s my recommendation on it; I’m interested in Tim’s thoughts.

And hey, “Do not tell people where they were in the forced ranking distribution.” (Unless you’re a GE where you have very sophisticated, well lubricated, highly, highly credible, fair, and objective performance management and super training otherwise people will argue and fight and it will just turn everybody off.)
Tim, any thoughts on forced rankings?

Tim:  No, that’s something that we have not looked at but what you said makes a lot of sense just have that infrastructure in place first.

Next is, how do you conduct reference checks?

Brad:  At the end of the Tandem Topgrading Interview you and your tandem partner having heard about bosses, peers, and subordinates, you pick the people you want to talk with and assuming you want to continue with the individual you ask the candidate to arrange for the reference calls.

Tim:  The reference checks, if you as a hiring company or a hiring individual are impressed by this candidate enough that you want to do a reference check and recognizing that a lot of the times the person you want to speak with is not routinely available from nine to five.  You should extend yourself into the evening or the weekend and also to let them know it’s going to take 30 to 45 minutes of their time potentially for this reference check.

Brad:  The really cool thing is though that candidates will come back and say, yeah the people are available at “this time” and probably 80% of the time it’s in the evening.  But you don’t have to play telephone tag if you call them at the time they said they’d be available.

Gary, you said the videos and the articles, the “Avoid Costly Mis-Hires” book, my little speeches that explain about Topgrading say, “here are a few techniques, ask these simple questions it will improve your hiring.”  (And I cringe every time I say that, my son does it in his book) and you then say, “isn’t there a risk?”

Its where if you try to simplify it too much, interviewers not truly understanding Topgrading, will then be loose cannons.  And they might throw in really stupid, maybe even illegal questions that (Gary, I’ve gone beyond what you said, but I’m tracking with what you’re saying) isn’t there a risk in this?  Our hope is you ask about successes, failures, and how bosses would rate a person for every full time job, if you just do that once you’ll get hooked enough you’ll learn about Topgrading.  Go to a workshop, buy a book, buy the workbook or video it’s not about my selling stuff it’s just you’re not going to be a loose cannon and you truly will improve your hiring.  But yes, it scares the death out of me that people think; oh I just have to ask these four questions about every full time job and bingo! Ask the candidate to arrange reference calls and I have it!  And yet I have people admitting to me in our workshops that’s what they did.  Are we simplifying this too much?  Tim what do you think about a simplified version just for people to try it out, are the risks real risks or are Gary and I just too concerned about that?

Tim:  I think that there’s always risk but I think that if you know that, once again, we always look at what we’re looking for is the person to be successful and we go to those kind of questions.  We go to all the forms that are provided with Topgrading and we use that to guide us through that and I don’t think there is a great risk.

Brad:  We have time for a few more questions.  I think I’ve answered or Tim’s answered most of the questions but if not just e-mail me and I’ll get to you.

Sara, you want a speaker suggestion — I suggest Chris Mursau.

More suggestions, stay the course, stay consistent, don’t cut corners, thank you Robert.

This is such a current question we get this all the time.  You know you want A Players but I’m really impressed with the candidates I’m getting in but if this economy does continue to improve, a year from now might this person who’s really over qualified, bolt?

Brad:  That’s a very legitimate question, a very legitimate concern and it definitely will happen some of the time but here’s the Topgrading solution.  Use the Topgrading Interview to look at their pattern of staying with companies or bolting.  I think all of you might have already gotten and if not you’ll get one in the next couple of hours those two Topgrading Snapshots.  One is Erik, a real person who hangs in there, honest as the day is long, never job hopped, and if you go through the Topgrading Interview (is Chris Mursau on the Topgrading Toolkit video) you’ll see he’s not going to be out there looking to leave, even if he took a cut in salary he’s just a naturally loyal kind of guy.  On the other hand this other guy who one of my people interviewed (and obviously recommended against) and then applied for a job with my company!  (John Doe, names have been changed) Now that guy you wouldn’t trust him as far as you can throw him.  So, use the Career History Form to look at the pattern but use the Topgrading Interview to get underneath the surface to see what the person’s made of and you will dramatically increase your chances of hiring someone who, granted is over qualified but is apt to stick with you.

We are 500 plus legal outsourcing company and the question initially is, we hire at the lowest level (as a lot of professional service companies do) and then we move people up internally (that’s like what GE does, every audit firm and so forth) use the Topgrading process but as Tim has suggested it’s not going to be a four hour interview.  Frankly for entry level jobs like this once people have done forty or fifty Topgrading Interviews what clients are telling us is they really don’t need a tandem partner.  My recommendation, start out, we’re talking about entry level attorneys; start out tandem until the interviewers are very experienced.  What do you think Tim?

Tim:  I agree.  Once you can grow that base also with other people being trained in how to do interviews which gives you better insight from your team members who went through this process themselves.

Brad:  And this person also asks how can we avoid redundant questions?  Follow the Topgrading methodology so the Telephone Screen actually does have an abbreviated version of the 16 questions that you’ll subsequently ask in the Tandem Topgrading Interview but the competency interviews should all be different.  It’s all there if you want an introduction, you’re in a large company and to understand that better you could just get a copy of the workbook that explains the different steps or get the Topgrading Toolkit that has not only the explanations but high definition, super high quality graphic demonstrations of all these.  So redundancy with questions is not a problem with Topgrading.

How does a company get started?

Brad:  Go to the web site (this is a small company) get the free stuff, spread it around, get who ever the top person is (that might be you Tony) and if you’re interested just start using the Career History Form to screen people and you’ll know you’re screening better people, then you’ll start using the Interview Guide.  What we find in the workshops is people don’t believe they could really do a Topgrading Interview, they don’t think they’re smart enough.  On day two they do it in tandem, they high five each other, the young kids bump chests, they are so convinced that they can do it that they’ll never, ever go back the earlier methods.  If that doesn’t work, give me a call or e-mail me and I’ll suggest something else.

How does employee potential play a role in Topgrading?

Brad: Using the Topgrading Interview and process for promoting high performers has been a great practice.  Many employers tend to promote high performers into manager roles without going through the process. (And let me read your mind Ross, I’m going to make a sales caricature) The top sales person turned out to be a horrible sales manager, the Peter Principle kicks in happens all the time.  The nice thing is when you use the Topgrading process (that’s why Peopleclick Authoria is including in it it’s succession planning, employee development components, you get such rich, full information about the individual that you’ll know if the person is going to succeed.)

Let me just tell you something else here.  When I met with the number one Human Resource executives at Global 100 companies they said their hiring success is only 20%.  Only 20% of the people they hired into management positions externally turned out to be high performers.  You know what?  They said it’s only 25% when they promote people.  That was my initial project with GE.  Jack will probably mention this next week, only about 25% of the people at sophisticated GE who were promoted turned out to be high performers.  And boy! We got that well over 90% and with all the training of managers and human recourses people, GE went well over 90%.  When you go through that Topgrading Interview you really do get great insights on how people move from job to job.  Do they recognize their short comings and overcome them in this job and the next job.  When you see that pattern of people who are ambitious but it’s not just ambition but they figure out what their weaker points are every time they get a promotion or they’re put in a new job and they overcome those weaker points and when that’s the pattern you can count on it continuing in the future.  And when a person has just been, let’s say a sales person, maybe going from earning a little amount to a huge amount of money but they’ve always just gone on their energy or their enthusiasm or maybe even stealing prospects from their peers and on and on (I’m making a caricature out of this) When that’s the pattern, the person has never led anything or managed anything doesn’t show any enthusiasm for recruitment or selection, coaching, or development.  If that’s the pattern do not promote that person into management.

So Topgrading has it “knocked” and we proved it at GE (and that’s what Jack is I’m sure going to refer to next week) but this is true for companies five employees as well.

Let me ask you, you’re early in the process Tim.  Have you used Topgrading at all for promoting people?

Tim:  That’s what we’re just getting ready to kick off now.  With promoting nurses to nursing managers, CNAs to CNA manager, it’s a new concept to our industry but and of course the first time we’ll be using here at Azura but we’ll be using the Topgrading process and just adjusting the competencies for what we’re looking for in that role.  (Even if it’s a great nurse who’s been coming to work on time, the guest’s love you now help manage with these other hundred employees).

Brad:  And what a shame (this great nurse, says well, I need the money or something she’s telling herself) takes the promotion and is lousy at it and you say, well you failed at that do you want to go back to being an nurse and she says well it would be too embarrassing to be demoted so I’m going to leave, I’ll go be a great nurse for someone else.  So, that’s what we want to avoid.  Maybe come back in a year or two and tell us what your experience is promoting people because I’m really confident that this will serve you.

Tim, I want to thank you so much, we’ve gone well beyond the twenty minutes I initially thought but I think we’ve got a new model for the future.  For every one of these calls we’ll have a Topgrader on and I’ll be asking the individual if they’d be willing to stay on for the full call.  Thank you so much.

Tim:  It was my pleasure.  Thank you.

Brad:  Until next time everybody.

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