When I came to Sigma just over four years ago, the company was badly hemorrhaging. We needed to make wholesale changes in our staff and change the culture from a “debating society” to a more sales and client focused environment. Over this time, we changed out 65% of our employees and went from 45% A Players to 90%. Our new and Topgraded talent has helped us achieve four solid years of revenues and EBITDA. I believe that Topgrading will live beyond our tenures at Sigma and help propel the company’s growth for many years to come. – Kenyon Blunt, CEO

Sigma Marketing

SIGMA MARKETING (85 EMPLOYEES)

Industry: Integrated Marketing Services

Highlights:

  • Improved from 45% to 90% A Players hired/ promoted throughout the company with Topgrading.
  • Diligent adherence to Topgrading saved the company.
  • Topgrading Snapshot makes hiring easier, better.

Company Description:
Established in 1985, SIGMA Marketing Group is an integrated marketing services company with a national client base of Fortune 1000 companies. Headquartered in Rochester, NY, SIGMA assists clients in creating more profitable customer relationships through analytics, strategic one-to-one communication programs, and marketing technology.  

The Company has proven end-to-end marketing solutions that are rooted in customer intelligence, which are leveraged to create relevant customer dialogues across multiple online and offline channels. SIGMA has the ability to design and manage complex campaigns in an efficient, automated manner. SIGMA recommends media that will provide optimal results for clients’ marketing campaigns.  Its annual sales are $12 million.

History of Topgrading: 
Kenyon Blunt was hired as CEO in 2007, assessed the company talent, concluded that 55% were chronic underperformers, and looked for best practices to upgrade talent.  He found the book Topgrading, attended a two-day Topgrading Workshop, and proceeded to roll out the disciplines.

Gidgett Ingalls, Vice President of Strategic Planning and Human Resources, was hired in January  2009. She is responsible for the implementation of Topgrading and held accountable for the results.  Topgrading is done for 100% of jobs.

Topgrading Results:  From 45% high performers to 90% As and A Potentials hired.

Topgrading Hiring Steps:

  1. Measurement.  While we have an annual performance evaluation process, we have a performance assessment every 6 months.
  2. Job Scorecards  – We do not use the formal scorecard, we have incorporated key sections into our performance evaluation tool.
  3. Recruit from Networks  35% hires come from internal referrals; bounties of $2k – $5k
  4. Screening from Career History Form/Topgrading Snapshot  The Topgrading Snapshot is an excellent way to streamline the candidate pool and more efficiently focus on those that meet all the requirements.”
  5. Telephone Screen  Done by Gidgett and/or the hiring manager
  6. Competency Interviews – are conducted by a minimum of two employees, most often three.
  7. Tandem Topgrading Interviews (done regularly)
  8. Feedback to Interviewers  We have done this when we are first training a new employee on how to use Topgrading, but could be beneficial to use as a regular part of our process.”
  9. Executive Summary – we could do a better job of these.
  10. Candidates arrange reference calls (done)
  11. Coaching New Hire – We have a robust and comprehensive onboarding program where the employee is introduced to the position/team/department and company.  At each level we share what makes us successful and how we measure and track accountability against key metrics.
  12. Annual Measurement Performance evaluations are done annually – formalized written document.  Every six months we do assessment checks on performance, accountability against the SMART objectives established for the year.


Impact of Topgrading on Business Success

When I came to Sigma just over four years ago, the company was badly hemorrhaging.  We needed to make wholesale changes in our staff and change the culture from a “debating society” to a more sales and client focused environment.  Over this time, we changed out 65% or our employees and went from 45% A Players to 90%.  Our new and Topgraded talent has helped us achieve four solid years of revenues and EBITDA. I believe that Topgrading will live beyond our tenures at Sigma and help propel the company’s growth for many years to come.
— Kenyon Blunt, CEO

Having used many recruiting processes and methodologies in the past, I can honestly say that Topgrading is the best investment for ensuring that your company hires A Player talent.  To be successful in all aspects of business, you must get the people right – first and foremost!  From the leadership to the general employee population, A Players create and require an entirely different culture which correlates with higher engagement and positive results.
—Gidgett Ingalls

Best advice to new Topgraders from Kenyon and Gidgett:

  1. Do not let urgent circumstances change the Topgrading process.
  2. Stick with the process through initial apprehension and push back from the team.  Let the process speak for itself and build credibility.
  3. C Players need to be removed aggressively – even if they have expert or historical knowledge.  The opportunity costs of keeping them on board are exponential to morale and newly hired A Player talent.
  4. Don’t cascade the A-B-C assessment of the employee base – this needs to be kept at the leadership level.
  5. Remember employees typically leave managers:  An A Player will not stay working for a C Player.
  6. Do not allow hiring managers to focus on having a warm body in a seat – hold true to the process and challenge their assumptions.

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