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A's Hire A's -- and B's Hire C's

Sad But True

This has been a personnel "truism" since the first business man took the time to look closely at hiring patterns. It didn't require a Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology to figure it out, either. All one had to do was look closely. The problem was that most business operators were too busy running their business to observe their world that carefully.

How Does It Work?

It's really quite simple. "A" quality people are the best in their respective fields. They are the better performers and are usually quite aware of their "A" status. They are confident that they will perform well regardless of the circumstances because of the kind of people they are.

They know that their level of performance is primarily dependent on what they do and only slightly related to external factors. They do not fear other high-ability people. They actually seem to enjoy winning against high quality competition. In fact, most "A" performers measure the quality of their company by the number of "A" people that the company manages to attract and keep.

When "A" managers hire -- they prefer to hire other "A" people. There is virtually no fear of competition. In fact, most of these managers understand that hiring top quality people is the key to their future success and will make it easier for them to move upward in the company. They want to hire people who are winners -- just like them.

What about the B's?

It's not a crime to be a "B" level performer. But, as Tevye said in Fiddler on the Roof, "it's no great blessing either!"

The majority of our workforce is made up of "B" people. They are competent, solid performers. Even more important -- with conscientious development, they can increase the level of their performance to a consistent "A" level. The only problem comes when they are put into the position of being a hiring manager.

They are not overly confident in their ability to perform -- especially against "A" co-workers. Since, no one wears a sign saying "A", "B" or "C", the only way the "B" manager can be certain to avoid someone better than him/her is to hire someone who is clearly not as good. Therefore, they hire the "C". While this typically happens at a sub-conscious level, the effect is no less real.

Woe is the "C"

We all know "C" level employees. They are marginally competent, at their best. Unfortunately, they are not easy to spot when they are being interviewed. As a candidate, they put their "best foot forward". References are not likely to label them as "C" performers.

After a relatively short period of time on the job, they are easy to identify. They earn their "C" classification by their track record. Their performance is typically mediocre. They frequently attribute their lack of success to factors which are external to themselves and, therefore, outside of their control.

"Well," you might ask, "what's the problem? If they have bad track records, it should be relatively easy to get rid of them." According to the management textbooks, that is correct. However...

There's the Rub:

The "A" manager knows that:

  1. he/she is competent and that
  2. competent managers occasionally make mistakes.

Admitting to a hiring error and correcting it is not a tremendously difficult task. It's never easy to remove someone from their position, but it's part of being a manager. The "A" manager accepts this and takes the appropriate action after giving the employee sufficient opportunity to improve their level of performance.

The "B" manager perceives the same situation in a considerably different light. The "B" manager fears that removing the poor performer will be seen as a "blotch" on his/her record -- a demonstration that poor management has taken place. The tendency is to "hold on to the employee too long." The reality often shows the manager as having several below-adequate performers who are "trying to work their way to a competent performance level".

This is particularly frustrating for the "A" performer who sees this happening with his fellow employees. Remember, your best performers measure the quality of the organization by the quality of it's employees. These people need to feel that they belong to a "first class team".

If the company tolerates too many "C" performers, the "A" person is likely to start looking for another group to join. They may asked to be assigned to another team, or -- more frequently -- they leave the company. As the "B" performers improve their skills, they too are more likely to jump ship.

A Downhill Slide

One consequence of this scenario is that the company will have a tendency to deteriorate over time with regard to the quality of their employees. As the top performers leave, the "B" people start looking better. Even worse, in relative terms, the "C's" start looking more like "A's". (They really aren't any better -- they just look a little better because the quality of the entire team has been reduced.) As this slide slowly continues, it becomes even more difficult to hire "A's" into the company.

It is not always easy to see this pattern forming. Some companies only notice it when they see that their competition is outperforming them in the marketplace.

Stop It Now!

This insidious condition must be stopped as soon as it is detected. Mediocrity spreads with the speed of a wildfire. At the first hint of this problem, a structural intervention is needed.

A Three-Phase Approach

  1. First, you must identify who are your "A", "B" or "C" performers. Also, you must find out those areas of strengths and weaknesses inherent in each individual which are contributing to that performance level.

  2. Second, the company needs to design and implement developmental the programs to maximize the performance of all its employees -- especially the managers. If they can "up-grade" themselves, give them all the help they can get.

  3. Finally, the company needs to develop and implement a selection procedure that independently assesses those factors that contribute to top-level performance.

It makes little sense to leave these judgments to random chance or "gut-level" reactions. "A" performers are not very easy to find. It takes time and effort to develop the discipline necessary to set and hold to "A" level hiring standards. The long-term payoff for doing so, however, is tremendous.

We Can Help

The consulting psychologists at Human Resource Development, Inc. can offer practical help in avoiding or correcting this problem. Psychological evaluations provide a convenient and cost-effective way to assess those factors that make for top-level performers. They are especially effective as a starting point for individual management development planning.

We can also help you set up on-going developmental programs that will help each individual to realize maximum potential. These are especially rewarding programs for your middle and upper level managers.

Finally, we can help you to implement a selection procedure which assures a maximally independent, unbiased source of data about each candidate you consider worthy of hire. It can also serve as a check on your selection expertise.

Call us TODAY for a free consultation:

(770) 977 - 3875