It’s a fundamental truth in business: every organization wants to hire and retain high performer employees. However, achieving this goal is much easier said than done, with larger companies that are well-resourced winning top talent through their own, internal talent management teams dedicated to acquisition and management. Can an organization lacking the human capital resources to adequately seek and manage talent still attract the best? Can it afford not to?
The pandemic has many top performers seeking stable growth opportunities resistant to change, presenting organizations with a chance to hire quality employees with staying power. Finding the right fit talent match is important as, according to the Harvard Business Review, 80% of turnover can be attributed to a bad hire. Such turnover can cost an organization up to five times the new hire’s first year total cost.
Fortunately organizations can prevent some of this turnover pain down the road by instituting the following smart and scalable hiring practices that do not require dedicated talent management teams.
Smart hiring through formal or informal assessments
One way to develop deep insights into candidate fit is to use personality assessments in the hiring process. While assessments such as Meyers Briggs, Keirsey, DiSC, the Enneagram, and others have been used for team building and training, companies are learning that using assessments on the front end of the hiring process can increase hiring accuracy for the role and cultural fit. The downside to this approach is that assessments can sometimes be unwelcomed or feel invasive to candidates. One antidote is to make a formal assessment an optional part of the application process.
A less formal way to assess for candidate fit is to focus on skills, competencies, and mental and emotional attributes associated with high-performance. Many times, there is an assumption that if a candidate matches the role requirements and is a good fit for the team, high-performance on the job will result. This isn’t always the case. Awareness of high-performance psychology can help organizations be mindful when crafting thoughtful interview questions that promote authenticity and are resistant to canned answers.
Select and Train High Performers
High-performance often happens when individuals are already strong in (or trainable in) a set of certain skills that may not show up on a resume. Assessing candidates for their capacity to be trained as high performers is a better strategy than focusing on employment history and ‘fit’ with the organization alone. We tend to over-evaluate skillset and under-evaluate mindset and “heartset”, according to Dr. Luann Pannell, Dir. of Training and Education for the Los Angeles Police Department. The latter includes emotional intelligence (EQ), ability to relate to coworkers, and empathy -- crucial traits for high performance that we may not think to ask about in an interview.
What are some other attributes associated with high-performance? Here are 3 more to look for as you form initial impressions, attempt to hire high-performers, and train high potential employees:
1) Confidence – Many times there is a lot of talent bound-up in your team and the struggle is not intelligence or work ethic; but rather the confidence necessary to take risks and achieve goals. Confidence is a skill that can be strengthened and trained. Ask questions related to past performance to gauge someone’s current confidence levels. Follow-up with questions designed to see if a person has a growth mindset. The willingness to grow and learn is often just as valuable long-term as someone who arrives fully competent and confident on Day One.
2) Goal-setting – teams and individuals often set goals and then rarely revisit them. Does the person set goals, and can they point to their process for achieving them? Goal setting habits, along with openness to accountability and feedback is a key part of high-performance. Remember -- sometimes a future high-performer just needs some training. Quality training is not lost on individuals with a learner mentality and growth mindset. Invest in training employees who may be weak in goal setting or pair them with an organizational mentor.
3) Grit and Resilience – response to failure is often a better indicator of long-term performance than talent. Ask the prospective employee for examples of times they persevered through adverse circumstances to reach long-term goals or complete difficult projects. The language they use to describe their experiences can provide deep insights into how they approach roadblocks and frustration.
If you are growing a high-performance organization or increasing the performance of your current teams, reflect on your current approach. Begin by asking these simple questions:
- What are ways to make sure we are connecting with high performers?
- How can we work smarter not harder to optimize processes if our organization does not have a talent management team?
- How are we assessing potential hires for their capacity to be high performers?
- How do we train promising talent once they are part of the team?
Remember -- high-performance looks different depending on the individual, the role, and the skills needed. We often overvalue traits we ourselves possess, while undervaluing traits we see as less important. For example, charismatic extroverts may overvalue traits that match their mental “picture” of what high-performance looks like and tend to undervalue traits typically associated with introversion. These traits can be just as valuable to an organization, such as the ability to deeply focus, listen, think creatively, and work alone.
Being very clear about the skills needed for a particular role can help match the right person, and the right type of high-performance, to the right job.
With a solid understanding of high-performance psychology, organizations can learn to spot high-performing candidates and train high-performing teams.