High Performers – How do you pick them? By Justine Eden

JustineIn a perfect world we would all have a high performing team, made up of experts in their field who constantly exceed expectations, all get on, never have sickies and constantly innovate.  This ideal and synergistic team delivers outstanding bottom line returns to shareholders, drives change while maintaining the status quo and are essentially self managing, allowing you, the leader to work strategically to drive the business forward.

But this is not a perfect world – as roller coaster stock markets and company collapses remind us daily.  And sometimes our “best people” resign.  And recruiting, as we have all experienced is not an exact science, it is challenging and fraught with danger.  How do you know whether you have recruited a corporate terrorist or a talented performer?

The fall out of a bad hire is well researched, the costs and the flow on effects run down to the bottom line, and across the corporate community more attention is being paid to it.  Read many of the business publications and the flavour is there, the link between strategic plans and the HR plan, the growing importance of the role of the HR Manager and the value of intellectual capital.

Being able to select for performance is often seen as a luxury by busy managers faced with replacing technical experts in candidate short markets.  As a business owner for 17 years and as a recruiter for many years, I have seen first hand the impact of this type of short term vision on candidate attraction, retention and overall company performance.  As a recruiter I commenced in accounting recruitment, a traditional, often risk adverse demographic, historically focused on matching a candidate’s technical ability to the job requirements.

So – What is performance?  And how do you pick it?

How do you characterise a high performer?

High performance varies from occupation to occupation.  But common qualities include drive, energy, integrity and creativity.

Generally high performers…

  • have a can do attitude,
  • failure is unthinkable,
  • they don’t accept excuses,
  • like to outperform the competition,
  • want to be the best in the business,
  • are quality focused,
  • consistently get the job done,
  • proactively suggest improvements,
  • normally a self starter who energises others,
  • acts as a role model/mentor for others,
  • a problem solver
  • and need minimal supervision.

They are not always high profile or always the high earners, but they usually have a big impact on revenues or profits.   It is a given that a high performer is technically competent, but it is their ongoing focus on building their base of technical expertise and a thirst learning that sets them apart.

They have a passion for renewal, taking an active approach to acquiring new skills, often completely replacing old ones over a 5-7 year time frame.  Often because they have mastered their “art” they have more time for creativity, innovation and quality – this is what gives high performers a competitive advantage.

They embrace change and technology and are not thrown by ambiguity; high performers are adept at multi-tasking.  High performers often have an established and nurtured network and they value what peers think of their work.

Selecting for performance is an initiative that needs to be driven from the top.  Organisations are continually pushed to find new growth opportunities, improve the quality of products/services, enhance employee/customer satisfaction, reduce costs, increase productivity.  Combine this with a greater reliance on intellectual capital, customers increasing expectations and the rapid pace of change.

I would encourage all leaders to factor in performance when recruiting and believe that those that do so will reap the benefits of increased productivity, engagement and retention.

Technical Skills VS. Cultural Fit

Recently, while having a catch up with a candidate to discuss a potential opportunity in the Brisbane market, the candidate spoke about how he can’t understand why he has failed to secure the right role with an organisation in 2 months.

The candidate went on to tell me how he had gone over his resume with a fine-tooth comb, attended interviewing courses and had even re-evaluated his rate. As his new recruiter I asked him to think about the level of roles he was applying for. I suggested that maybe the roles he was applying for were too senior – he took this on board but stood by his feeling that Hiring Managers are recruiting candidates that, on paper, have strong technical skills but may not have the passion, drive or cultural fit to really succeed in a role.

At first glance, yes, it is appealing to have someone with an impressive resume and an exciting skillset – however, when I spoke with a client about a current contractor they have, this well known organisation told me that they thought that the candidate they had put in this position was initially perfect, due to the technical skills and background, but over time they failed to work in a team environment or match the culture.

The problem this organisation has is that they hired a candidate who was technically strong but did not posses the interpersonal skills to succeed in a large, dynamic organisation.

Oh, how my candidate was right! How do you hire? Do you recruit someone who is technically strong, but does not demonstrate the right personality, drive and eagerness to succeed in a tough environment?

Take some time today and have a read through this article by Mark Murphy, the author of ‘Hiring for Attitude’.