Your sales organization has a mix of players. Some are great, some OK and some, well, not making the grade. Yours is like many - but not all - organizations. Not all employees are titans, but that's what your goal should be. This column will look at profiling employees into three categories. It is about improving the ranks of superstars and changing out substandard players. We want to create a stronger army for you with higher productivity and profits.
A-players are superstars. We love these people because you can build a company around them. They perform consistently above expectations. Their traits include commitment, high resiliency, self-awareness, intelligence, a strong willingness to learn and be constructively criticized, and strong competitive drive. We learn about these and all players through employment tests. Test results along with employment history can serve as a predictor of performance. Your organization wants more A-players.
Developing A-players from B-players means exercising the positive traits in the DNA of these employees. Research suggests that these employees are athletes and need to be exercised and challenged constantly, and occasionally reprimanded when they go over the line. They need lots of strokes. They need to feel important and needed. Exercise, challenge, pay-for-performance compensation plans and well-placed praise are the tactics a manager must employ to keep these performers achieving at ever-higher heights of accomplishment. To do otherwise is recipe for turnover, since these employees are likely constantly sought after.
B players are good employees. View them as on the cusp of becoming an A-player - or slipping to C-player status. For the B-player, it is a case of move up or move out. The B-player's tenure is just a time to learn and practice so that you are capable of moving them up. You want to manage B-players that way. Common sense tells us that we will always have B-players, but you do not have to accept their status quo of performance. You can work with B-players. If you cannot, they will eventually fall into C status and that is not a place they want to be, as we shall find out.
Moving up or moving out with performance appraisal
Tie staff management at all levels to a good performance appraisal. Execute the performance appraisal flawlessly. Your performance appraisal tool must be able to segregate your staff based on their ratings into three groups - the top 30%, the middle 50% and the bottom 20%. Chart those players on a bell curve. Visually get a snapshot of individual performance as it relates to preferred organizational performance.
C-players are the bottom 20%, based on a performance metric. I do not think you would knowingly hire someone in the bottom 20% of performance compared to their peers. So, why do you hang on to C-players, given the statement above? Will they improve? Do you think you have the management style and system that will turn them around? Maybe so. But probably not! We may like C-players personally, but their performance is unacceptable to the winning organization you want.
Staffing choices and their consequences
You've done a performance assessment. You have segregated your team based on performance into the three groups. Now make the difficult but vital decisions that will have immediate and lasting consequences on your organization and you as a leader. What are you going to do?
Let us start with the C-players. If your assessment is that your C-players will not - or cannot - improve during the next assessment period, than you have one choice: terminate your C-players. Before you start the blood-letting, ensure you have an ongoing recruitment effort to attract B- or, preferably, A-applicants. Developing a better team will not happen overnight. It takes months and years. But what is your alternative? Do you want to ignore the lost performance by settling for a team that has some slack which is bringing down the entire organization?
Get this process started now.
Work your A-players to help mentor the B-players, with the goal of making B's into A's. Understand that this process will make some low-B's into high-C's as you repeat the process of challenging and pruning your staff. Your tree will grow stronger. Lastly, learn how each A wants to be managed. You do not want to mess up a good thing.
Davidson, CEBS, is founder of futureoffice network.com, mysalesrockstar.com and the MedAnalyzer suite of health care analytics.
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