Technological developments and changes to the job market means investing in existing talent, developing your “B players” into “A players”, might be the best strategic move organisations can make.
Workplaces and end markets are both more dynamic than ever and we’re witnessing a change in the nature of demand and supply for the highly skilled talent we rely on to deliver on our goals. One of the most important changes we’re seeing is the shift of power in our employee base. It has moved into the hands (or mobile devices) of candidates and top talent, and out of the hands of employers.
Data shows open positions are staying open longer, job specifications are becoming more complicated and it’s estimated by the McKinsey Global Institute that in the US, 40 per cent of companies can’t fill the positions they need. Attracting and retaining your best talent also has nuances that didn’t exist in the past. Will our best talent leave us to join the gig economy? Will they be lured by the startup next door? Will they prefer remote work, to the cubicles and corner offices you offer, and decide to seek an alternative?
In this precarious environment, the biggest threat and opportunity for leaders might relate to their ability to upgrade existing talent and future-proof themselves against the inability to efficiently acquire highly coveted talent. Success with such a talent strategy will largely hinge on an ability to turn “B players” into “A players”.
Whether you love or hate this A and B nomenclature, it’s a concept we all understand. At the core, we’re talking about turning our talent that performs at a “good enough” level into the type of talent that raises productivity levels, innovates and breaks through the barriers to success. In the journal of personnel psychology in 2012, a study of more than 600,000 people across industries and jobs showed that the top 5% of personnel drive 26% of productivity. Such a magnitude of difference in output makes the pursuit of grooming existing talent into top talent a worthy pursuit.
But how can you transform B players into A players in the new world of work?
In my experience of hiring and managing hundreds of knowledge workers in conjunction with observing the talent strategy of top international companies, the following two tactics are a good place to start:
1. Take a fresh approach to your feedback strategy
Leaders in the new world of work are dynamic – never static—and the idea of “checking in” once or twice yearly is entirely antiquated. Ongoing feedback and “tough love” as soon as it’s needed, are a must to unlock A performance. Furthermore, if old school methods of trying to “fix” identified gaps in performance are not working, take a radical approach to unblocking your B players. It’s worth researching approaches like “Gallup’s Strength Finder” that focus on elevating core strengths to unlock performance methodology, as a way to approach your team development.
2. Turn “face time” with your employees into “team time”
The era of using “face time” – the notion of whether someone is in the office or sitting at their desk – as a determiner for whether an employee is engaged and talented enough to become an A player is over. Identifying who is working and who is worth transforming will require leaders to dig deeper into their own leadership style and get creative about key factors in achieving breakout performance. Leaders then need to seek it out by engaging the team as a whole to see performance levels in juxtaposition. B players have often worked out they can fly under the radar as long as they are physically present.
It’s worthwhile engaging in team problem solving, defining clearly what you expect from your B players and coming from a generous star point. Believing they can make the transition is key to success.
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Kylie Wright-Ford is an operating executive, advisor and board member for growth companies in the US, her first book, The Leadership Mind Switch was just published by McGraw Hill.