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Page last updated
February 16, 2003




Hiring and developing peak performers

e-mail: alan@agbarrington.com

Peak performers are not developed. Peak performers are hired. There are no guarantees, but if you formulate a process to develop the right people, then you have a chance. If you hire the right people, give them quality training and provide them with a motivational atmosphere, you've won half the battle. Keep in mind though that you cannot motivate anybody to do anything that they don't want to do. What you can do is take highly motivated people, brief them on what they need to know, and get out of their way.

People perform to expectations. If they don't know what's expected of them, they don't know how far is up, or what constitutes mediocre from excellent performance. Without input from management on this, your people will naturally set their own level, which is why you have people in most companies operating at various levels of performance from below average to superior.

As you formulate your hiring process, instead of shooting from the hip, you really need to take time out of your schedule to deeply understand what it is that you're looking for.

Your job description is the key to a successful hiring process. You'll need a description for each member of your team, otherwise you can't set standards or motivate to the job.

The next step is to recruit candidates against the description, and finally to interview and hire.

In summary, you'll need to hire to the description, train to it, set standards, do performance reviews and set goals.

The first section of the job description should list the major objectives or outcomes that are linked to the job. If the individual hired is ultimately successful, the description would have clearly stated what he or she is supposed to accomplish.

Next, list in bullet format the essential activities, including the skills that the individual must excel at in order to accomplish the desired outcomes. So this area describes how the individual is going to make the desired results happen.

The third area will cover the behavioral traits necessary for success. What characteristics are common to your most successful performers? Once you've figured that out, your hiring should augment the personalities that reside within your current environment.

The next section will cover the prerequisites or hard skills that the candidate must bring to the table. Specific technical skills or a designated academic background are a few things that might come into play here.

The last part is the compensation range allocated for the position.

Once you're finished with your job description, you're going to recruit to it. You need to analyze a candidate's behavioral traits and hard skills, and utilizing the criteria that you've developed, you're going to screen people out rather than just move them along in the process because of your initial gut reaction.

When it comes to training, and how much is needed, the Essential Activities section of your description should provide you with some answers. Some candidates that you hire are going to join your team as gurus or experts in their designated activities, and others will no doubt need training to get up to speed. This section will provide you with a road map to the level and amount of training that's necessary for them.

The Essential Activities section should also be used to manage and set performance standards. Create a separate document for each individual and list the objectives of the job, the essential activities, the required expectation for each activity, and finally a rating system constituting your minimum, average and superior performance standards. Ex: an essential activity might be business/workflow analysis. The required expectation for that activity might a completed report turned into management. If the report were completed on January 30th, that would be viewed as meeting the minimum expectation level. If the report were submitted two weeks earlier, on January 14th, that would be viewed as average performance. Finally, a report completed a month and a half prior to deadline, on December 15th, would designate peak performance in this area.

In conclusion, if the objectives, essential activities and performance expectations are laid out from the beginning, and you hire individuals equipped to do the job, and stay out of their way, micro management will not be necessary, and the review process should run smoothly without unexpected surprises.

Alan Geller
Managing Director
AG Barrington
New York City.


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