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How to get the right people in the right seats during Scaling (part 2) - Assessing Talent

People on a bus looking out for Talent
Continuously improve your enthusiastic re-hire rate

Are all highly skilled and capable Talent valuable?
Some have deep skills and incredible expertise. They get the job done. Maybe they break a few rules and make a few enemies along the way. But the results are there. They speak for themselves.

But they can lead to team dysfunction, persistent problems and long-term drop in capabilities of your business.

In my previous article “How to get the right people in the right seats during Scaling” we covered how to determine the “right seats” and how to think about right skills and capabilities necessary for successful scaling.

Now we will dive deeper into "Right People" and the Scaling Up Talent Assessment tool. The Talent Assessment Chart will help leaders discover how many of each we have in our business and what to do next.

“The most important decisions we will make as leaders is not “what” but “who”.” Jim Collins, Good to Great.

What versus Who?

How much business success comes down to what they do (or strategy) versus who? Geoff Smart asks just this question in his bookWho? The A method for hiring.”

Skills and capabilities are important. But they are not the most important factor to consider when it comes to deciding Who? Particularly in a dynamic scaling organization.

Talent are high on skills, capability and productivity for the role.

But one type of skilled talent breaks the "rules of the road" which your business has been built on. This limits overall teams performance and usually means more time for the CEO and leadership in oversight.

See the problem with this type of Talent is they are very very good at their job outcomes. Therefore - are harder to let go of than someone who is less productive.

I’ve experienced this myself. I've both managed and worked for such talented people in previous lives. I've also worked alongside them as a member of a team.

High on skill and low on core values congruence. Here are some of the more obvious signals I came across:

  • Puts themselves first above their team or peers to get ahead or get results. (ego)

  • Played their direct reports off against each other frequently, creating mistrust and ambiguity about performance and accountability. (absence of trust is highly dysfunctional to team performance).

  • Frequently requires CEO/Director to step in and deal with issues, complaints or problems they are associated with. (persistent people problems lowers productivity)

Team Performance vs. Individual Performance

CEO and organisations tolerate incongruent core values and behaviour because the short-term financial results kept coming in. I’ve learnt people can tolerate a thousand cuts for a short time if it's good for short-term business wins. Until it's not.

By then, other top talent in their team has left. The company is left in a much weaker position, despite their financial success and growth.

In my experience, the company managed to bring in new leadership, turn over the exec and recover. But not without serious cost and risk to the business.

Right People = T x V

The concept of Top Talent or “Right People” goes beyond skills and capability. Top Talent, referred to by Brad Smart in his book "Topgrading" as A-players, are highly productive and skilled.They regularly wow you with their capability to do their job. But unlike Terrorists, they have high congruence with core values and behaviours you want to see in the organization.

Why are core values so important to performance in a scaling organisation?

Because you can't build capacity (structures, no of staff, specialists) without it. Setting out the boundaries of cool and non-cool behaviours, boundaries and the way we do things helps founders/CEOs and early hires let go. It helps the organization to act more autonomously, even without the founders and leaders there all the time. It allows people to take holidays away from the business knowing that when they get back, there should be no (less) fires to put out.

How do you assess if your organization is hiring and retaining the right people for your business and stage of scaling?

Wouldn’t we all rather have best of both worlds? Talent that are both high on productivity AND organizational values. The best people in industry that our money can afford fit to our core values and behaviours. We are looking for:

T = deep and broad skills, outcomes / productivity in role and

V = shared / core values, rules of the road, behaviours

Time for a talent assessment.

In a talent-hungry world, this is ideal, but not always easy. So we end up compromising to fill the seat. And then you have it.

We should be regularly reviewing our people based on both their ability to perform their role AND their congruence with our core values or “rules of the road”.

Talent Assessment Chart

A relatively straightforward way of understabding the profile of our Talent is through this 2 x 2 matrix known as the Talent Assessment Charts.

Talent Assessment Chart Scaling Up
Talent Assessment Chart from Scaling Up

You can use this any time to get a quick pulse on how effective your hiring and talent development processes are at attracting and developing the right people for your organization.

How to use this chart:

Step 1 Individually write down your answer to the question “how many of your people would you enthusiastically re-hire in a heartbeat again for the stage we are at today?”

Step 2 If you are doing this exercises with your leadership team, share your answers.

Focus not on the people but on the differences between your numbers.

How are your team thinking about productivity or performance? How are they thinking about core values?

If there is a high degree of inconsistency in how your team is thinking about values (V), it’s time to go back and review your Core Values to get on the same page. You may need to get more explicit with Core Values by outlining behaviours that are cool and uncool.

If you are finding differences between how your team is thinking about productivity, time to explore your FACe tool (see previous post here).

It could be that your people are simply not clear enough on what outcomes or productivity is expected of them as a team or the roles in their team. Review accountabilities, leading and lagging indicators contained in Job Scorecards for each role.

Step 3 Now run a quick talent assessment.

Ask each leader to use the talent assessment matrix for their team. Do this individually at first, then come together to discuss. As an executive, it's important to discuss people whose names keep popping up, but armed with facts and knowledge about their performance and their demonstrated behaviour.

Step 4 Know your A, B, C players.

Discuss as a team. Who are your A, B and C players.

A-players are your top talent. High on T and V.

B-players are high on Value congruence, but still have opportunities to improve skills anc capabilities.

B/C-players are High on skills and capabilities. Low on values and behaviour congruence. They need to be pulled up on this at initial stage and made aware of any uncool behaviours.

Step 5 Actions and Decisions

Making decisions about how to improve our organizations "enthusiastically re-hire" rate is critical. Use the box below the Talent Assessment chart to identify actions and make decisions.

  • Develop strategies to continue to motivate (don’t demotivate), challenge, reward and keep A-players.

  • Identify B-players to develop into A-players.

  • C-players (B/C-players) - One of the toughest but best thing you can do both for them and for your organization is to discuss parting ways if they are not onboard with the company's core values. It will hurt for a short term, but worth it in terms of longer-term bottom line, team performance and talent acquisition.

Your Re-hire rate

Continuous monitoring and improvement of your re-hire rate should be a KPI for every scale up leadership team.

Many entrepreneurial firms I work with will tell me their “enthusiastic re-hire rate" is between 60% and 90%. This is an average as it’s never the same for everyone on the exec team.

At 60% we obviously are missing out on major productivity and team performance improvements as a result of 40% mis-hires. We are probably also spending lots of time mediating and solving people problems, that could be spent working on strategy and hiring A-talent.

A better method for hiring and screening for culture/values fit is needed in these firms.

A Word about Hiring Fit for Stage

As firms progress through different stage of scaling, they likely need different capabilities and roles. Specialisation increases from an overall Head of Marketing to perhaps Head of Customer Insights, Head of Growth, Head of Digital channels, Head of Data etc....

For example, in a start-up, being agile, lean and flexible, is important for figuring out products, market, business model etc...So people who come from much larger corporate environments expecting lots of support, process, clarity, budget, where the company is not yet at that stage, may struggle to transition.

Scaling firms also need to continually balance tensions between being "entrepreneurial" and increasing structure, process, tech-enablement, data-driving decisions, and routines. Entrepreneurial orientation refers to things like inventiveness, proactivity, risk-taking, flexibility and agility.

Firms that are able to balance "entrepreneurial orientation" and increasing structure and process innovation during scaling, are more likely to sustain high growth rates over the long-term.

Therefore, think about the level of entrepreneurial orientation and behaviours you would like to sustain and see in your organisation both at a firm level and for individual roles.

Key Takeaways

Scale ups are ambitious for growth. They need to make the right WHO decisions fit to their stage and core values.

People’s skills and expertise is stage-dependent. But core values are enduring and therefore prioritising values first through the hiring process is a smart strategy for scale ups, where the WHAT and even the WHO in terms of skills and capabilities, may change over subsequent stages of scaling.

At some point, scale ups will start to put in place HR/talent processes to hire Top Talent, develop B Talent and avoid Mis-hiring C-players. This includes good hiring routines and processes to assess both skills and competencies, as well as values and behaviours.

Regular talent assessments as an exec team should flush out incongruence in understanding Core values and Performance. Well written, succinct Job Scorecards that are easier to update than lengthy, descriptive Job Descriptions, and will assist improve clarity for talent on expectations, particularly as the business goes through subsequent stages of scaling. More on Job Scorecards in another post.

If you would like support with Talent Assessment and putting place better methods for Hiring and developing Top Talent, please reach out to .


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