Some people say that top talent is overrated. Funny how these people never seem to be the ones surrounded by outstanding performers. Top talent is what differentiates outstanding services and products from those that are mediocre at best. Here are my top ten tips on how to maximize talent and revenues in any economy.
1. Define what top talent is for your organization. Top talent comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. That's why it's important to define what top talent looks like in your organization before going any further. For example, an employee may add considerable value to a law firm because of his or her ability to work independently. People like this may fail miserably in an environment where teamwork is job number one.
2. Be selective. By that I mean be extremely selective when hiring people to work in your organization. Ask yourself, "Is this person good enough?" before you extend a job offer. If you can't confidently say, "Yes!" then continue to search until the answer is, "Absolutely!"
3. Build on strengths. There is no way that you are going to strengthen the structure of a building by adding additional materials to the top floor; nor are you going to take an average employee and make him or her into a great employee without taking time to strengthen his or her foundation. You do this by building on strengths, not weaknesses.
4. Making training more than a one-time event. Most organizations use training as a one-time event to "fix" people. Boy, if that really worked, there would be no need for ongoing training. Figure out the outcomes you are trying to achieve and then determine if training by itself will get you there. If not, be open to the idea that coaching may instead be a better option, or one that should follow classroom or online learning.
5. Be careful whom you promote. Promoting your best sales person to sales manager or your top engineer to VP of engineering is a mistake that gets made on a daily basis. Doing the actual work and inspiring others to do so on your behalf require two very different skill sets. Consider this the next time you think about promoting a great performer into management.
6. Remain visible. Your company or department may be operating well without you, but that doesn't mean it will continue to do so without your presence. Make yourself visible and be available to those who may need your guidance.
7. Deal with non-performers. Nothing brings down the energy in a workplace faster than non-performers who are allowed to continue to take up space without anyone taking steps to rectify the situation. Deal with non-performers before someone decides to deal with you for failing to do the job you've been hired to do.
8. Acknowledge your strong performers. Recognize those who are going above and beyond the call of duty in a way that let's the rest of your employees know that performance counts for something. Then don't be surprised if others start acting this way because they understand that great performance does indeed get recognized, and in many cases rewarded.
9. Share the wealth. If you are like most companies, you've had no problems asking employees to take pay cuts or to do more with less as you've tried to stay afloat during the recession. As your situation changes and your business improves, share the wealth with those who have stuck with you through good times and bad.
10. Release people whose time has come to an end. I often tell my clients that sometimes the people they've hired to build their businesses aren't the people who are best suited to maintain things in their company. Should the time come when one of your best employees no longer seems fully committed to the work at hand, do everyone a favor—release him or her so that he or she can move on to bigger and better things while you do the same.
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