Keeping Your Tops



According to Eric Herrenkohl, in his book “How to Hire A-Players,” top performers are a wiley bunch. They are intelligent, driven, easily bored, and require a certain amount of leadership investment. Herrenkohl advises building an organizational chart to fully comprehend the type of employee needed, then compare your needs to the staff currently holding those positions. The conclusive chapter in his book focuses mostly on businesses that are beyond startup and in some phase of growth or maturity. Therefore, his recommendations are based on a company which already has a collection of employees who likely fit into one of four roles. A-Players being the top performers. B-Players who have potential to be top performers through coaching and increased accountability. Borderline performers who have potential to be top performers by scaling down their roles. And C-players who have problems with performance that cannot be coached or changed (194). In summation, unless the employees have proven they are not up for a challenge, sub par performance can be coached, nudged, and incentivized to perform at top levels, if you happened to have neglected to hire A-players in the first place. (Yes, there is a degree of sarcasm present.)

I agree with Herrenkohl that recruiting A-players “is a sustainable, competitive advantage that can move [a] company ahead of [ones] competitors.” However, I’m glad he offers up the four types of employees and how to help them achieve more in their positions. I believe that very often employees will thrive if given enough respect and opportunity to shine. My take aways from this chapter are as follows:

  • Clearly plan and advertise your position
  • Hire a candidate who has the right skills for the position, both in education and personality
  • Plan to coach and support new employees in their roles
  • Pay attention to top performers and offer them incentives to mature into more important roles
  • Pay attention to b-players and decide how to best support them in their roles
  • Envision your employees in your future business plans so you can decide how to keep the best challenged and willing to move forward with your company
  • Recruit, recruit, recruit and when you have a poor performer, you will not have to look hard to find a better fit for your company


5 thoughts on “Keeping Your Tops

  1. I was glad to see the book’s emphasis move away from picking out the best person to join your team to a more nuanced solution involving looking at your current players or finding skills that were not immediately obvious. Of course, a book that said at the outset that you need to be careful and supportive in your hiring practices might not have been very novel.


  2. Hi Joy-
    Thanks for sharing! I share your feelings about each employee falling into the four categories! As someone who is passionate about organizational development I think it is crucial that we foster the improvement and success of our employees!
    Good luck!


  3. I have worked for a corporate company for over four years and have seen the A through C players. You are very right in your discussion, with the right leadership, Bs can become As. Not only is hiring A-players a competitive advantage but it also helps a company with recruiting and keeping turnover low. Nobody wants to work with a bunch of C players, it’s terrible!! Another great post Joy!


  4. Joy,

    I really like the list you included related to how to keep top performers. The level of coaching and support for new employees is so critical as well as recognizing and coaching the top performers and offering them incentives. People are motivated by pay but regular verbal recognition goes a long way too! Jill


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