The beginning of the year represents a timely opportunity for employee reviews and providing feedback regarding performance and development. Leaders have the chance to reflect on the milestones achieved in 2021 and create new goals for 2022. Annual reviews allow managers to praise positive behaviors, award well-earned promotions, and bring out the best in each team member.  Across the board, a new year brings revived optimism around the office.

As a leader, the effort in creating a well-rounded and high-performing team is one of the most fulfilling aspects of leadership. Helping superstars develop and groom the next generation of leaders within the organization is incomparable.

What many leaders tend to neglect are the people that are underperforming. These are your “B” and “C” players.  Today, we will cover what to do with your under-performing employees and how to bring them up a letter grade so your company is full of “A’s” and “B’s!”

What about Your “B” and “C” Players?
Working with and coaching the perpetual underperformers isn’t fun but it’s part of the job. Every company is full of some “B’s” and “C’s.”  More importantly, every leader has struggled to get them to perform up a letter grade. So what distinguishes an “A” player from a “B” or a “C?”

“B” Players are competent, steady performers who balance their work and personal lives. They stay in their lane, don’t require a great deal of attention, and get the job done.

“C” Players require the most time and attention. They always have excuses like a broken vehicle, being sick, or missing several days of work. Often, their workload gets passed to someone else or is not done at all. They walk the fine line between “good enough to get by” and “fireable offense worthy of termination.” They stay employed because the act of hiring, training, and managing someone you don’t know is sometimes more intimidating than continuing to deal with a “C” performer.

In his book, Leading Apple with Steve Jobs, former Apple senior vice president Jay Elliot details his former boss’ strategies for hiring “A” Players. “I noticed that the dynamic range between what an average person could accomplish and what the best person could accomplish was 50 or 100 to 1. Given that, you’re well-advised to go after the cream of the cream. A small team of ‘A+’ players can run circles around a giant team of ‘B’ and ‘C’ players.”

So what do you do with “B” and “C” players? You topgrade!

What is Topgrading?
Industrial psychologist and global consultant Bradford Smart has this great explanation of topgrading.

“It’s the practice of packing the team with ‘A’ players and clearing out the ‘C’ players. ‘A’ players are the top 10 percent of talent available at all salary levels. Your company is not tograded until your team consists of all ‘A’ players. Topgrading does not necessarily mean that you must fire every B player in your company. However, if your current employees are less than 90% ‘A’ players, you will likely engage in a painful, uphill battle. Companies should strive to hire 90% ‘A’ players, promote 90% ‘A’ players, and achieve 90% ‘A’ players in management long-term.”

Proactive vs. Reactive Topgrading
Getting to 90% of your team to be “A” Players might be a significant leap for most companies. Instead, keep one foot firmly planted in present-day reality while making immediate and proactive efforts to improve the future bench. Evaluate those on the team who would score less than a “B+” grade for competency, reliability, and consistency. With those individuals, provide concrete feedback and opportunity for measurable improvement. Negative performance issues should be validated by at least two or three specific examples, and collaborate on a plan to move forward with a resolution.

When hiring, improve your bench, don’t hire just to fill seats. Craft a hiring plan that proactively attracts the “A” or “B+” contributors to the team. With a decent plan in place, you will be well on your way to tograding your company!

About Us

With over 90 years of Logistics experience, Top Talent is a recognized leader in Talent Acquisition for Logistics, Transportation, and Supply Chain., Let us put our team to work for you. To learn more about successful strategies for getting those impact players and game-changers on your team, reach out to us today.

– Michael Monson
President and CEO
Top Talent LLC