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What's an A-player and why would I want one?

The hunt for talent is one that comes with great competition. And the hunt for the top 10% talent—the best talent—is an even tougher one. But what if I told you that these are exactly the people that you need? The top 10% of talent are called A-players. They are your all-star employees. They are not ‘just good’; they are the kind of people that treat your company like it is their own. Where working at your company is just “a job” to others, it feels like so much more to the A-player, who invests heavily in their work. A-players will distinguish you from your competition and that will help you to reach the success that you want. And there is so much more to these high-energy, flexible, and innovative employees. What is an A-player? Ok, let’s zoom in on the specific definition of what an A-player looks like. In short, they are the best possible players on the job market in their field, in their function, and on their level. Their influence on your company is (or will be) enormous. They help define your culture, your strategy, and with this your success. Ha, I bet you want one now! That might still feel quite objective. And very difficult to recognise or test. To assess this, you would need a very clear vision on what exactly you are looking for in a particular role and HOW you are going to test all of this. Not your easiest task, but definitely worth the effort. But no worries, it’s definitely possible to identify A-players. In fact, to get you started we’ve created a little checklist for you of the qualities of A-players. A-players are...

  1. A person who is in the top 10% of their profession on an industry-wide basis for the salary paid.

  2. A person on your team whom you would enthusiastically rehire.

  3. A person of high integrity who delivers on commitments.

  4. Someone that every organisation covets.

  5. The employee who fits your company culture and models your core values and behaviours.

A true A-player will tick all of the above boxes. While there are other characteristics you’ll need to identify for your unique A-players, this checklist serves as a good place to start when you’re recruiting or identifying A-players within your existing team. Ok but… why even consider hiring anyone other than A-players? Now, don’t get too carried away there, because I can already feel this question popping up in your head. But hiring all A-players is like filling a classroom with only kids who raise their hand first after a question. Nobody needs a company full of leaders that prefer to go their own ways. So next to your A’s, you also really need B’s (and quite some: about 70% of your organisation!). Why, you ask? B-players are competent, steady performers who balance their work and personal lives while still doing the bulk of the work of the company. So while your A-players are coming up with another game-changing idea, B-players will be the ones who make sure that this will actually be executed with care. It’s a golden combination, if you ask me. How to attract all-star employees To attract A-players, you need to create the right environment for them to succeed. They are looking for an environment that will support their urge for adventure and their craving to over-achieve. They love fast-growing and innovative companies. But besides that, they are looking for an environment that is professional, filled with other A-players who challenge them, and (most of all) has a potential to become the next (big) best thing. So how do you create the right environment for A-players? Here’s a checklist of what to do:

  1. Define your cultural values. Culture is vital for A-players who want to learn, grow, and innovate.

  2. Engage with them, don’t preach. A-players want to be part of the decision-making process. Work with the team to set up a clear strategy to define and achieve company goals.

  3. Give your leading talent a voice. A-players love to work in fast-paced and rapidly changing environments, and they want to play a big role in innovation. Give A-players the chance to provide insights and ideas and they’ll be happy to give their unique perspective.

  4. Provide clear incentives to motivate. A-players are natural overachievers, so they want to know when they’ve reached a goal. To satisfy this, give them a clear definition of their responsibilities and the chance to define personal and team goals in KPIs.

These steps are your ultimate guide to creating a high-performance culture and organisation. One where A-players will flourish, but also the perfect way to make you company and this culture scalable. And that’s definitely something you want to start working on as soon as possible.

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