Will your newly hired star talent meet expectations?


IclifIt’s fun to hire the best. They are bright, talented, driven and interesting. It’s not easy to get them though. They can get pretty picky about whom they want to work for, and their compensation package can cost you an arm and a leg. But it is all worth it because they will make a huge difference to your organization. Or will they?

A study conducted by Boris Groysberg sheds light on the performance portability of star talents. He studied the careers of 1,000 star analysts at Wall Street and how they performed when they moved to other firms. The results were astounding. The majority of these analysts who changed firms suffered an immediate and lasting decline in performance. “Their earlier excellence appears to have depended heavily on their former firms’ general and proprietary resources, organizational cultures, networks, and colleagues.” And these specific factors are often difficult to replicate in the new organization.

Another example – this time from the world of football. Chelsea Football Club paid 50 million pounds for Fernando Torres. Torres has a proven track record in Spain and in England for scoring goals, plenty of them. But since his move to Chelsea, even his most ardent fan would agree he has been coming up empty.

No one is clear about why he has not been able to replicate his past performance. One theory is that he no longer gets the same kind of support from his new teammates. Another theory states that Torres’ playing style is not the right fit for Chelsea.

The Wall Street Study and the plight of Chelsea Football Club’s striker remind us that to assume star talents will automatically continue to perform at the same level when they move to another organization is wrong. The reality is that even the best talents need the right support to be at their greatest.

Setting your star talents up for success. So what can you do to make sure you are setting up your newly hired stars for success?

Pick the Right Star. Do make sure the star talents have the unique skills that make them special and precious, but be clear also about their fit into your organization, the difference they will make to business results and the difference they will make to the larger team. Asking these three questions will help:

  • If you’re building a company with a specific culture, what sort of people do you want to recruit?
  • What sort of contributions and behaviours do you wish to reward?
  • What difference (positive and negative) will the talent bring to the team?

Provide the Right On-boarding Program. Newly hired stars place a premium on their past experience. So naturally they will keep doing what they are great at without regard to new surroundings. You can let the stars know that they are in a unique culture and they have to learn and respect it. And this can be done by providing the right on-boarding program. By the way, expect them to say that the program is not necessary because they believe they have the knowhow to get to where they need to be. Do make sure they sign up for the program anyway because, whether they know it or not, they will need it.

Give your stars a Purpose. Phil Jackson is well known for his ability to build winning teams. He did this initially with the Chicago Bulls where he integrated the magical talents of Michael Jordan with then “ordinary” players like Pippen and Grant. Together they became a winning team and dominated the NBA World Series for a few seasons.

Jackson wrote that “The most effective way to forge a winning team is to call on the players’ need to connect with something larger than them.” Here is how you can go about doing this:

  • Build the group ego so that members trade their personal goals for a shared aspiration.
  • Balance team members’ need for individual attention and intellectual freedom with high demands and tight deadlines.

Don’t neglect home grown talent. Whenever a star talent is hired, you need to have answers to questions your employees will ask:

  • What’s so special about the new hire?
  • What is this person going to bring to the team?
  • When will I get the same kind of opportunity?”

Do the necessary work so you can answer these three questions. They are important to morale and engagement of your employees as well as the successful integration of the new hires.

Stars can make a huge difference. There is no dispute about this. But at the end of the day, the most talented people cannot function without the right organizational support. They need help. Give it to them so they can meet and exceed expectations.

David Wee spent some 25 years in companies like General Electric (GE) and DHL, and most recently in Johnson & Johnson (J&J), where he served as its Global Chief Learning Officer. David has a passion for growing talent and is currently doing research to answer this question:

How do organisations get 90% of its people to perform like the top 10%?


Photo credit: Flickr user overLinedesign

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