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This article was published on August 16, 2013

How to get and keep your startup’s A+ players

How to get and keep your startup’s A+ players
Lauren Lee Anderson
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Lauren Lee Anderson

From fine arts to marketing to strategic business development, Lauren has an eclectic wealth of experience in Making. It. Happen. <p.A From fine arts to marketing to strategic business development, Lauren has an eclectic wealth of experience in Making. It. Happen. <p.As a marketing and media strategist, she has built campaigns and communities from concept to execution in a multitude of industries from B2B software, digital & interactive media, social consciousness, game development and more. As an experiential designer, curator, and producer in the Bay Area she has created and collaborated on Fortune 500 corporate events, private underground supperclubs and multi-platform happenings for the intellectually hungry.

This post was originally published on the 15Five blog. 

The definition of an A+ player varies across industries and departments. To one CEO or manager it may mean the most productive (by far), to another the very best team-worker. Or perhaps they’re the magnificently creative, or the most technically gifted employee.

Whatever the benchmark, how does company best attract, hire and retain their A+ players?

Hire For fit

Ability, aptitude and attitude: these are the three A’s to consider when hiring, according to Michael Skok.

  • Ability: Do they have the right knowledge and skills to do the job?
  • Aptitude: If they are missing some of those skills, will they be able to adapt and learn easily and quickly?
  • Attitude (or value alignment): Will they fit into the team and company culture? Do they have the approach to work and level of enthusiasm that the company needs?

Time and care should be taken to find the right potential A+ employee. Personality assessments, asking the right fit-related questions and giving tough, multiple interviews are just some of the tips given by Paul Spiegelman in Entrepreneur to finding the right person.

Keep their egos in check

One problem with A+ workers is that they can have a tendency to let their egos take the lead. This is where your company culture can help to keep them in check.

A confident, independent and healthy ego is welcome as it can contribute to a culture of healthy competition. A+ players who have let their egos cross the line can cause chaos in an office – they may take all the glory, refuse to let others be heard and walk around with an air of superiority. A recipe for disaster.

Having a culture that focuses on the good of the company over the individual, one which encourages teamwork and collaboration will go some way to prevent the emergence of the unhealthy ego.

Subtly challenge the oversized ego by bringing the conversation back to the team, encouraging the culprit to cooperate with others, and of course letting them know how their behavior affects the collective. Communicate regularly and bring up issues as the need arises.

Your 5 network

“You are the average of the 5 People you spend the most time with”, says Jim Rohn.

If this is the case, then you need to create a culture surrounding your A+ team players with more A+ employees. Research has shown that our environment affects us more than we think. “A-players don’t have to or want to play with a bunch of C-players.” says Mel Kleinman in a post for Hiring Wisdom.

By conducting exit interviews, Eric Jackson of Ironfire Capital believes you may discover that the reason your most talented people are leaving is because of the team members they’re forced to work with. In his words “If you want to keep your best people, make sure they’re surrounded by other great people.”

It’s beneficial to have people who have a positive influence on your star employee(s), but as Rohn says, it doesn’t hurt to have colleagues who will provide constructive criticism or even well-intended negative feedback. That should also help harness the rampant ego in order to create an environment of trust and transparency.

Connect them to the business

survey of 20,000 “high-potential” employees by the U.S. Corporate Executive Board found the number one reason they stay with a company is if they feel “connected to corporate strategy”.

How does an employer do this? Simple – open the lines of communication.

High level strategic decisions often don’t trickle down, leaving those on the front lines completely unaware of how the company thinks. Open up the communication networks and provide your workers with opportunities to contribute, by asking them to complete a personal SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis, for instance.

Hiring A+ people requires careful interviewing and consideration. It’s too easy to hire someone who you like rather than someone who is going to have that ability, aptitude and attitude you need.

And keeping, nurturing and controlling a monster ego will take even more careful handling. But in the end you will be surrounded by fantastically talented people who will ensure your company goes from strength to strength in good times and in bad.

Image credit: Thinkstock