Using Science to Pick High Performing Star Employees

By George Khoury, Esq. on January 22, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

According to the brilliant minds over at the Harvard Business Review, employers can help identify those employees with the highest potential to succeed thanks to some scientific research. They explain that doing so is critical as you need to identify your top performers in order to make sure you retain them, and best utilize them.

Surprisingly, the three factors cited in the HBR report don't seem very scientific at all. But, apparently, the three primary indicators for an employer to identify its star employees are:

  • Ability to do the work
  • Social skills
  • Drive to succeed

Finding Stars

When it comes to finding those star employees for your organization, you need to rethink what you consider a star employee. Rather than looking at an individual's career trajectory to identify those high performing employees, look at who is likely to help make the organization successful.

The three indicators listed above can all vary drastically. However, the more of each a candidate or employee has, the more likely they are to be a top performer. While an employee's ability to perform, and their desire to do so, is clearly related to whether they will be a top performer, it can be less clear while social skills are important, particularly in our increasingly digital world.

However, understanding social cues and being socially adept is as important as ever given that working in teams has continued to increase in popularity. Also, a top performer with good social skills will improve the morale of those around them, and are likely to improve the performance of other employees as well.

The Secret Sauce Is the Same

Thankfully, while detecting who will be the highest performing employees may have evolved, attracting and keeping those employees is still the same old game of providing attractive compensation packages.

One newer trend that is particularly attractive to top talent who know they're top talent is the I-deal. This is essentially an individualized/personalized compensation incentive or deal. For instance, allowing an employee to choose between a benefit like employer provided health care, or that health care's cash value, could actually make a significant difference for an employee. Other examples include tying bonus compensation and raises to concrete performance objectives in order to drive the top perform to continually work harder.

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