The job of identifying key players in your company is too important to be left to HR (if you even have it). As a small/medium business owner, you should personally work on keeping your top talent. After all, those people are the reason why you’re in business and if you want to keep it growing, you should devote a good deal of your time to nurturing them.
It’s expensive and time-consuming to replace good employees. In order to keep your top talent, you first have to identify it and reward it appropriately - and prepare yourself in case they leave.
Dennis Felix, a self-made millionaire entrepreneur, gave great advice regarding talent:
“Any company managed and run by plodders and jobsworths will be lucky to survive, let atone prosper. Talent is the key to sustained growth, and growth is the key to early wealth. You have to identify and hire talent. You can’t skimp on it. Then you must move heaven and earth to hire it. You must nurture it, reward it properly, and protect it from being poached. If necessary, dream up a new project. Better still, get the talent to dream it up. Talent is indispensable, although it is always replaceable. Just remember the simple rules concerning talent: identify it, hire it, nurture it, reward it, protect it. And, when the time comes, fire it.”
Identifying key players using quantity data
How do you recognize your key player? You probably know them. Those are the people who get more done than their peers, everyone comes to them for advice, and you have complete trust in them. Sure, they are replaceable, but if you had to choose, you’d rather replace all your other employees than them. In addition to trusting your gut feeling, you should also use concrete data to identify your key players. To get quantity data, ActiveCollab reports are a good start. By running a report for each person, you can see:
- who is assigned to a lot of tasks (Task Report)
- who creates a lot of tasks (Task Report)
- who completes a lot of tasks (Task Report)
- who has too many tasks (Workload Report and Team Timeline)
- who tracked the most time (Advanced Time Report)
You can then create a spreadsheet, copy all the data, and analyze it. You should be able to see who is the most productive member on your team once you apply some conditional formatting and a put down a few graphs.
Identifying key players using quality data
Numbers alone are not enough to identify key players. In fact, they can give you the wrong picture
For example, your key employee might not complete much tasks, they might even track the least time on your team. But without them, the overall productivity would plummet. Why? Because they enable others to be more productive.
They spend more time helping others that they themselves don’t accomplish much. In turn, others can work out their issues faster and do more. So how do you account for that? By employing quality data.
The most systematic and useful tool for gathering performance quality data are 360-degree feedbacks. They enable you to hear how everyone in the company think about each other, which gives you a full picture of an employee’s performance. To contrast, traditional performance appraisals, where a manager assesses an employee performance are terribly short-sighted as they take into account only what the managers sees.
360-degree feedbacks are easy to implement:
- Create a survey where you ask a person to rate everyone in your company (including themselves) on some attributes and add a short comment.
- Distribute it to everyone in the company (you can even include your clients/customers and other external stakeholders).
- Tabulate the results and go through them.
- (optional) Talk with others about the feedback so they can improve.
In the survey, you can anything you want, from teamwork to expertise - you can even ask them who THEY think key players are! It’s especially interesting to see how people rate themselves vs how others rate them.
Tip: when you make a rating scale, make it go from “OK” to “Exceptional”. People have trouble giving their coworkers anything lesser than a 3 so this scale-tilting can give you a bit more accurate results,
Other posts in the series on growing a business
- Part 1: Why entrepreneurs burn out
- Part 2: How to make sure your business can grow
- Part 3: How companies grow and die (Adizes lifecycle)
- Part 4: Setting up a self running business
- Part 5: Introducing processes
- Part 6: Staying relevant
- Part 7: Staying profitable
- Part 8: How management changes (Greiner's growth model)
- Part 9: When to hire first project manager
- Part 10: A practical approach to risk management
- Part 11: Identifying key players
- Part 12: What happens when a key player leaves
- Part 13: Leadership pipeline
- Part 14: When to hire first HR manager
- Part 15: Contractor vs full-time employee
- Part 16: Hiring process for growing businesses
- Part 17: How and where to find talented employees
- Part 17: Hiring advice for growing businesses
- Part 18: Systematic onboarding
- Part 19: Avoiding toxic workers
- DOWNLOAD THE WHOLE EBOOK (PDF)
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