Top Talent and Star Employees

All People are Perfect … for Something

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By Dona Baker, Whyworks

Using labels such as “top talent” and “star employee” is harmful to employees. It is also harmful to organizations. Simply stated, there is no defined or realistic way to measure ‘top talent’, or a ‘star employee.’

Progress, at work, or in life, is not linear. If we were to graph individual performance, we would see that the resulting curves are “messy”. They look like bumpy “s-waves” rather than straight lines.

Employee performance is in a constant state of change, with many identifiable factors:

  • The employee’s current state of their health and home life
  • Their developing abilities and evolving mindsets
  • Shifting role expectations depending on what is happening in the organization and who is managing the work, etc.

It’s not only realistic but humane to expect that people will have highs and lows throughout the year.

Job performance is also affected by different environments and different time frames. We get varying impressions of a person based on when we observe them in their lives and within particular roles. It’s common in these circumstances for managers to exhibit a “halo bias”.  That is the belief that an employee’s current state is their permanent state. Which it is not.

Unfortunately, performance labels stick to employees once they get attached. This is harmful when it’s used as an excuse to not develop a person or align their work so that it is better suited. It limits the potential of both the employee and the organization.

Much better is starting with the idea that all people are perfect … for something. It can shift how we approach employee hiring and development within our organizations. As well, it opens us up to growth and possibilities that we otherwise could miss out on.

Dona Baker, Whyworks