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How to Find and Retain High Achieving Players for Your Business

August 5, 2022

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What makes an “A” player? They’re the people you wish you could clone because they hit the ground running and produce results — and most importantly, they make a measurable difference for your company. But in a tight labor market, attracting and retaining these people takes a thoughtful approach. 

Meet Tamara Kemper, founder and CEO of Process Mavens and a Trainual-certified consultant. She’s helped countless businesses scale by helping them become more systematized. But she’s also assisted many clients in identifying and attracting the right people to execute their processes. 

Tamara recently joined our CEO Chris Ronzio on the “Organize Chaos” podcast to define exactly what an “A” player represents. And in this episode, the duo shares strategies for attracting and retaining top talent in your business.

What are “A” players?

Before we dive into the tactical methods, let’s first define what an “A” player means for SMBs. 

“An ‘A’ player is someone willing and excited to jump in and take on messy, sticky problems,” Tamara explained. They’re the ones who bring no or low drama to work, have a can-do attitude, and also possess the following skills: 

  • Ownership or autonomy over essential tasks that need to get done. 
  • Ability to prioritize and use discernment to stay on track with the right things.
  • Good communication to ensure clarity and eliminate any games of telephone. 
  • Enthusiasm or hunger to grow, develop, and learn everything there is to know. 

While these might be core behaviors, Tamara also believes that each business has to decide the right type of person for them. And it might differ depending on the company culture and role. 

“All ‘A’ players have core behaviors, and then some [specific characteristics] might differ from business to business based on the values they share.” – Tamara Kemper, founder and CEO of Process Mavens*

For example, a law office might need “A” players with a formal communication style, whereas a tech company might not care if you’re more laid back. Plus, even within those companies, good communication will look much different for leadership, managers, and employees. 

How do you attract and retain “A” players?

Understanding who your “A” players are is the first step. Then, you need to take it a step further by proactively working to attract and retain them.

1. Use your network to ask for references.

Tamara says her best employees came from asking her network for references, whether they’re high school classmates or people she’s met at workshops. “I have found the last handful of hires through smart people I know that introduced me to other smart people,” she explained. 

That said, she doesn’t necessarily seek out people with relevant experience. “[They] may have absolutely nothing to do with my business in any way,” she told us. Instead, she simply looks for a shared or similar set of values. 

2. Drop the minimum qualifications. 

For Tamara, it doesn’t matter if candidates have a degree or other minimum qualifications. They just need the enthusiasm and mindset to learn. “I can train [employees] if [they] have the right skills, talents, and point of view to come on and do [the job],” she told us. 

In addition to hiring for skills (instead of qualifications), you can start “A” players in one department and then cross-train them to eventually move into another one. For example, maybe you hire someone for customer support so they can learn the basics first. But ultimately, you develop their skills so they can move over to the sales team.

“When you're struggling to find people to fill roles, you have to grow people to fill them.”

3. Set clear expectations.

The best employees typically go above and beyond expectations. But to do that, they need to know what’s expected from their role first. “Proactively [documenting the role] means [employees] aren’t waiting for you to give them the specs,” Tamara shared. 

Plus, if you already have an “A” player in a specific role, you can have them document the position to get what they know out of their head. That way, the next employee is set up from the start. And since they’ll have the necessary knowledge, they can focus on more critical tasks.

4. Don’t get in their way.

Regarding retention, Tamara says the best strategy is to get out of your “A” players’ way. In other words, don’t let apprehension or a commitment to the old ways keep your culture from fostering new thinking. “You're putting [A players] at risk [when] you let someone afraid of change get in their way,” she told us. “This is a real risk to your business [because] you're going to scare away people with a mentality you want to foster.”

Instead, try to embrace new ideas from “A” players, and encourage your other team members to do the same. That’s how you can create a culture open to different approaches and new ideas.

5. Clarity and transparency.

Finally, Tamara says the best way to retain top talent is by being incredibly clear and transparent about the path forward. “Don’t tell people all of the woes of your business, but be clear about where you're headed,” she explained. And to do that, you have to be upfront about your goals and vision for the company. 

You must also be transparent about your employees’ needs and proactively work to meet them. This means reaching out for feedback, whether it’s via surveys, one-on-ones, or an all-hands meeting. Then, use the following strategy to capitalize on the data you collect:

  1. Ask your employees for feedback with periodic surveys and discussions. 
  2. Acknowledge the common themes and share what you find with employees. 
  3. Act on the feedback by addressing the most important issues first.
  4. Announce when you fix the problem and share how you did it. 

While most businesses ask for feedback, it’s few and far between that actually follow up with the next three steps. This makes it a huge differentiator for “A” players looking for a responsive company, and it shows that you actually care about employees' needs. 

“We must be real with each other about what's going on so we can fix [the problem] and move forward.”

Attracting and retaining “A” players might feel challenging in a tight labor market. But with this advice, you can foster an environment built for top talent. That’ll help you funnel in great employees no matter what’s happening in the talent market.

*Some quotes have been edited for clarity and length.

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Article

How to Find and Retain High Achieving Players for Your Business

August 5, 2022

Jump to a section
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You're all signed up! Look out for the next edition of The Manual Weekly coming Wednesday am!
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What makes an “A” player? They’re the people you wish you could clone because they hit the ground running and produce results — and most importantly, they make a measurable difference for your company. But in a tight labor market, attracting and retaining these people takes a thoughtful approach. 

Meet Tamara Kemper, founder and CEO of Process Mavens and a Trainual-certified consultant. She’s helped countless businesses scale by helping them become more systematized. But she’s also assisted many clients in identifying and attracting the right people to execute their processes. 

Tamara recently joined our CEO Chris Ronzio on the “Organize Chaos” podcast to define exactly what an “A” player represents. And in this episode, the duo shares strategies for attracting and retaining top talent in your business.

What are “A” players?

Before we dive into the tactical methods, let’s first define what an “A” player means for SMBs. 

“An ‘A’ player is someone willing and excited to jump in and take on messy, sticky problems,” Tamara explained. They’re the ones who bring no or low drama to work, have a can-do attitude, and also possess the following skills: 

  • Ownership or autonomy over essential tasks that need to get done. 
  • Ability to prioritize and use discernment to stay on track with the right things.
  • Good communication to ensure clarity and eliminate any games of telephone. 
  • Enthusiasm or hunger to grow, develop, and learn everything there is to know. 

While these might be core behaviors, Tamara also believes that each business has to decide the right type of person for them. And it might differ depending on the company culture and role. 

“All ‘A’ players have core behaviors, and then some [specific characteristics] might differ from business to business based on the values they share.” – Tamara Kemper, founder and CEO of Process Mavens*

For example, a law office might need “A” players with a formal communication style, whereas a tech company might not care if you’re more laid back. Plus, even within those companies, good communication will look much different for leadership, managers, and employees. 

How do you attract and retain “A” players?

Understanding who your “A” players are is the first step. Then, you need to take it a step further by proactively working to attract and retain them.

1. Use your network to ask for references.

Tamara says her best employees came from asking her network for references, whether they’re high school classmates or people she’s met at workshops. “I have found the last handful of hires through smart people I know that introduced me to other smart people,” she explained. 

That said, she doesn’t necessarily seek out people with relevant experience. “[They] may have absolutely nothing to do with my business in any way,” she told us. Instead, she simply looks for a shared or similar set of values. 

2. Drop the minimum qualifications. 

For Tamara, it doesn’t matter if candidates have a degree or other minimum qualifications. They just need the enthusiasm and mindset to learn. “I can train [employees] if [they] have the right skills, talents, and point of view to come on and do [the job],” she told us. 

In addition to hiring for skills (instead of qualifications), you can start “A” players in one department and then cross-train them to eventually move into another one. For example, maybe you hire someone for customer support so they can learn the basics first. But ultimately, you develop their skills so they can move over to the sales team.

“When you're struggling to find people to fill roles, you have to grow people to fill them.”

3. Set clear expectations.

The best employees typically go above and beyond expectations. But to do that, they need to know what’s expected from their role first. “Proactively [documenting the role] means [employees] aren’t waiting for you to give them the specs,” Tamara shared. 

Plus, if you already have an “A” player in a specific role, you can have them document the position to get what they know out of their head. That way, the next employee is set up from the start. And since they’ll have the necessary knowledge, they can focus on more critical tasks.

4. Don’t get in their way.

Regarding retention, Tamara says the best strategy is to get out of your “A” players’ way. In other words, don’t let apprehension or a commitment to the old ways keep your culture from fostering new thinking. “You're putting [A players] at risk [when] you let someone afraid of change get in their way,” she told us. “This is a real risk to your business [because] you're going to scare away people with a mentality you want to foster.”

Instead, try to embrace new ideas from “A” players, and encourage your other team members to do the same. That’s how you can create a culture open to different approaches and new ideas.

5. Clarity and transparency.

Finally, Tamara says the best way to retain top talent is by being incredibly clear and transparent about the path forward. “Don’t tell people all of the woes of your business, but be clear about where you're headed,” she explained. And to do that, you have to be upfront about your goals and vision for the company. 

You must also be transparent about your employees’ needs and proactively work to meet them. This means reaching out for feedback, whether it’s via surveys, one-on-ones, or an all-hands meeting. Then, use the following strategy to capitalize on the data you collect:

  1. Ask your employees for feedback with periodic surveys and discussions. 
  2. Acknowledge the common themes and share what you find with employees. 
  3. Act on the feedback by addressing the most important issues first.
  4. Announce when you fix the problem and share how you did it. 

While most businesses ask for feedback, it’s few and far between that actually follow up with the next three steps. This makes it a huge differentiator for “A” players looking for a responsive company, and it shows that you actually care about employees' needs. 

“We must be real with each other about what's going on so we can fix [the problem] and move forward.”

Attracting and retaining “A” players might feel challenging in a tight labor market. But with this advice, you can foster an environment built for top talent. That’ll help you funnel in great employees no matter what’s happening in the talent market.

*Some quotes have been edited for clarity and length.

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