Are You Making the Best Use of Your Top Talent?

BY Kathy Crosett
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It’s easy to look at how well competitors are doing and decide they’re ahead of you because they’ve been fortunate enough to attract top talent. This assumption, according to Bain & Company, is wrong. Bain & Company’s research finds that all companies have the same number of stars. These employees amount to about 15% of your workforce. What’s truly important in maintaining a competitive edge is how you use your top team members.

In a new Harvard Business Review article, Michael Mankins describes how the best companies use their top talent. For example, if you’re in the business of selling event planning services, you need your best employees filling those roles. These are the people who will go the extra mile to ensure that every little detail at an event delights the customer. These team members fill a ‘business-​critical’ role.

In most enterprises, managers focus their resources on the people who make and sell the products. These people work closely together, feed off each other’s energy, and deliver great results for the bottom line. The Bain & Company term for this practice of clustering top talent in groups is intentional nonegalitarianism.

When a business consciously decides to place a star in each department, for example, in a practice Bain calls unintentional egalitarianism, the results are mediocre. This method of talent management may seem fair to team members, but it will not typically result in a high growth rate for the business.

To optimize the use of your star talent, identify the individual players using a form of assessment that encompasses both ‘performance and potential.’ Figure out what these folks are doing now and how well they could adapt to a new role. You’ll also need to assess which core areas will benefit most from your strongest performers.

Shifting the roles of these key players is likely to upset your organization at first, but the strategic change will allow you to achieve your goals.