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How ‘Topgrading’ Can Help Installers Hire the Best

One Firefly’s Ron Callis and Tina Baker discussed how integrators can benefit from methodology adapted from “Topgrading” to hire top candidates.

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How ‘Topgrading’ Can Help Installers Hire the Best

Hiring qualified talent is typically an issue for many integration firms — so how can you be sure you’ll hire the right people?

That was the essential question addressed by Ron Callis, CEO, and Tina Baker, People Operations Manager, of custom industry marketing agency One Firefly during the session “Topgrading: How Dealers Can Immediately Improve Hiring and Employee Retention,” presented during the CEDIA Expo Virtual.

When the company launched in the mid-2000’s, Callis recalls having a hard time with the hiring and retention process. “I found it very challenging and stressful frankly; I would randomly hire great people and randomly hire not great people – and the amount of time and energy investing into that I found it draining me,” he notes.

After enduring hiring and retention difficulties, Callis says he found the book “Topgrading” by Bradford Smart, which included the concept of hiring high-performance “A” players who typically comprise the top 10% of talent in a company. Years later, he discovered “Who,” written by Smart’s son Geoff Smart and Randy Street, augmenting the idea.

Using Scorecards, Sourcing, Selection for ‘A’ Player Candidate Pool

Of course, finding those “A” players is not easy, Callis and Baker note. One Firefly began implementing the “A” method keying on three essentials: scorecard, source, select … plus eventually you will sell a highly qualified candidate on your company.

Scorecard – This gives you clear picture of what the person you seek needs to accomplish; it’s a higher level of specificity than a typical job description includes.

The scorecard includes three elements: Mission – the essence of the job; Outcomes – the exact set of criteria; Competencies – the behavioral characteristics that fit with your company. At One Firefly, all employees have a scorecard dedicated to their position.

Listen: The State of Pro AV Hiring: Episode 115 of AV+

Sourcing – For the method to work, you have to have larger pool of candidates, Callis says. Sources will include referrals (team and network are powerful tools), recruiters (high value if they understand your business) and social media (LinkedIn and Facebook offer new ways to find ‘A’ players).

“In order for you to have robust ability to bring ‘A’ players onto your team, you have to have lot of looks – it’s a funnel. If sourcing is broken, you’ll be compelled to bring in whatever warm body walks through your door, and then you will have random outcomes.

“You want to cast the widest possible net,” Callis adds. “The best news is that ‘A’ players want to be around ‘A’ players – they want to be around people who are going to make them better and push them to be better. Look to your ‘A’ players to find others.”

Select – A series of structured interviews will allow you to gather facts about a candidate: the screening interview; topgrading; focused, and reference check. “Yes, it is time, money and energy to do this,” Callis says, “but if you do this, it costs a fraction of what it costs to hire the wrong person.”

Four Interviews Helps with Vetting

A look at these interviews:

Screening – Short (5-10 minutes), with the basics coming out of phone screen; there’s a clear delineation of candidates that should move forward and those you shouldn’t waste time with, Callis and Baker say.

Topgrading – This should be done by at least two people and will be more like 2-3 hours. This brings up many insights, because “A” players are happy to share accomplishments, share names of supervisors because they have nothing to hide, and show a history of earning more money at each job move.

On your end, red flags will include exaggerated answers; trash talking previous bosses; difficult time explaining why they left a company; and self-absorbed expertise … they have all the right answers, Baker notes. “Your best candidates rise to the top – top of mind, top of heart,” Callis adds. “Most candidates melt under that pressure.”

Focused – Pull in the manager and sometimes multiple members of team to see the candidate. Only 10% of candidates will likely make it to this stage, which now includes demonstrations of core values, behavioral aspects, and exact parameters for position. “The leadership team in that interview knows whether the candidate should move on, it’s pretty clear,” Callis says.

Reference – Supplied by the candidate, these checks will validate and confirm information from supervisors.

“The final interview” is when you are selling them on your company … for fit, family, freedom, fortune and fun, as One Firefly puts it.

Does the method work? Well, Callis says that since One Firefly started implementing Topgrading in 2014, topline revenue has grown 400%; they’ve gone from 15 to 45 full-time staff; with a 90% hiring success ratio and turnover less than 5%.

This article premiered on our sister site, Security Sales & Integration.

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