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The Undecided Business of Hiring Stars

  • - Harvard Business Review. Can “A” talent can be successfully integrated?

  • - Context influences the success of “A” talent.

  • - Management is a larger outcome determinant than individual talent.

Vancouver Canuck players are mostly imported from other cities. The Canucks can’t win a Stanley Cup. The LA Kings, current holders of the Stanley Cup also have a high percentage of imported players. Irony is, most of them are from Canada. How do you build a winning team? With homegrown or imported talent? More problematic, does recruiting “A” players into the Canucks reduce the imported player’s performance or raise the team’s overall performance?

In 2004 Harvard Business review did a piece on “The Risky Business of Hiring Stars.” There are both good and bad outcomes, but the answer is conditional. Half the successful CEOs in the Fortune 500 are long term employees, the other half are imported.

Some things to think about

1. Any talent, good or bad, functions as a direct result of how it’s managed. The context, the environment talent is hired into determines success.

2. If you have a good management culture, then bringing in “A” talent will accelerate your growth. If you do not have a great management culture, bringing in “A” talent will mean a lot of tears when they leave you in the first year.

3. After someone noticed peak performance can come from companies that don’t hire “A” talent, and that hiring alphabetically from a phone book might even be an improvement, the “past performance / future performance” idea fell into question. In the case of the current American president, it is true that a light resume is getting us very light performance.

4. You could deploy better talent at all levels but you’d be further ahead if you deployed better management at all levels. If you have a poor management culture, great individuals will never stick with your company.

5. Hiring stars draws you into that tricky territory of trying to punch above your weight class. Some “A” talent has a better idea of how a high performance company behaves than the company doing the hiring. You might be successful, but you may also fail. “A” talent goes sideways in the negotiations more often than any other hires. A beautiful woman has been known to tell a an average guy she doesn’t want to dance.

6. When you only promote from within, you also assume all the talent you’ll need for the next decade, is already on payroll. It’s a strategy you should wish on your competitor.

Bottom line, hiring a star increases your chances of success, but doesn’t guarantee them. The success odds are highest when culture and environment are closely matched to the new hire.

Don’t hire those who apply. Hire those you choose.




p.s. You shouldn’t hire from a phone book. Alphabetically or otherwise.

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