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Google used to have a formula for finding the best employees: it screened for high SAT scores and grade point averages. Sounded like a good plan (especially since Google’s two founders demanded it).

Unfortunately, it turned out to be dead wrong—not a good thing at a company that prides itself on taking an analytical approach to things. So Google began surveying its employees and discovered that what really makes a successful (and happy) employee is a strong sense of mission and a high degree of autonomy.

Hiring the right person from the start brings an advantage that companies desperately need today: speed.

How People Slow Companies Down

Think about it: Hiring the wrong people for the job wastes time. They are harder to integrate into the organization, struggle more in their work, slow down those they work with, and create a void when they leave that takes time to fill.

So how do we take advantage of people speed? I had a great conversation the other day with Sven Denecken, VP of Cloud Solutions at SAP, and together we came up with these suggestions:

  • Use data about your workforce to discover the best people. The data is now there to discover who your best people are and nurture them, as this research from the University of California, Berkeley, proves. And with HR cloud solutions that are used across companies, it becomes possible to pool together data from small companies that are similar to glean the same kind of statistically significant insight that Google can get from its huge workforce.
  • Use the best employees to find others like them. How do you use your best people to speed up the rest of the organization? One way is through finding others like them. The Berkeley researchers found that referred workers were 10-30% less likely to quit and performed better on “rare” metrics that don’t occur often but can have a major impact on the company, such as submitting more patent applications or preventing workplace accidents. All of this added up to 25% more profitability for referred workers over non-referred. (However, not all referrals are created equal; bad employees tended to refer people just like them.)
  • Create networks to help the best employees speed up others. Have the best 20% focus on the next 10%. Then when that 10% is up to speed, get them to focus on the next 10%. These are the people who can benefit most from the time spent with your top performers. In this case, trickle down really can work. The other 80 or so percent can listen and observe and learn from the best if you create a network—an internal LinkedIn. It can take a lot of the time and guesswork out of that process by letting people share the soft skills that make them valuable to others inside the company—everything from personal interests that can serve as conversation starters to specific skills and project experience that can make more effective teams and help mentors and mentees determine which areas to focus on when they communicate.

How is your company trying to speed up its employees?

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