How To Create A Team Of A-Players

It’s not easy to hire and retain the absolutely best employees. Since probably the time the first employer hires the first employee, staffing issues have been one of the most critical components of any business—large or small.

Perhaps you’ve heard the definition or the reference to the so-called “A-Player”. According to Brad Smart, an A-Player is someone who is willing to take your job at your stated compensation and (most importantly) is also in the top 10% of the available talent pool for that specific position. To the extent possible, you’d like to build your business with as many of these kinds of people as you possibly can.


You might be thinking that this is an extremely expensive undertaking.

In general, most employers in your market know who the top notch employees are. As a result, there are often bidding wars to obtain their services.

You might shy away from that “auction”, but perhaps you should not.

Productivity is the key.

It’s vitally important for you to focus in on the productivity you get from every one of your employees. First, remember that productivity is a measurement of the output you get from a certain amount of inputs. High productivity means that the outputs (or the results) are high relative to the input.

In the case of employees, the input is the employee’s work and the result of their efforts are the outputs.

Measured in dollars, think about the dollar value you are getting vs. the salary or wage expense you receive employee to employee.

Individuals that are considered A-Players are the ones that are the most productive. Provided you are not overpaying these individuals, the return on your investment in their compensation will be amply rewarded. This is because of probable fact that their output can be considerably greater than the lesser quality individuals.

Average or ordinary employees will get average or ordinary compensation, but you will be fortunate to get average or ordinary results.

In fact, your risk is higher with an ordinary employee than it is with someone who is considered an A-Player. These ultra effective individuals are predictably good producers. That’s why they are the A-Players.

You could pay one and half or two times as much, but will most likely get outputs (results) many multiples greater than what someone considered just average might produce.

Here are some general compensation guidelines.

You will want to establish a overall philosophy of paying somewhere around 5% more than the going rate for every position in your organization. This philosophy coupled with the your overall objective of hiring the finest employees you can will generally result in excellent outcomes.

It is a bit like the adage of “you get what you pay for”.

Retaining the best—the A-Players.

First, make certain the employee you’re trying to retain is actually a real bonafide A Player. If they are, make certain you pay an overall compensation package sufficient to keep them.

It is cheaper than letting them go and finding someone new.

On the other hand, if the employee you’re thinking about retaining is not a real A-Player, let them go and hire one.

Here’s what Brad Smart has to say on the subject: