The Real Value of Talent

Posted On: October 12

One of the greatest benefits of my job is that I get to meet a lot of very bright and talented people. Recently I had the opportunity to work on a client project with Stephen Multon and was so totally fascinated with the work he was doing that I asked him to write a guest blog with some of his findings. I think you will find this very insightful.


I just finished reading John’s new book, Awesomely Simple, and really appreciated the emphasis in Chapter two and several other chapters on hiring quality people who fit the organization’s culture. Like me, John has something to say about the old cliché, “People are our most valuable asset.” He says, “Your talented people are your most valuable asset and your worst people are your biggest liability.”

My own way of refuting the cliché has long been to say, “The right people, in the right positions, doing the right things are your most important asset.”

Like John, I know that there can be a huge difference between highly productive employees and poorly performing employees. Have you wondered if the difference really merits spending time up front to ensure the right fit? Ever notice that many employees are not as productive as others? That some employees seem to get a lot more done than others? That some leaders seem to engage and motivate others while others seem to suck the life right out of their employees?

Consider a study conducted by Hunter, Schmidt, and Judiesch, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology. In the study, researchers broke jobs into three groups: low, medium, and high complexity work.

The low complexity workers are often referred to by the media as burger flippers. Yet the top 10% were 300% more productive than the bottom 10% and the top 10% were twice as productive as the average workers.

In the medium complexity group, comprised of technical to low level professionals, the top 10% were 1200% more productive than the bottom 10%.

The high complexity group-which we will call doctors, lawyers and Indian chiefs-included leaders, managers, programmers, and sales people. The differences were so profound that they were unmeasurable.

For instance, picture the CEO who turned a $120 million consumer products company into a $70 million company almost overnight. Compare that to the Hospital CEO who turned around a toxic organization so bad that a patient called 911 because he couldn’t get the attention of a nurse. He transformed that hospital into one with better than 95% patient satisfaction.

Many organizations lack the capability to close such a performance gap. For instance, how many leaders can clearly identify the skills and behaviors needed to lead their organization or provide superior customer service?

Many executives will admit that over the course of their careers, they have made some great selection decisions, some okay but disappointing decisions, and a bad selection decision or two. The challenge is to consistently make great selection decisions.

The key factor isn’t technical ability. After all, how technical can flipping burgers be? What accounts for a difference of 300% in productivity between one worker and another? Behavioral competencies and emotional intelligence are the key differences. They are the skills and work habits employees bring to the job.

But how does the leader who needs to hire someone in a key position assess what skills, behaviors, and work habits are needed for that key position? He or she needs a system that will:

  • define position requirements with precision;
  • provide structured, job-related interview questions that address what is critical;
  • eliminates bias; and
  • provides a clear rating scale, enabling the hiring manager to justify the decision made.

By consistently hiring the best talent available-talented people who are a fit for your organization-you will have more than a fist full of talent. You will have talented people who are light years ahead in productivity and overall performance. And the impact to your organization’s environment and bottom line will be profound.

** Want more about hiring the best talent? Sign up for Stephen’s newsletter at  and you will receive his white paper, “9 Myths of Selection, Retention, and Engagement.”


Stephen Moulton is the author of The CEO’s Advantage: 7 Keys for Hiring Extraordinary Leaders, president and Chief Insight Officer of Action Insight Inc., whose focus is on helping organizations use a competency and behavioral-based approaches for selecting, developing, and retaining talented employees.  He can be reached at 303-439-2001 or visit


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