There are two strategies to assemble phenomenal talent in our organizations writes longtime Google Chief People Operations Officer Laszlo Bock:

1:  Find a way to hire the very best talent. Hire 90th percentile performers who will start performing right away.

2: Hire average performers and through training, coaching, hard work, and deep insight into motivation and human nature turn them into 90th percentile performers.  Lazslo refers to this as the “Bad News Bears approach.”

Which strategy is more likely to win?

In his book Work Rules! Laszlo makes a compelling case for strategy number one.  He believes hiring is the most important function of People Operations, i.e. Human Relations. He believes spending money on hiring better will have a higher return than any training program we might develop.

With regard to recruiting and hiring, Laszlo points out most organizations have the same approach.  We post a job, screen resumes, interview some people, and then pick whom to hire.  Laszlo writes: “We find some superstars and some stinkers, but the overall quality of hires is average.”

The traditional approach to hiring is further hampered by the fact that most of us aren’t very good at interviewing. We like to believe we are great judges of talent and character. When we take the time to go back and methodically look at how people actually perform months or years later, the results often tell us otherwise.

Regarding strategy number two, Laszlo believes it is almost impossible to put an average performer through training and turn them into a superstar.  He notes many companies brag about how much they spend on training, which he equates to saying: “I’m in great shape.  I spent $500 on my gym membership!”

Lazslo tells us designing effective training is hard.  Really hard.  He writes: “Some experts say 90% of training doesn’t sustain substantial improvement in performance of change behavior because it isn’t well designed or well delivered.”  

His message?  

Invest is hiring better.


Reflection:  Which strategy is my organization pursuing to assemble phenomenal talent?  (1) Finding a way to hire the best; or (2) hiring average talent with the intention of turning them into superstars through training and coaching?

Action: Identify the last ten people my company or team have hired.  Grade each new hire according to their performance.  Act on any insights.

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