The Ever-increasing Importance of “A-Level” Employees

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On May 4, 2020

It’s fairly obvious that “business as usual” no longer applies to any of us. That’s why, for the next few weeks I plan to focus on things we can do to keep moving forward—even in uncertain times. I plan to take a look at essential thinking, planning, and execution—in light of some of the challenges we all currently face. I’m also very aware that there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. While we’re all affected by the spread of COVID-19, not everyone is impacted in the same way. I hope that the principles I’ll be sharing will help you move forward in a way that’s appropriate for your specific situation.


 The Ever-increasing Importance of “A-Level” Employees

Having great employees is critical to any company that is trying to scale up. In uncertain times like these, it’s more important than ever. Who do you want to have your back when times are hard? You want the best possible people! It’s in times of uncertainty that the ever-increasing importance of “A-level” employees is most evident.

There are two key elements of having the right people around when you need them most. One is hiring the right people. The other is retaining the right people. Let’s briefly examine what that looks like in an environment such as the one we’re experiencing.

Hiring “A-Level” Employees in Times of Uncertainty

If you skim the headlines these days, you’ll find plenty of stories about people being laid off or furloughed. There’s no question that the economic toll of the coronavirus is hitting businesses and their employees. If you dig a little deeper, however, you’ll find stories of some companies that are hiring. You may think that it’s only online companies such as Amazon or other delivery-related businesses that are hiring. And yet, a recent article from themuse lists 75 companies that are hiring during COVID-19. The list includes companies such as Philips, Unilever, Deutsche Bank, and others.

These are not minimum-wage jobs to tide someone over until things get better. These companies are gearing up for what comes after the pandemic. These are companies that are looking to scale.

Now is a good time to look for new talent that can help take your business to the next level. If the day-to-day pace of thing has slowed during the pandemic, use that lull in activity to research and pursue new talent. There is a good chance that highly skilled and motivated individuals in other industries are having second thoughts about their futures with “business-as-usual” companies. They may be looking for innovative and bold companies. These are exactly the kind of “A-level” employees you want for a scaling company.

Click here to watch the webinar Going Remote: Best Practices for HR & Recruitment for ideas on how to recruit at a time when face-to-face interviews aren’t feasible.

Retaining “A-Level” Employees in Times of Uncertainty

Of course, retaining your existing “A-level” employees needs to be a high priority as well. What can you do to engage and retain your best employees? Communication plays a huge role in retaining employees. You need to stay in front of them with vital information. Pestering them with daily platitudes won’t motivate them. Be as honest and transparent as you can with them. Solicit employee input. Just because you’re the leader doesn’t mean all ideas have to come from you. Engage your key employees and challenge them.

Keep Their Interests Forefront

One of the best ways to ensure loyalty and retain great employees is to make sure they know you have their best interests in mind. Here’s a helpful article that addresses five questions you need to answer to avoid losing your best employees.

Dealing with the On-going Nature of Uncertainty

One of the biggest challenges we face as business leaders is dealing with the on-going—seemingly interminable—nature of uncertainty. Not knowing when things will return to normal (whatever the new normal will be) makes it hard to keep doing the things we should. I found this video from Jim Collins encouraging and uplifting. He talks about the perseverance and fortitude of Admiral James Stockdale who endured eight years of imprisonment as a POW in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” during the Vietnam War. Admiral Stockdale’s life during those days was filled with uncertainty. I hope you are as inspired by his response and perseverance as I was!

The Coronavirus Isn’t Your Only Challenge

In times of uncertainty, it’s easy to focus exclusively on current concerns. Of course, you need to do that, but you also need to keep a long-range perspective. The current crisis will pass. Keep in mind where you want to be down the road. Focus on the essentials of scaling. Avoid the traps that can sidetrack you when things finally settle down. I encourage you to download our free How to Avoid the Growth Traps eBook to help you do that.


Stay safe and keep scaling!




Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay