Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A, B, and C Players (The Differentiated Workforce)

Adding on to my previous post on A, B, and C positions, here are some thoughts on the concept of A, B, and C players.

1. People believe that they give their best effort and deliver good performance. While self-confidence is abundant in China, self-awareness is scarce. As a result, staff has difficulty to realize that their performance is simply not good enough and hence often revert to blaming their Managers for partiality.

2. People prefer to be treated better than others or at least equally. Usually, high performers are proponents of high performance management systems, while low performers are against them. Nonetheless, when ambitions are incommensurate with skills, employees still expect healthy rewards. So the story goes, if you give one person a one month bonus, another person would expect a one month bonus as well. If you decide to recognize the two good performers out of three employees working in the same role, then you have a problem on your hands in China.

3. People will resign if they feel disappointed about the lack of appreciation/recognition or dissatisfied with staffing decisions. Resignations are an opportunity for the Company to upgrade the skills of their workforce. Though, in industries where most companies pursue stealing talent over training and developing it, one can find themselves without many Candidates to choose from. As talent is hard to find, it may be still better to have a poor/mediocre performer onboard instead of a vacant position. Then, a job done slower, less efficient, or with less quality is still better than no output at all.

4. People tend to be very protective of one another. Employees tend to be immune toward the weak performance of colleagues, particularly if they maintain a close social relationship. Thus, for some staff, execution alone and showing up to work already constitutes good performance. Consequently, performance-based terminations are viewed as a display of lack of sympathy toward the fired individual and not a result of their poor performance.

Finally, several questions arise regarding the implementation of A, B, and C positions:
• As real people, individuals have a high self-concept. How do you go around labeling someone a C player?
• Top talent wants to team up with top talent. Do A players really want to collaborate with B or C players (since A players in B and C positions are not affordable)? How do you keep A players motivated when you ask them to work together with B or C players as in this example, Creative Director (A player) works with relatively junior Account Service team challenged by high turnover rates and low professional capabilities?
• Can your company outsource all of the C positions?

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