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Topgrading (revised PHP edition): How Leading Companies Win by Hiring, Coaching and Keeping the Best People [Hardcover]

Bradford D. Smart Ph.D.
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 12 2005

Great companies don’t just depend on strategies—they depend on people. The more great people on your team, the more successful your organization will be. But that’s easier said than done. Statistically, half of all employment decisions result in a mishire: The wrong person winds up in the wrong job. But companies that have followed Bradford Smart’s advice in Topgrading have boosted their successful hiring rate to 90 percent or better, giving them an unbeatable competitive advantage.

Now Smart has fully revised his 1999 management classic to reintroduce the topgrading concept, which works for companies large and small in any industry. The author spells out his practical approach to finding and managing A-level talent—as well as coaching B players to turn them into A players. He provides intriguing case studies drawn from more than four thousand in-depth interviews.

As Smart writes in his introduction, “All organizations, all businesses live or die mostly on their talent, and any manager who fails to topgrade is nuts, or a C player. . . . Those who, way deep down, would sooner see an organization die than nudge an incompetent person out of a job should not read this book... Topgrading is for A players and all those aspiring to be A players.”

On the web: http://www.topgrading.com/


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The key to building a superior company, an increasing number of observers now agree, is the ongoing ability to recruit and retain superior personnel. In Topgrading, industrial psychologist and global consultant Bradford Smart expands upon this idea by examining in great detail exactly how today's premier organizations have assembled such top-level employees, and then showing precisely how others can do it, too. "Simply put, topgrading is the practice of packing the team with A players and clearing out the C players," Smart writes. "'A players' is defined as the top 10 percent of talent available at all salary levels--best of class. With this radical definition, you are not a topgrader until your team consists of all A players. Period." Essentially a best-practices manual for developing this outstanding personnel pool, the book is based on more than 4,000 interviews and case studies conducted by Smart at major corporations like General Electric as well as fast-growing high-tech companies and small family-owned firms. He further bolsters its effectiveness by including his extensive "Chronological In-Depth Structured Interview Guide," along with other assessment tools and hands-on strategies for assembling an ideal work team. --Howard Rothman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

Great companies are made, not born. The secret is hiring the right people -- the "A" players. This is, of course, easier said than done. Statistically, half of all employment situations result in mis-hire: the wrong person for the wrong job. And with the cost of a mis-hire at twenty-four times salary, the financial drain can be staggering. Compare that with Brad Smart's 90% success rate and you'll understand why topgraded organizations such as General Electric and AlliedSignal consistently beat the competition.

In this unparalleled work, Dr. Smart introduces the Topgrading concept -- how and why it works. Managers at every level and at companies large and small will learn how to implement his proven fool-proof method. The author spells out his practical hands-on approach and provides intriguing case studies culled from his file of more than 4,000 in-depth interviews.

Further, Topgrading's expert coaching techniques turn "B" players into "A" players.

The lesson is simple: managers who topgrade become leaders -- "A" players -- achieving success not only for their companies but for themselves. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
We've been using Topgrading for about 18 months now. While there are some useful ideas in the book, it's claims of its ability to provide you with a fool-proof way to identify "A players" is greatly inflated. The methodology has made a nightmare out of our hiring process. And, because managerial effectiveness is measured by how well they "Topgrade," managers are reluctant to admit that a new hire was a mistake. Instead they tend to keep an employee that they would otherwise terminate before the end of the evaluation period. Topgrading is based on what appears to be a one size fits all premise. I believe that it is quite useful for hiring sales staff and for other positions requiring extraverted personalities, but is inadequate for techological postions. While the CIDS interview does provide you with a wealth of information, one must ask oneself if there is any pertinence in what a 40 year old, highly experienced and accomplished professional did in high school or college. Indeed, even early work experience has little relevancy for such a candidate. Yet Topgrading insists that it does. We have put several candidates through the long and arduous interviews, only to find that in the end, our compensation offer is not acceptable. So hours and a lot of expensive managerial efforts were wasted. We have also been told by candidates who were rated A players that they had no interest in working for a company that is so "over-the-top" on its hiring practices. I can understand this, since I would be very wary of any company that Topgrades were I subjected to it as a candidate. I would fear that the company is strident and inflexible in all its practices to the point of being toxic. I do not see that Topgrading has really allowed us to select the best employees. Read more ›
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Format:Hardcover
Filter what you read, January 7, 2007

I finished re-reading a book this morning called "Topgrading - how Leading Companies Win by hiring, Coaching and keeping the Best People" by Bradford Smart. The thesis of the book is great companies always look to upgrade their people and that a top 10%er can way out perform someone less.

One challenge I have with the book is it is never black and white. Most people have some good and some challenge areas. I also suggest that we can never truly grade people due to the complexity. This is the problem with most incentive systems. By nature they are short term and therefore wrong. The only true performance should be measured over a decade or decades. A quarter or a month is a ridiculously short time to try to measure performance on.

I also think it is crazy to think companies can figure out in advance who will truly be their top performers. I do agree that past performace can be an indicator but companies vary tremendously so it has to be a mix of the person with the company and environment.

One area that I need to up my game in is coaching. I can likely get good returns by investing more here. At the same time as I write this, I have concerns that coaching can be arrogant. I have seen many leaders not add value by meddling in other peoples' areas. Just because someone is a leader does not mean they know how someone else should do their job.

My belief is the success of people is largely determined by the company. Great companies set themselves up to maximize talent and build themselves to take advantage of each individuals' unique gifts.

And of course while reading it, I cannot help but think how I can make myself into one of the top 10 percenters. I have now added this to my goal list and will be charting a plan.

Overall it is a good thought provoking book even though I disagree with some of the theories he expounds.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Manage an Organization as Nature Would ... June 16 2004
Format:Hardcover
... with the neither malice nor pity. That's the gist of this excellent book, and it's not offensive to the concept of human dignity. To the contrary, Dr. Smart notes that "A players" can (and should) exist at every level. Every CEO, every acountant, every sales rep, and every Wal-Mart greeter should be best in class -- and they should be required to stay competitive in their skills. That's not ruthless. That's natural. But this book goes one step farther, making the compelling case that -- left to their own devices -- the "C players" in any organization will destroy value over time, whether they intend to or not. Accordingly, Topgrading is essential.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Very interested, until... March 13 2004
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
After reading the reviews of this book, I wanted it...but there's one hesitation.
One company the marketers of the book hold up as an example of why the author's work is effective is GE. In my opinion, and in the opinion of many I've spoken with in my world, GE's products are not superior...so this makes me wonder
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Book on this Topic in 21 Years Oct. 21 2003
Format:Hardcover
I have been a professional recruiter for over 21 years. Topgrading is the best book that I have read on the topic of selecting impact performers. This book is a valuable read for both hiring managers and candidates. The appendix is worth the price of the book by itself.
I have recommended this book to my clients on my recruiting contracts because many have never been taught how to conduct a structured interview. Consequently, they tend to ask one set of questions to one candidate and another set of questions to another candidate for the same job. How will they be able to compare the two candidates? Brad Smart gives them a nice track to run on.
My only major difficulty with the book is the amount of time between the initial interview and the final interview a month later. In my experience as a professional recruiter, that is too long between interviews. In recruitment, time is your enemy. There are too many companies who are searching for A Players. You could lose an A Player easily within a month to another, more efficient company. As our economy moves from the Baby Boomers as the primary workforce to the Gen X'ers, we are about to experience a shortage of workers. If you wait too long to extend an offer, the Recruiterguy will get them!
On the other hand, Brad's reference checking information is so valuable that I have been teaching my clients to use it. I agree with him that it is important for the hiring manager to conduct the reference checks. It's simple psychology. If I call the manager of a candidate and identify myself as a recruiter, the former manager will give me some information about the candidate. However, their perception is that I am not their peer (unless they know me from a previous relationship).
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Billy Strayhorn was right: "Take the A Train"
Smart formulated what he calls the Chronological In-Depth Structured (CIDS) interview approach. After studying 4,000 managers in relation to (on average) ten different jobs per... Read more
Published on June 4 2003 by Robert Morris
5.0 out of 5 stars The #1 source for world-class hiring and coaching processes
As an HR consultant and executive coach, Topgrading is my bible. It's taught me skills that have really worked to help clients hire nothing but A players and coach their B players... Read more
Published on Jan. 16 2003 by Consultant and Coach
5.0 out of 5 stars The #1 source for world-class hiring and coaching processes
As an HR consultant and executive coach, Topgrading is my bible. It's taught me skills that have really worked to help clients hire nothing but A players and to coach their Bs to... Read more
Published on Jan. 15 2003 by Consultant and Coach
2.0 out of 5 stars Ruthless and scary
Great for tips and forms that help you interview more effectively, if you can find candidates who don't mind spending a few hours in a single interview. Read more
Published on July 19 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting approach
Smart comes off like a pretty hard nosed SOB in the first half of this book. He doesn't seem to talk much about how to correct problems other than firing people. Read more
Published on May 23 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Topgrading is a terrific mechanism
While focussing attention on our people is not a new concept for us, Dr. Smart's Topgrading principles have provided a terrific mechanism to deliberately develop our organization's... Read more
Published on March 4 2002 by M. Cass Wheeler
5.0 out of 5 stars Topgrading Works!
Dr. Smart has provided the definitive guide on how to acquire and retain elite talent. His approach is not only logical and well researched, but also highly practical. Dr. Read more
Published on March 4 2002 by Roman
5.0 out of 5 stars Its Elegance is in its Simplicity
I don't think Dr. Smart has written a book whose attraction lies in it being so cutting edge, ahead of the curve, prototypical, etc. Read more
Published on Feb. 25 2002 by Jay Avelino
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