B Players are NOT Good Enough

performance rating dial

Hundreds of companies have embraced Topgrading and have achieved 75%+ hiring success. This means that 75%+ of those hired turn out to be A Players. But, there sometimes is confusion as to what exactly is an A Player, and why is “A Potential” the only other “good” category. Why aren’t B Players good enough? I’ll clarify …

What is an A Player? A Players, simply, are your high performers at every level in the company. I’ve asked over 40,000 times, “When you entered that job, what percent of your direct reports were high performers (A Players), adequate but disappointing (B Players), and low performers (C Players),” and executives have no difficulty putting people in those categories. When asked, “Which would you rehire without reservation,” it’s only the A Players. Across all industries, jobs, and nations A Players tend to be smart, very hard working, highly resourceful in meeting challenges, fast learners, eager to grow, great with people, and they just do not give up. They are the “go to” employees who get the most done.

What is a B Player? B Players by definition are “disappointing” because they are a notch below A Players in those competencies – resourcefulness, etc.   Topgrading companies sometimes use the label “chronic B Player, meaning the person does not exhibit potentials to become an A.

What is an A Potential? The A Potential might be someone in Accounting who shows all the potential in the world to become an A Player sales rep; she just needs some experience. Or it might be a terrific marketing executive who performed well in 3 different industries and is expected to learn your industry and then perform. It’s like a lot of pro athletes in their rookie year – definitely not earning the gazillions they are paid, but nonetheless showing terrific potentials.

Aren’t B Players “good enough?” As mentioned in a recent blog, if your hiring success rate is a typical 25%, because replacing a (chronic) B Player will mean that there is only a 1 in 4 chance the replacement will be better; hiring and firing 3 people before you hire an A Player is too disruptive.  When companies begin Topgrading they retain their Bs, but when their hiring success rate is 75%+ it then makes sense to replace the B. So, Topgraders start out with A, B, and C Player designations, and within a year or 2, they separate into A Player, A Potential, and Non A Players. Chronic Bs and Cs are no longer good enough.

What do you do with A Potentials? Develop them. A Potentials are already loaded with resourcefulness, energy, and curiosity, so they will eagerly embrace and develop a plan that will move them into the certified A Player category. As an additional side note, a company loaded with As and A Potentials should have developmental plans for everyone, in order to retain their talent.

What do you do with the (chronic) Bs and Cs? Look for jobs in the company in which they might become As. In the meantime hold them (and everyone) accountable for achieving A Player results. If they do not achieve those results they will look for another job in the company or outside the company. They know that it’s easier to find a job when employed. So in the end, Topgrading does NOT involve firing B and C Players; it’s articulating A Player performance in all jobs, holding people accountable, training and developing everyone, and having pleasant ”so long” lunches for Non A Players who leave.

Conclusion: Set the bar high – to have almost all A Players. Topgraders report that when the CEO has committed to having an A Team and begins making changes in the top team, existing and new A Players attract more A Players. Challenges are met, profits increase, and a cycle of success grows and feeds on itself.

Scroll to Top