Fun Trivia: Topgrading Is As Good as Antiseptics!

Recently, I visited the British Museum in London and there is a model of Dr. Joseph Lister’s laboratory. Who? I immediately felt a certain kinship with him, because his innovation – antiseptics – was not accepted by the medical world for many, many years. Ditto for Topgrading. Maybe there is a message in this story for CEOs, head of HR, and Topgrading companies who initially find resistance.

Who is Dr. Joseph Lister? He was a medical doctor and scientist who lived from 1827 until 1912. He is best known for spearheading the medical use of antiseptic medicine (hence, Listerine). In 1861 Lister observed that about 50% percent of amputation patients died from infections. In 1865, he learned of Louis Pasteur’s theory that microorganisms cause the infections. Using phenol as an antiseptic, he reduced the mortality rate in his ward from 50% to 15% within four years. But it took decades for the world to embrace the use of antiseptics.

Is Topgrading as effective as antiseptics? Sort of. Although Topgrading typically improves hiring high performers from 25% high performers to 85%+ (see 40 case studies at most of those companies say roughly 50% of their hires are “good enough to keep.” So they start with 50% “survivors,” and when they raise the bar to “high performer,” 85% “survive.” So it strikes me that Lister and I have something in common: 50% – 85% survival rates.

What was amazing to Dr. Lister was how slowly the world embraced antiseptics and what is amazing to me and thousands of Topgraders is why the world continues to stumble along with hiring methods that produce 50% “survivors” and why managers in companies embracing Topgrading are initially skeptical.

I’ve been told that Lister set up shop in hospitals and for years half of the amputee patients down the hall left in body bags because they were treated by docs who did not embrace antiseptics. On the same floor the vast majority of Lister’s patients walked out of the hospital (with crutches). I give speeches to hundreds of company owners and a pre-speech survey always shows that they heard about Topgrading years ago, but continue to use hiring methods that KILL their profits.

And when I conduct the Chat with a Topgrader, CEOs and heads of HR say that although Topgrading has dramatically improved hiring, it took years for all the managers to embrace it. What can we conclude?

Conclusion: Change is hard for most of us to embrace … so although Topgrading is decades old and proven to be the most effective hiring method, the world slowly but steadily is embracing it. And just as Dr. Lister offered his cures for fractures for decades before antiseptics were widely embraced, Topgrading, Inc. with a growing company and broader reach, hopes that the common sense “cures” for costly mis-hires will one day be globally embraced.


Published 9/30/2014

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