Topgrading has been essential in our international growth. Without Topgrading our growth and market share would not have been nearly as impressive. We’ve always had strong market share in the U.S., but our double-digit international growth in recent years would not have been possible without Topgrading. Topgrading first helped us pick A Player leaders for China and other locations, and Topgrading has helped us pick A Players for all the exempt jobs as well throughout the company.
- Tim Tevens, CEO

Company: Columbus McKinnon

No. of Employees: 2,500 Globally

Industry: Manufacturer of Hoists and Cranes


  • Pre-Topgrading stats unknown, but with Topgrading, 85% of all salaried employees—managers and nonmanagers—hired and promoted have turned out to be A Players.
  • Excellent advice for internationally.
  • Topgrading.
  • Excellent reminder to not cut corners (or there will be more mis-hires, costly mis-hires).

Company History:  Columbus McKinnon is a global leader in the manufacture of hoists and cranes. There are approximately 2,500 employees located in 16 countries.

Topgrading Methods:  Tim Tevens, concerned that the company was not optimizing hiring processes to bring in the best people, launched Topgrading in 2007.  Executives attended a public Topgrading Workshop and there have been internal workshops as well.  The company has a license to use Topgrading forms and guides, and the Topgrading Career History Form has been blended with their application form.

The most important Topgrading methodologies are used – career history form, tandem Topgrading interviews, and reference calls arranged by candidates.  Additional methods are being explored – beefed up Job Scorecards, refresher Topgrading workshops, and abbreviated methods for factory workers.

Topgrading Results:  Pre-Topgrading hiring success is not known, but with Topgrading used, 85% of our hires for all positions have performed at A or A potential level. At this point, this is mostly based on informal observation, though a formal assessment system will be created, along with an upgraded performance review system.

We’ve implemented Topgrading for all new salaried hires and promotions, and it has been a tremendous asset for our company. Our organization has embraced the philosophy and process and we believe we are seeing the business results, with the right people in the right positions.
— Rick Steinberg, VP Human Resources

Best Advice and Insights

  1. Don’t cut corners, or suffer more mis-hires.
  2. Translate the Topgrading forms and guides into local languages.
  3. Provide Topgrading training for new managers.
  4. Provide refresher training for current managers.
  5. Make sure the Career History form is completed prior to the interview (or do what we did – incorporate it into the application)
  6. Do not ignore the reference checks – they can provide valuable information

Lessons learned:

  1. If you don’t keep up by training new managers in the Topgrading process (even though they will have been on the ‘other side’), it can become sloppy and lose some of its effectiveness.
  2. Similarly, the process can get a little stale, and corners can start to be cut, with current managers if they don’t receive periodic Topgrading refresher training.
  3. Do not let candidates off the hook with setting up the reference checks. Not wanting to or having an excuse for not setting up a reference check with a former boss frequently means they have something to hide. There are exceptions to that, of course, but even the reasons for exceptions should be thoroughly probed.
  4. The Topgrading reference checks can provide tremendously enlightening information. They are set up to indicate to the reference that all of us have strengths and weaknesses, and that the information that they provide can help us to further develop the candidate should he or she be hired. I have had several references, upon completion of the discussion, indicate this was by far the best reference check they’ve ever been through – and that they actually enjoyed the discussion.

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