Lincoln Financial Group Case Study

Established Insurance Company Reaches New Heights

Industry: Financial Services


  • A Players hired and promoted improves from 25% to 85%
  • Stock performance improves from 5.4% average return to 17.5%

The Need for Change

Founded over 100 years ago, Lincoln was a traditional insurance company based in Indiana. In 1998 Jon Boscia was named Chairman and CEO, and his charge was to develop the company into a diversified, multibillion-dollar financial services powerhouse. Topgrading (“The most important book I have ever read,” says Boscia) was key to converting the company into a leading provider of wealth management and financial planning to the affluent and retirement markets.

Lincoln required dramatic changes in leadership because traditional insurance managers lacked the experience and competencies to drive the new strategy.

The Solutions

Boscia launched Topgrading with professionals assessing and coaching the company’s top 200 managers, training all managers, and assessing candidates for hire and promotion to the top 4 levels in the company. Topgrading started at the top and was systematically rolled out down through the supervisor level.

Four years into using the Topgrading methodology, Lincoln managers were self-Topgrading, with hundreds of managers regularly conducting Topgrading Interviews of candidates for hire and promotion. Topgrading Professionals continued to conduct interviews of finalists for the two levels reporting to Boscia.

Human Resources managers are the heroes of the Lincoln story. To start the hiring process, they immerse themselves in the business by writing Job Scorecards with measurable accountabilities. Then they conduct all the Topgrading steps including serving as tandem partners with hiring managers in Topgrading interviews. When candidates arrange reference calls with their bosses and others, typically the HR managers (who become highly experienced) ask the most questions.

The Results

Prior to launching Topgrading, the company experienced only 25% high performers hired and promoted. This improved steadily and reached 85% companywide in the 4th year.

A Player Senior Managers Hired and Promoted Using Topgrading

A Players and A Potential 30% 94% 99%
Non-A Players 70% 6% 1%

A Player Officers Hired and Promoted Using Topgrading

A Players and A Potential 50% 92% 97%
Non-A Players 50% 8% 3%

The performance of the company tracked perfectly with the steadily improving percentage of A Payers.

lnc stock performance graph

“We want 100% A Players, particularly in management,” says Boscia, “but we hold mangers accountable for a more achievable goal of 85% to promote transparency and trust.”

Measuring results is critical with any essential business process, and measuring the activities – how the methods are implemented – is also crucial. Admits Boscia, “When we measured the activities we found that, way down in the organization, corners were cut and bad hires resulted. Topgrading is not a panacea, and slippage will occur, but it has packed Lincoln with the talent that has turned the company around, which is in everyone’s interest.”

Advice from Lincoln Executives

  • Topgrade from the top down. Any other approach would have severely slowed our progress.
  • Go internal. Companies with thousands of employees are big enough that managers can be trained, so there is progressively less reliance on outside consultants.
  • Re-Topgrade candidates for promotion. Even two-year-old Topgrading conclusions are almost irrelevant if the promotion is to a job with different competencies.
  • Don’t let up. The CEO, HR, and every manager must measure Topgrading results and trace adherence to the discipline. Business pressures can lure people into cutting corners. Topgrading must be reinforced and kept fresh and alive.

Ready to hire more A Players? Topgrading can help you achieve similar results. Contact us today.

The Topgrading tools and processes together are a proven hiring methodology for recruiting, hiring and developing high performing teams. Hire more A players and decrease the number of mis-hires with Topgrading. Contact us to learn more about the Topgrading hiring process and start achieving better hiring results now!

Return to Case Studies

Scroll to Top