How To Assess High Performers

March 31, 2023

how to assess high performers

High performers bring considerable value to a business, but they can be both difficult to find and hard to retain.

This article explores what makes an employee a high performer, how to assess them both during and after the hiring process, and how to keep them loyal to your organization.

What makes an employee a high performer?

High performers are individuals who consistently exceed expectations and deliver exceptional results in their roles. They possess a combination of skills, aptitudes, and qualities that enable them to excel in their work.

These may include technical and specialized skills relevant to their job, excellent communication and interpersonal skills, a strong work ethic, attention to detail, adaptability, problem-solving ability, and a positive attitude.

High performers also tend to be self-motivated and have a strong drive to succeed. They continually seek opportunities to learn and grow, and are committed to achieving their goals and contributing to the success of their organization.

High performance vs high potential

High performance and high potential are two concepts that are often used interchangeably but have distinct meanings.

High performance refers to an employee's ability to consistently achieve or exceed their performance goals, demonstrating proficiency in their current role. High potential, on the other hand, refers to an employee's ability to grow and succeed in future roles with greater responsibility and complexity.

While high performers excel in their current role, high potentials are likely to excel in future leadership positions. Both are a valuable asset to any business, and in many cases employers will find their highest performers also have high potential.

Why is it important to identify high performers?

how to assess high performers

High performers are typically the most productive, efficient, and effective employees in an organization. They consistently achieve their goals and objectives, produce high-quality work, and contribute to the success of the business. By identifying high performers, employers can ensure these employees are recognized and rewarded for their contributions, which can help to motivate and retain them.

High performers can also serve as role models and leaders within an organization. They can inspire other employees to achieve their full potential, which can lead to a more engaged and productive workforce.

Finally, identifying high performers can help employers make informed decisions about training, development, and career advancement. By understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the workforce, employers can provide targeted support and resources to help employees reach their full potential, leading to improved business outcomes and increased employee satisfaction.

How to assess high performers during the hiring process

It can be a challenge to identify high performers in the hiring process, as a candidate’s true capability is hard to determine through the skills and experience listed on their resume.

Employers should therefore adopt a more comprehensive and nuanced approach that goes beyond traditional methods.

Use pre-employment assessments

Pre-employment assessments are a valuable tool when it comes to identifying high performers. They provide objective and standardized measures of a candidate's skills, knowledge, and abilities, which can help predict their potential for success in a particular role.

They also offer insights into a candidate's personality traits, work style, and values, which are important factors in determining job fit.

There are several types of pre-employment assessments that recruiters can use to identify high performers, including:

Aptitude tests - these measure the cognitive abilities essential for high performance, like problem-solving, critical thinking, and decision-making.

Personality questionnaires - these explore a candidate's behavior, character and work preferences, providing insights into how they will perform in specific roles and fit within the organization's culture.

Skills assessments - these can be used to measure both the soft skills that contribute to high performance, and the specific technical skills required for success in any given role.

Situational judgment tests - these assessments measure a candidate's ability to handle work-related situations and make effective decisions.

By using a variety of assessments, recruiters can gain a more comprehensive understanding of a candidate's potential for success and ensure they’re selecting the best person for the job.

Conduct competency-based interviews

Competency-based interviews are designed to assess a candidate's skills, behaviors, and abilities by asking specific questions related to the job requirements. These interviews focus on the competencies or skills necessary for success in the role and seek evidence of past behaviors that demonstrate them.

To conduct a competency-based interview, the interviewer should:

  • Identify the competencies required for success in the role.

  • Create a list of questions that assess each competency.

  • Ask open-ended questions that prompt the candidate to provide specific examples of their behavior and actions.

  • Use follow-up questions to clarify and gather more information about the candidate's responses.

  • Score each response based on the level of competency demonstrated.

Some examples of competencies to look for in high performers include:

  • Communication skills

  • Problem-solving abilities

  • Decision-making skills

  • Leadership skills

  • Teamwork and collaboration

  • Adaptability and flexibility

  • Attention to detail

  • Customer focus

  • Results orientation

How to assess high performers post-hire

Assessing high performers post-hire is critical to ensuring they continue to deliver exceptional results and remain engaged and motivated in their role.

Set goals and OKRs

Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) is a goal setting framework that provides a structured and transparent way to set goals and track progress towards them

OKRs consist of specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) objectives and key results that help to focus efforts and align individual and team goals with the organization's strategic objectives.

Setting goals and OKRs not only provides a clear roadmap for employees to follow, it's also a highly effective way to measure performance.

Using a software tool to monitor goals and OKRs can be particularly beneficial as it streamlines the process. The tool allows managers to easily set specific objectives, define key results, and track progress in real-time, as well as providing insightful employee performance metrics.

Use a performance management tool

A performance management tool is another form of technology that can greatly assist in the ongoing assessment of employee productivity, contribution and development.

These tools offer a range of features, like performance review planning, goal tracking, feedback and recognition, and analytics and reporting.

Using such as tool can help employers and HR managers to:

  • Simplify the performance management process and ensure that it is consistent and transparent across the organization.

  • Provide real-time visibility into employee performance, goals, and objectives, and identify areas for improvement.

  • Facilitate regular check-ins and performance reviews to provide feedback, recognition, and coaching.

  • Identify high performers and provide opportunities for training and development to support career growth.

Ask them to self-evaluate

A self-evaluation is a tool that allows employees to assess their own performance, provide feedback on their strengths and weaknesses, and set goals for future improvement.

Asking employees to self-evaluate can be beneficial in several ways. First, self-evaluations can offer a unique perspective on an employee's performance that may not be captured through traditional evaluations, providing first hand insights into their own work style, preferences, and challenges. Second, self-evaluations can be empowering for employees, allowing them to take ownership of their own performance and career development.

Finally, self-evaluations can facilitate more meaningful conversations between employees and their managers during performance reviews. When employees have already identified their strengths and areas for improvement, it can help to make the review process more focused and productive.

Use assessments

Employee assessments aren’t just useful for the recruitment process. Using them post-hire can provide a more objective and data-driven approach to performance management.

Assessments give employers an insightful and standardized view of an employee's abilities and potential. This can be used to identify areas for improvement, provide targeted training and development opportunities, and make more informed decisions about promotions and career advancement.

As well as being used to measure individual performance, assessments can also provide valuable insights into team dynamics and the overall strengths and weaknesses of an organization's workforce.

How to retain high performers

how to assess high performers

Ongoing assessment is just one part of effective talent management. As well as identifying and monitoring high performers, employers need to put strategies in place to retain them.

Offer training and development opportunities

Offering training and development opportunities to high performing employees is an effective way to retain your best talent. These opportunities can include:

  • Leadership development programs

  • Technical training or certifications

  • Soft skills training, such as communication or time management

  • Mentoring or coaching programs

  • Cross-functional training or job shadowing

Providing these opportunities can motivate employees to continue to develop their skills and knowledge, while also making them feel valued and invested in by their employer.

High performing employees are often driven to continuously learn and develop, and providing opportunities to do so can help to keep them engaged and committed to their work and to the organization.

Recognize and celebrate their achievements

Recognizing and celebrating achievements is important because it reinforces positive behaviors and motivates employees to continue to perform at a high level. It also demonstrates to high performers that their work is valued, helping to foster a culture of appreciation and increased loyalty.

There are several ways employers can do this, for example:

  • Publicly recognize achievements in team meetings or company-wide communications.

  • Provide rewards such as bonuses, promotions, or additional benefits.

  • Celebrate milestones or significant achievements with team events or outings.

  • Provide opportunities for high performers to share their knowledge or present their work to others.

Ask for feedback

Asking for feedback from high performing employees is an essential tool for employers to understand their needs, expectations, and satisfaction with the work environment. By acting on employee feedback, employers can show their commitment to improving the work environment and retaining top talent.

It can also help identify any issues or challenges within the organization and provide an opportunity to make changes that benefit all employees.

By actively seeking feedback, employers can create a culture of open communication, where employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and opinions. This, in turn, can lead to increased employee engagement, productivity, and overall business success.

Key takeaways

High performers are a valuable asset to any business. They possess exceptional skills, drive, and determination that can help organizations achieve their goals and stay ahead of the competition.

Identifying and retaining high performers can be challenging, but it's essential for business success. Providing opportunities for growth, recognition, and meaningful work can help keep high performers engaged and motivated.

Ultimately, businesses that prioritize the development and retention of their high performers will reap the benefits of a more productive and innovative workforce.