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Recruit and retain world class talent with these tips from HVACR

Originally published
Originally published: 12/1/2019

The right hire can set a new standard for success in your company and guide a path to amazing growth and profitability for the rest of the team.


Every professional sports team knows that it takes world-class talent to produce consistent results. That’s why No. 1 Draft Picks are so prized. A world-class talent could potentially take a team to titleship status.

In your organization, one world-class talent can change your entire business game. The right hire could set a “new” standard for success; and guide the path to amazing growth and profitability for the rest of the team. I’ve seen this happen to dozens of companies in our consulting business that we have the privilege to coach.

Here are six keys to recruiting and retaining world-class talent.

1. Define It

What does “world-class talent” mean to your company? My father in-law is a legend in college football. Coach Michael Tolleson, or “Tolly,” recruited and trained some of the most dominating tackles during his time as a coach.

His list of athletes includes:

  • Anthony “Booger” McFarland, a first-round draft pick and a Super Bowl winner.
  • Shaun Rogers, a second-round draft pick and a three-time Pro Bowl athlete.
  • Casey Hampton, a first-round draft pick, two-time Super Bowl winner and five-time Pro Bowl athlete.

Tolly’s tackles are legendary for being fast, big, strong, tough and smart! This isn’t an easy combination to find. You have to look very hard to find a player that weighs 320 pounds and can run the 40-yard dash in 5.3 seconds.

Tolly recruited and trained world-class athletes throughout 40 years of coaching. He was able to do this at small programs and big programs. Tolly’s success in recruiting starts with one very simple concept: If you want world-class talent, you have to know what it looks like.

Coach Tolly defined the characteristics and traits of a world-class tackle. He made a “blue book” of the high school athletes that matched his standard and he focused his attention on those athletes.

“Coaching and business are all relative,” Tolleson says. “You have to find the kid (recruit) that will work best in your program and then you have to convince him to join your team.”

Because of coach Tolly’s ability to lead talent, he was named the Special Teams Coordinator at The University of Texas. This job was in addition to his role as the tackles coach.

“You have to adjust your players to meet the needs of the game,” Tolleson says.

Tolly applied his same principle of defining world-class talent for his Special Teams positions. In 2009, Coach Tolly was named the Special Teams Coach of the Year.

During his time as a coach, Coach Tolly lived by his principle of defining world-class talent.

You need to take the time to define your standards for talent in your company. These definitions will provide you with the guidelines for hiring.

As a training and consulting organization, we define world-class talent with robust job descriptions.

A good job description will include the following points:

  • A Simple Definition of the Position.
  • List of Key Result Areas.
  • List of Key Performance Indicators.
  • List of Key Culture Characteristics.
  • Description of Pay Structure.

We also separate job descriptions by skill levels. We refer to them as Level 1-3. With each increased level, there are increases in expectations and rewards.

2. Hire Slow

Knowing why a “slow” hire is critical to having a successful hiring. A fast hire is usually a response to some negative occurrence in your company. Fast hires happen in emergency situations and those emergencies blind you to problems.

Inside of your company, you need to incorporate key steps that your potential hire must complete before they become a team member. Think of these steps as speed bumps in the road. Each step forces you to slow down and pay attention to your definition of world-class talent.

At Service Excellence Training, we use a seven-step approach. This approach slows us down and ensures that we make a good hire. It’s the same approach that we teach our clients.

Step 1: Do we like each other?

Your first meeting should be a “get to know each other meeting.” You are answering the question, “Do I like this person?”

Step 2: Complete a DISC Profile and Background Check

A good profile and background check are necessary to assure cultural alignment.

Step 3: Skill Check

During this interview process, you are going to check the stated ability of the person against reality.

Step 4: Check References

Reference checking will provide you with the information only a past employer and personal reference can give.

Step 5: The “Tough Interview”

The Tough Interview is designed to test the level of desire and fight in the candidate.

Step 6: Family Meeting

Your candidate can be awesome, but if he is partnered with an unsupportive person, then he won’t be successful.

Step 7: Close the Deal

This is the time to negotiate the work agreement, get this person trained and put him to work.

3. Pay Above Market

Top talent wants the best pay. Top talent will also receive the best pay, even if they have to go somewhere else to get it. That’s why it’s important that you are able to pay above the marketplace and provide the best benefits.

Paying above the market requires that you have a smart business plan that includes the following:

A Profitable Pricing Model. To provide greater employee incentives, you are going to have to invest in a benefits package. These incentives need to be a part of a profitable business model.

My suggestion to building out a profitable business model is to start with your desired profit margin first. Decide in advance how many cents per dollar you want to keep. Then, work backwards from your desired bottom-line profit.

A Successful Service and Sales Training System. According to the 2018 LinkedIn Workforce Learning Report, 93 percent of team members would stay longer if their company invested in training.

Top talent demands to be trained. The best in the business see training as the path to their personal and professional development.

What’s more, 57 percent of employees desire the “soft skills” training over the “hard skills.”

World-class talent desires training in Communication, Leadership, Sales and Management.

A Solid Marketing System. The goal of marketing is to create the ideal conversations with your clients. In other words, marketing gets your producers in front of the right people.

World-class talent wants opportunities. A solid marketing system will keep your talent in front of opportunities and will boost retention.

4. Money Isn’t Everything

Money is not the only motivator for world-class talent. It’s not even in first place. For most top talented individuals, they assume money is a given to their skill sets. Therefore, they look for companies that match up to their world-class mindset.

For top talent, culture and teamwork are key to long-term success and happiness.

According to article Why Culture Matters at Work, three of the most desired qualities of a workplace are:

  • Feeling valued
  • Being part of a team
  • Ability to learn new things and given the resources to do so

5. Use Bonus Programs

Highly successful individuals need to feel like they are achieving. They are accustomed to winning in their life and receiving rewards and recognition.

The best bonus systems utilize the psychological persuasion components of reward and recognition. While both are important, you may be surprised to find out that the recognition is more critical than the reward.

6. Ownership Mentality

The ownership mentality is one of the critical key differences between world-class talent and average producers.

World-class talent thinks about every opportunity and the impact that it has on the company. The consideration of others is part of their team nature. Cultivating this mindset inside of your company can help reduce such problems as:

  • material waste
  • gossiping
  • time theft
  • pettiness

When your people begin to think like shareholders in your company, then headaches go down and profitability goes up. Retention and recruiting also become much easier.

Hiring world-class talent is within your reach. With a little bit of adjustment to your recruiting and hiring system, you can add world-class talent immediately to your labor force. Just think about what that could do for your business!

In your organization, one world-class talent hire can change your entire business game. The right hire could set a “New” standard for success; and guide the path to amazing growth and profitability for the rest of the team. I’ve seen this happen to dozens of companies in our consulting business that we have the privilege to coach.

Recruiting and Hiring world-class talent is process driven. Which means that anyone can do it. Your next world-class recruit is at the end of implementing this Six Step Process. Good luck and go get them!

 EDITOR’S NOTE: If you would like more information on the 7 Step Hiring Process, you can find the related content here:


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