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3 Easy Ways to Identify Top Performing Employees

Rachel Reed
8/6/20 12:13 PM

Talented employees are “force multipliers.” In fact, simply adding a star performer to a team boosts the effectiveness of other team members by 5-15%. Hiring quality talent and knowing when and how to spot and nurture top employees can set the future of your business up for long-term success. Top-performing employees continuously raise the bar for achievement within the organization and set the bar for other employees to follow. Additionally, several studies show stronger financial performance in companies that make proportionally greater investments in identifying and developing top talent.

HBR identified three markers for spotting quality talent who can bring significant contributions to the organization and should be invested in. The payoff from retaining top talent increases as a function of job complexity. Talented managers, front-line sales representatives, and senior leadership roles increasingly outperform their average counterparts by 85% and up to more than double their contributions. 

Three ways to identify top performing employees 

  1. Drive & Motivation
    Much like the factors that characterize an “actively engaged employee,” top performing employees actively seek out ways to improve their performance, are enthusiastic and dedicated to their work, consistently participate in peer recognition, and are motivated to continuously learn and sharpen their skill set. These employees also work well within teams and find new and better ways to improve the company.

  2. Social Skills
    Top employees can be identified by looking at their role in the context of organizational values and culture. If recognition is part of your organizational culture, which values do employees embody the most? Do some employees recognize others more frequently? Employees who easily manage themselves and their roles within groups and teams are likely top performers. This kind of adaptive approach to working within different or challenging environments demonstrates the qualities of a force multiplier whose work ethic and ambition can serve as motivation and a means for other employees to achieve.

  3. Cognitive Ability
    Employees who demonstrate the ability to not only perform the job at hand, but the willingness and initiative to learn and grow show signs of high achievement. Top performing employees are agile thinkers with adaptive and strategic mindsets, creativity, and a knack for systems thinking. 


Whether it’s through an established recognition program or a look at how employees step up and strive to do their best, identifying top performing employees is a simple way to start hiring and nurturing talent that will disproportionately shape a high performing culture.

Download: How Employee Recognition Influences Attitude & Behavior in the Workplace 

employee recognition attitudes and behavior download-1

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