Top Performing Employees (5%) Produce 26% of a Company’s Total Output Here’s 3 Steps You Can Take to Hire More Top Performing Employees

Your Top Performing Employees (5%) Produce 26% of Your Company’s Total Output.(1) If you run the math on this formula, top performers produce 400+% more than an average performer.  This means that you lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost output every time you end up hiring an average performer instead of a top performer.

What can you do to hire more top performing employees?  Take these 3 steps.

1.     Define Top Performer

Clearly define how top performers look different than average performers.  What does a top performer do differently than an average performer?  How do they behave differently?  How do they think differently?  What clues or insights do they “see” that average performers miss?

Be careful not to automatically assume that the best performing employee on your team is a top performer.  Think of a top performer as an employee that delivers “best in the industry” performance.  Maybe you have one or more top performers.  Maybe you don’t.

2.     Use Highly Predictive Criteria

The qualifications most companies use to evaluate candidates are not very predictive of on the job performance.  A job posting might say, “ten years of experience with a degree in…”  Then, during the interview process, the interviewer asks the candidate about their ten years of experience and why they chose that degree.

The science of human behavior gives us a far more predictive formula.  Knowledge and skills are important.  But, knowledge and skills will never make up for a lack of brain wiring (brain chemistry).  Our brain wiring is expressed as talent themes. 

A talent theme is a naturally occurring pattern of thought, feeling or behavior.  The presence of a specific talent theme is more predictive of on the job success than any other factors. If the job you are hiring for requires someone who can persuade people, find a candidate who is persuading people all day long even when it’s not necessary.  That person can’t help it.  It’s in their wiring and they do it naturally without even thinking about it.  A list of the 34 talent themes is available here.(2)

3.     Upgrade Your Interviewing Skills

The science of human behavior teaches us something very valuable in the interview process.  When you ask a person a question, they display the true emotion they are feeling for a fraction of a second before they artificially put up the emotion they want you to see.

It’s only a fraction of a second, but you actually use this skill every day.  This is the skill you use to know that your children are lying.  You also know, when you walk in a room, that people have been talking about you.  Some people call it intuition or gut instinct.  The point is that if you ask a question and watch carefully, you’ll see the candidate’s true emotion.  With practice, you can become very good at this skill.

For instance, ask a candidate, “Have you ever been fired from a job?”  What you might see is a brief expression of fear followed by a response, “No, I’ve never been fired.”  This sequence doesn’t automatically mean the candidate is lying, but it means there is more to the story.  You might follow up with, “OK, have you ever been close to being fired?  Keep asking questions.  You’re getting closer to the real story.

Where this skill is most helpful is when a candidate is telling you what they think you want to hear.  If they say they like managing people, ask them, “Why?”  Ask them how managing people makes them feel.  Ask them for examples.  If their eyes widen, they get more animated and they give several examples of situations where they got satisfaction from helping their employees grow and develop, you’re seeing evidence of a true talent theme.


So, do you want to hire a 45% employee (far below average), a 100% employee (average) or a 400% employee (top performer)?  Get better at defining what you’re looking for.  Use criteria that is far more predictive of on the job performance.  And, upgrade your interviewing skills so know what you’re hiring.



1.      O'Boyle, E., Jr., & Aguinis, H. (2012). Top Performers Produce 4x More Output and Higher Quality Referrals. Personnel Psychology. Retrieved from

2.      Gallup, Inc. (2012, September 22). The Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0 Technical Report: Development and Validation. Retrieved from



Jim Connolly is Founder & CEO of OrgEx, Inc.  OrgEx, Inc. helps companies systematically apply principles of human behavior to improve operational performance and financial results. 

 Jim is a sought-after speaker who uses humor to challenge the thinking of his audiences.  Jim understands how people think and uses that knowledge to equip, cajole and inspire audiences.  He has spoken to audiences as large as 1,100 people.

 In his consulting practice, Jim helps clients with their most pressing people challenges, including:

  • Eliminating hiring mistakes
  • Reducing employee turnover
  • Underperforming teams – sales teams, project teams, leadership teams
  • Leader performance challenges
  • Resistance to organizational change efforts that are necessary to move the company forward
  • Systematically building toward record-setting and industry leading performance

 Whether it’s a company-wide issue or working with a specific department or team, we know how human behavior works so we know how to improve organizational performance and financial results.  Find out more at


Jim Connolly