In a layoff and hiring freeze environment characterized by fewer resources and cost-cutting, companies must find the diamonds that can shine bright and make a significant impact. These top-tier professionals exhibit behaviors that are the antithesis of recent trends, like acting your wage, Bare Minimum Mondays and quiet quitting.
With white-collar hiring slowing down, companies must find candidates that can make a significant immediate impact. Instead of hiring for the sake of hiring and hoarding talent, companies need to focus on recruiting and retaining rockstar, A+ players.
The Characteristics Of A Superstar
The term “10x employees” is often used in the tech industry to describe engineers who are 10 times more productive than their peers. They are rare people who possess remarkable talents. While an average worker may have one or two things they are good at, a 10-xer is productive with outsized skills, a positive attitude and a long-term vision.
Additionally, these employees are not rockstar jerks. They possess empathy and humility, while encouraging others around them to become the best they can be. These unique people are genuine and authentic, good at problem-solving and rallying the team to meet and exceed expectations. They have both technical and people skills.
Reed Hastings, the cofounder and executive chairman of Netflix, wrote in a CNBC Make It piece about his early days starting the company and the need to procure outstanding talent. Hastings didn’t have the budget to compete in the war for talent against Google, Apple and Facebook.
He was aware that in the tech space, since 1968, there was a reverence for the “rock-star principle.” In a study, nine trainee programmers were tasked with a test of their coding abilities within two hours. The results indicated that the most skilled engineer was 20 times faster at coding and one times quicker at programming than the person with the lowest grades. Finances being tight, Hastings had a choice: hire 10 to 25 average engineers or hire one rockstar and pay significantly more than what he’d pay the others. He concluded, “Over the years, I’ve come to see that the best programmer doesn’t add 10 times the value. He or she adds more like a 100 times.”
Identifying And Retaining 10x-ers
These individuals are exceptionally talented and productive, delivering far more than their job title or résumé might imply. A 10x employee can command the highest end of the salary range for their given profession and can help attract other star players.
Human resources and hiring managers can’t be complacent when pursuing this rare breed. Attracting and retaining 10x employees requires a different approach than that used for regular employees. They must offer a compelling value proposition for accepting a job with the organization. As these folks are in high demand, they have their choice of which company to work with. It stands to reason that the high performers should be well-compensated, provided with internal growth, awarded stock grants and options, flexible work accommodations, great benefits and an uplifting work culture free from micromanagers, toxic bosses and lackadaisical co-workers.
Leadership must look for candidates that hold themselves to the highest standards, take pride in their work and offer a track record of success and high commendation from former employers and colleagues.
The End Of Aggressive Hiring And Excess
With a challenging and fragile economy, businesses realize that now is not the time to get distracted by extraneous activities and “fun” amenities that take time away from doing the actual work.
Silicon Valley venture capitalist Keith Rabois shed light on the bloat in companies stating that managers made vanity hires to build their own internal fiefdoms. These employees didn’t have much work to do other than attend meetings, engage in fake work and create content around “day in the life of” TikTok videos. Executives believed that the good times would never end and aggressively hired workers. In hindsight, they were too optimistic. Layoff announcements currently dominate the conversation around the labor market. Nearly 170,000 tech employees were let go in 2023. The downsizing has cut across office workers in tech, finance and media, in what is deemed a white-collar recession.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg pointed out the proliferation of middle managers within the social media giant. Zuckerberg claimed that it hampered innovation and growth, and caused costs to rise. In response, Meta is making 2023 the “year of efficiency,” which is polite corporate jargon for gutting highly paid managers that haven’t produced much value. Zuckerberg said, “I don’t think you want a management structure that’s just managers managing managers, managing managers, managing managers, managing the people who are doing the work.”