Talent density is a measure that helps to identify a ratio of highly skilled members to adequate/poor performers in the team. This concept was firstly introduced in the book “No Rules Rules” by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer. When exploring the Netflix success story, the authors came with an unconventional approach to managing teams. They claim that if assembling a team with abundance of talent, the talent density will be high. Contrariwise, having too many underperformers results in lower talent density and thus drives the productivity of the team down.
In other words, quality always outweighs quantity. This has been especially noticeable during the period of layoffs (the result of the Great Resignation). Many IT executives had to resort to this forced measure, even though it could have led to negative consequences. However, in a good share of cases this move wasn’t disruptive but effective. By freeing their teams from adequate/poor performers, companies were able to increase their talent density which led to higher productivity, collaboration, individual motivation, and drive to self-development.
But why is it so? The studies show that just-adequate-performers tend to negatively impact the cohesion and productivity of a team by expressing constant pessimism and complaints, failing to prioritize tasks, and being unable to walk an extra mile when doing their work. This pretty much toxic atmosphere affects excellent performers, leading to frustration and further quitting. Therefore, every tech business that wants to be successful needs to balance the talent density, decreasing the number of adequate performers in their teams.
Of course, it doesn’t mean that everyone needs to fire half of their employees just to test out this theory. However, bearing in mind this concept can improve your talent acquisition strategy which should be aimed at hiring predominantly excellent performers. In addition to that, you can consider the following aspects to maximize the talent density in your team:
- Perform comprehensive hiring. It’s not uncommon to prioritize hard skills on the job interviews, as they are the backbone of high performance. However, when it comes to working in a team, hard skills are just a fraction that contributes to mutual productivity. Therefore, to recruit more top performers in your team, it’s essential to figure out if candidates possess the right soft skills and mindset to fit your team and culture.
- Devise an employee retention plan. It’s hard to get top talents, but it’s even harder to retain them. Therefore, to keep your employees from changing loyalties, you need to create an attractive EVP (employer value proposition) with generous rewards and perks, provide direct communication, ensure continuous training and self-development, maintain work-life balance, etc.
- Don’t underestimate the attitude. Sometimes high performers get too focused on overachieving their goals, forgetting about a good attitude towards their team members. You shouldn’t close your eyes on someone’s misbehavior, even though they are top stars, as it affects everyone in your team.