How to Identify Top Performers in Your Company

According to the 20-60-20 rule, 20 percent of workers are top talent, 60 percent are average and 20 percent are weak performers. However, Herman Aguinis and Ernest O’Boyle of Indiana University and the University of Iowa presented an alternate view, the power law distribution. They theorized that “instead of a massive group of average performers dominating … through sheer numbers, a small group of elite performers [dominate] through massive performance.”

The power law distribution is more obvious in sports and entertainment. On a football team, would you rather have Aaron Rodgers or the third string quarterback from another club? What if you were shooting a movie? How much value would Julia Roberts add to a production versus a less well-known, but also talented actress?

Regardless of which model you choose, the take-away is the same. Top performers are invaluable to an organization. Unfortunately, often they are unrecognized, undervalued and under-rewarded. Hiring, identifying and retaining the best employees is crucial for your company’s success.

So, what should you look for? The most valuable employees usually have a combination of qualities that fall into the following three categories.


We all know someone who is very good at sports, a natural leader or mechanically inclined. Some people possess raw talent or an innate skill set that allows them to do a job better than their peers. Of course, talent alone is not enough. There are plenty of underdog stories that prove an inspired individual can outperform someone who is more gifted.


A top performer not only wants to do a job, but also to do it well. They produce high-quality work, innovate and acquire new skills. These individuals look to solve problems and learn from mistakes. They are creative, flexible and relentless in their pursuit of goals.

A Positive Attitude

Even with talent and motivation, an employee who is not a team player ultimately will detract from an organization. A positive outlook and enthusiasm are key ingredients. Although a top performer may be a vibrant leader and the “life of the party,” extroversion is not a requirement. Sometimes the most valuable employees are quiet and reserved. In either case, the top performers are connectors with good communication skills. They build strategic relationships to get the job done, mentor co-workers and establish themselves as the go-to people when problems or challenges arise.

Is your company looking to improve the quality of its workforce? Or, are you looking for an employee to take your team to the next level? Learn more about how the professional recruiters at Aventure Staffing and Professional Placement locate top talent. Our offices are located throughout Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota. Contact Us today!

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