ROCKSTARS – Finding, Attracting & Keeping Them

By Jerry Randecker & Chris Sitter

We’re not sure how long the term “Rockstar” has been used to describe employees that are considered to be the best. The term has become so widely accepted that a “google” search of the term “Rockstar employees” will bring you pages of listings by recruiters telling us they only recruit “Rockstars” or they have incorporated the term “Rockstar” into their company name.

At JSA we hear the term often and so this article is devoted to some suggestions for improving your own ability to attract top performers – Rockstars – to your company.

Prove to high quality candidates that you only hire the best. The best way to attract a “Rockstar” is to be one yourself. Equally important is to show that he or she will not be the first Team member with a desire and track record to be the best. If you are saying to yourself….I don’t have a Team like that…then the old adage “you’ve got to start somewhere” applies.

It goes without saying that A-players want to work with, challenge and be challenged by other A-players. If you find a candidate that is satisfied to be the number one player – you probably aren’t talking to a Rockstar. A top performer is confident in their capabilities but also wants to be surrounded by others who will challenge them and help them grow.

Demonstrate to the candidate(s) that you know your business and customers very well. When was the last time you surveyed your top customers to ask A) Why they do business with you and B) Why your products and services are better than the competition? It is a real confidence builder for a candidate to hear, in the interview, that you recently spoke to 10+ customers to ask these specific questions. Rockstars want to know that the current company leaders have a clear understanding of their customers’ expectations and reasons for doing business with them.

Be clear about the current opportunity and be equally clear about the potential for career growth in your company. If you can offer no potential career growth then you are faced with hiring the Rockstar as only a mercenary. In this situation his/her services will often come at a higher price than if they can see a path for career growth. You also need to be concerned that they will more likely entertain other opportunities outside of your company that either offer a better career path – or more money.

Be careful to not over-promise the growth potential for the future. Rockstars are seeking opportunities to work with leaders who are optimistic. Over-estimating the size of potential growth is acceptable …Over-promising is never acceptable. Credibility will be enhanced if you can provide examples of how others in your company have enjoyed increases in responsibility directly tied to success in their previous position.

Present them with a challenge. Top Performers seek opportunities to work on challenging problems. A “caretaker” role is not what motivates them at the beginning of each day. Highlight new challenges that you plan to tackle and make sure they know you are looking for managers who are willing to tackle the big problems head-on.

How Do I find a Rockstar? In an ideal world the Rockstars are looking for you. Your company’s reputation with customers, current employees and industry associates can be a large determining factor on how hard you have to look to find Rockstars that want to work with you. As mentioned earlier, you can always attract top talent by paying top dollar but the preferred method is to offer a work environment that is challenging, rewarding and progressive.

Whether you call them Top Performers, Key Management or Rockstars is not important. What is important is that you give some thought to what you can do within your department or company to find, attract and retain Rockstars. Have each member of your Senior Management Team remain on the lookout for high quality talent that can be attracted into your company to enhance your overall management strength. And periodically review the potential of your up and coming “musicians” who demonstrate the ability to improve your Team harmony.  They also may be on the verge of becoming Rockstars so you want to keep them in your Band – not let them go to your competition. Whether your goal is to add or retain “Rockstars” for your Team we hope the above ideas will help you to achieve your goal.