How to Keep Your TopGrading A-Players

By Nicole Hradek

Congratulations!  The search is over!  You went through the long process of TopGrading to hire the right person for the job, and you now have another A-Player to add to your A-team roster!  Finding that person took months.  Keeping that person is going to take years. 

While learning more about the TopGrading hiring process and the different types of A-Players, it got me classroom-510228_1280thinking about my own professional life.  I’ve only switched careers once (twice if you count the five years I spent at my high school/college part-time retail job).  I recently went from being a high school math teacher in the North Carolina public school system to a Client Services Guru at Rhythm Systems.  My father has been a teacher in Ohio for 35 years. I recently learned a client of ours taught for seven years in Pennsylvania.  I only survived four.  I have many success stories from the classroom, but I could not stay another year if I wanted to keep my sanity.  I was miserable most mornings, and it was torturous when I had to stay late to go to a staff meeting when I still didn’t know about half the staff and more than half didn’t know who I was. I had to convince a fellow teacher once that I was a teacher and not a student. The saddest part is that this same teacher observed me teaching an entire 90-minute class period which also includes one-on-one pre- and post-conferences, and she still didn’t know who I was! 

Many teachers leave the classroom and go into the corporate world.  Many teachers were part of a different world before they managed a classroom.  Many of my current colleagues have changed industries within the business world before Rhythm.  No matter what our passion is now, we all have something in common - our last place of employment couldn’t keep us.

What would have made us stay?  Why did we leave?  What are we doing now that makes us happy with where we work?  If you run your own company, you might be wondering how to keep your best employees happily working for you.  In the spirit of Rhythm’s brand promise of simplicity, I tried to create the “how to” with four simple steps.

1) Sell the Culture, Not the Compensation

I think this is the most important step to keep your A-Players on your team. That’s why it’s number one! Creating an amazing workplace environment makes the next three steps incredibly simple.  Having a great culture comes from your core values and core purpose.  If you find and hire A-Players who believe in the same things you believe in, then keeping that great environment should be easy.

During our Rhythm Systems rebranding celebration, we went around the room and shared our victories. My victory was (and still is) “I love my job.”  Then, of course, I started crying because I had never worked in an environment where I felt celebrated for doing what made me happy, and that feeling of appreciation was overwhelming.  When I found Rhythm Systems during my job search, their core values locked me into really wanting to work there because I thought, “Those are my core values, too!”  They were shared with me before the interviews, I was asked about them in the interviews, and they are posted in the office.  The core values are everywhere!  If school systems demonstrated Rhythm Systems' core values, then, honestly, I’d probably still be teaching.  We would all probably still be where we were if they also believed in and demonstrated what we value most.

2) Give a Great First Day

If you don’t celebrate a new hire’s first day or you haven’t read Chris Cosper’s blog, How Do You Welcome New People to Your Team?, you need to! This is part of reinforcing and selling your culture - it’s time to show your new A-Player how you actually live the culture you were bragging about during the interview process.  Even if you don’t have great first days, it’s never too late to start.  Your current A-Players would be the perfect team to give one. I will never forget my first day, and I am always excited when I get to help give one!

Before my great first day, I was very nervous that the company may not turn out to be everything I learned and was desperate to be a part of throughout the hiring process.  Experiencing that great first day reassured me that this company and its culture is legit, set in stone, and thrives in the hearts and minds of everyone who works here. I’m still sort of waiting to wake up from this dream. I’m one of those people who feels like nothing this good could last this long and anticipates the impending doom, but it’ll be six months in January, and the dream still lives!

3) Set Clear Goals/Use a Job Scorecard

The dream still lives because I have very clear goals and responsibilities.  On my first great day, a portion of it was spent going through my job scorecard.  My responsibilities are clearly written with success criteria (yes, my responsibilities have red-yellow-green success criteria).  It’s printed on paper that I can easily refer back to so I can make sure I’m doing what I’m supposed to do and not slacking or going over boundaries in any area.

It even helps with making sure I’m not asked to take on too much.  Having that clear reference takes away so much stress.  I was given tools to face challenges and be successful.   

4) Get to Know Your A-Players' Aspirations

One aspect of being a member of such a great culture is that people know who you are - and still love you!  As I mentioned earlier, there were so many teachers who did not know who I was (which I don’t understand, didn’t the kids talk about their favorite teacher?).  There were about 60 teachers, and I knew my department plus a couple of classroom neighbors.  It’s not because we were such a huge organization that there were too many people to know, it’s that I was too scared to get to know them (the kids did talk about those teachers), and they didn’t bother to get to know me.  We hardly did any team-building exercises.  We must have been too busy making lesson plans and grading. 

My colleagues at Rhythm Systems live all over the United States, and I’m learning more and more about them every day without even seeing them!  Our co-founders, Patrick and Cindy, are passionate about “Keeping Smart” (a core value), and we use our learning opportunities to get smarter and to get to know each other on a deeper level.  I am learning about their aspirations. They are learning mine.  I’m learning mine!

I feel like I’m part of a team, making an impact on my team, and most foreign to me, getting recognition from my team.  This isn’t because I came into this new role knowing exactly how to do the job.  I had no clue what to expect or if I would actually find true all that I believed through the TopGrading interview process (which I found out I could).  It is because my team helps me, trains me, allows me to make mistakes, allows me to learn from my mistakes, and celebrates my victories.  Why would I want to leave a place where I am genuinely appreciated?


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Nicole Hradek


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