Creating an HR A-team

A team
Illustration: Studio Fee Overbeeke

Selecting a new team member

The last weeks I was interviewing candidates for senior positions in our global HR team. As always, it is somewhat of one step back to take two steps forward. I enlarge the team to get more done and increase our impact, but because of the time spend on finding new people, we get less done short term. Reflecting one day on the train home, I came to the conclusion that with my work style the maximum team size I can manage is five.

What is my ideal team size?

I like to work as a playing captain, and as a consequence I spend around 15% of my time with each of my team members, working on our projects. Five times 15 is 75. Than I have 25% of my time left. As my boss has the same style, I spend 15% of my time with him and the senior team. The remaining 10% I have to spend on Twitter and other social media to keep my profile high. The question is how I can increase the impact of my team, given these limitations.

The productivity of A-players

Next day I was reading an article in the Harvard Business Review about the productivity of A-players. The box below comes out of the article.

Star Players

Out of: “Making Star Teams Out of Star Players”, HBR Jan-Feb 2013

Of course the most obvious way to get more leverage out of my team is to hire “A” Players. In the past I have been very lucky, and I certainly think my current team consists of A players.

With an A-team you can get a lot more done

If my team members are let’s say four times more productive that the average HR professional, and let’s assume I am also four times as productive than my team that looks like a team of six is in fact a team with the power of 24! (Alas 16 today, because of the vacancies). The additional advantage of a small team with “A” players that you lose less time meeting and discussing, as the team is small, and the members are very productive, so their processing and multi-tasking capabilities are high.

How to measure the productivity of HR-professionals?

But how to measure the productivity of HR professionals? How can I be sure that I am interviewing an “A” player? Would it not be perfect if I can find someone who is maybe eight times as productive as the average?
What should I look for? I am afraid in the end you can only really judge it, when you have seen people in action. Whether you can measure it clearly or not, the conclusion is clear: do not compromise. Adding an “A” player to the team is essential, also to keep the other “A” players motivated. “A” players like to work with “A” players.

Of course there are other ways I can increase the impact, like adding an extra layer. Than potentially (again, let’s assume all the “A” players are on average four times as productive) I can extend the team to 26 people with an impact of 104. Wait and see!

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