By GrowthX Academy mentor, Ksenia Kouchnirenko

Hiring and growing your talent pool is key to success of your company. You can have the best idea in the world, yet without a highly-talented team, bringing that idea to market will be nearly impossible. Most businesses rely on a strong team to execute against a strategic plan and when that team is full of “A” Players, your ability to deliver results will be exponentially better.

Building out a great team is usually comprised of three parts: hiring great talent, identifying and growing great talent, and retaining great talent.

Certain characteristics and behaviors are predictive indicators of performance. Being able to spot them in each of these phases will help you focus on the right individuals for your team.

Hiring great talent – simply said, not simply done. It is challenging to get to know a person in the duration of an interview. Companies of all sizes face the difficult decision of how to find the right candidate and thus use many different interview styles – case-based, puzzle-based, scenario-based, group-based, and many others – to try to identify the right talent. Given the pressure to fill the spot, some managers are even tempted to use the “bring-them-in-and-manage-them-out-if-it-doesn’t-work” approach. However, that is a very costly mistake.

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh once estimated that bad hires had cost the company ” well over $100 million.

One of the first steps to getting the right hire is having a clear understanding of what the role is and the types of backgrounds and skill-sets needed to succeed in this role. The next step is to pull together an effective interview team. You want people from different groups and departments to evaluate the candidate. You want to test technical, business, and leadership skills, while ensuring that the candidate has an opportunity to get a detailed understanding of the role, the company, and the culture. When I was at Intuit, we leveraged the STAR Interviewing technique along with the hiring manager assigning 2-3 key skill sets or traits to each interviewer. Some interviewers would have overlapping skill sets or traits to foster different perspective. This enabled the interviewing team to ask different sets of questions aimed at uncovering the competency level for each key skill set for that role. While this is a great approach to interviewing, it is not necessarily right or manageable for all companies. This type of process can take a long time to roll-out and often requires coordination from a few dedicated individuals to get this right.

Mitchell Harper, 7x Founder, has published a post on how to identify A-players during an interview. In it, he identifies seven questions that can be used to screen out talent. These questions are broad – starting at have they been promoted in the past and finishing up with the types of questions they ask you; however, when applied in an interview scenario, they will serve as a great, quick, way to zero-in on your top candidate.

While it would be ideal if you could hand-select each member of your team, that is not the reality. Given that many switch jobs every 5 years, the task of building out a new team with each role is impossible. Therefore, identifying and growing your top talent quickly is key to accelerating the team’s performance. Ryan Holmes, Hootsuite CEO, has pulled together a list of 5 signs of a “Unicorn” employee. The key skills and attitudes demonstrated in the behaviors of these “unicorns” lead to company, team, and personal success.

These “unicorn” employees are versatile, humble, curious, and can get things done.

Once you have built up an army of “unicorns”, it is important to retain them. There is no single “right” strategy for how to retain your top talent. Culture, company mission and strategy, day-to-day environment, and ability to get things done will all influence how successful you are at retaining top talent.  Taking regular pulse of your organization (not just annual check-ins), can help you identify whether you’re on the right track. When team members leave, you want to talk to them about the reasons behind their departure. This process needs to be thorough and confidential, the point is to learn and not just create a process for the sake of a process.

Managing a team is difficult work; however, it is also very rewarding – especially if you have a team of “unicorns”.

Developing an approach and then iterating it for each of the three stages – hiring, growing, and retaining – will ensure you have a tailored process for building out your “A” team.