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Develop or Hire? Meeting the Challenge of Sourcing Top Talent in the Post-Covid World

The race is on.

As the global community shows signs of emerging from the pandemic, many businesses are experiencing a new sense of hope, urgency, and hunger to return to “business as usual”.

Openness to hiring more remote workers has dramatically expanded the talent pool to hire from. With that, there’s a real need to hire and onboard the best talent available – and quickly.

For many in charge of hiring strategy, the words of Steve Jobs of Apple ring true: “Go after the cream of the cream. A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players.”1

But having an edge in the post-pandemic economy will take more than adding a few “star players”.

The Allure (And The Limits) Of Outside Talent

It’s easy to understand why organizations want more top performers onboard.

Statistically, these persons are stand out hires not just because they’re better than the competition, but because they’re better by a wide margin. According to a recent estimate, top performers produce 20 to 30 times more than the average employee in their fields.2

They’re also easier to manage and motivate. Unlike average workers who may need (a few) nudges in the right direction, high performing workers naturally have a clearer sense of direction, automatically knowing what course to take to complete a project.3

Top performing hires also tend to be:

  • Self-motivated
  • Good decision-makers when it comes to their work & team members
  • Understanding of business needs
  • Good at developing & implementing new ideas
  • Exceptional at professional relationships
  • More likely to become mentors and trainers in the workplace

Clearly, there is tremendous benefit that comes with sourcing more individuals who fit this description – so much so, that any organization looking to grow would be wise to prioritize finding solutions to better identifying top performers in the hiring process.

But HR beware – investing solely in hiring more top performers is no fix-all.

For one, top performers aren’t always easy to come by. In the past ten years, the global talent shortage has nearly doubled. According to one study, more than half (54%) of the international businesses polled reported skill shortages; businesses in 36 of 44 countries also reported attracting talent seemed to be harder now than it was as late as 2018.4 In the United States, a whopping 82 percent of Fortune 500 companies don’t believe they recruit highly talented people. 5

There’s also no guarantee that they’ll stay in one place.

In an extensive survey of more than 12,000 executives, only 7 percent thought they would be able to keep their best talent in the coming years.5

The reason is simple – the best workers expect more. Often their loyalty is bought through motivators that are more complex than salary.6 Thus, when faced with challenges like less-than-effective management, lack of desired engagement, or an absence of opportunities to grow within the organization, they may quickly (and quietly) pack up and take their talents elsewhere.

Clearly, there are more than a few reasons why forward-thinking leaders should consider a hybrid approach – not just drawing top performers from outside, but systems for retaining and developing new high performers from within.

Acres of Diamonds

In the popular business parable “Acres of Diamonds”, a farmer sells his farm to look for diamonds elsewhere – not realizing that the land he owned had the potential to be one of the most productive diamond mines on the continent.

The gist of the tale is simple: If this person had only taken the time to study and prepare himself to learn what diamonds looked like in their rough state, and to thoroughly explore the resources he had before looking elsewhere, all of his wildest dreams would have come true.

Organizations too should be aware of the potential “diamonds in the rough” among their ranks. With the right investment, qualified, high-potential hires can be “grown” from the inside – and at a much lower cost.

Marketing employees can move into sales; finance people can move into IT; HR professionals can move into operations. Identifying such alternative career pathways are essential to company growth.

“But if my workforce is really full of “diamonds”, what’s holding them back?”

For one, they might be waiting on a clear path to grow.

In one study, more than 30,000 employees were asked to rate the statement “I know whether my performance is where it should be.”

Only 29% of people said they ‘Always’ know whether their performance is where it should be. 36% responded ‘Never’ or ‘Rarely’, and 21% said they were ‘Occasionally’ aware. That means more than half of employees are showing up to work every day without knowing whether they’re doing a good job. Some of the employees who don’t know whether their performance is where it should be are low performers, but they don’t know that they’re low performers, and some even think they’re doing a good job.7

In the past few decades, advancements in cognitive behavioral science have taught us that our thoughts not only have the power to shape our personal lives, but also our work lives.

If you’ve ever taken a course in psychology, you might be familiar with the phrase neuroplasticity. If not, here’s a brief overview.

The term is a mashup of two words: “neural”, or relating to the nervous system, and “plasticity”, describing the ability or capacity to change.

Thus, neuroplasticity is “the capacity of nerve cells to biologically adapt to circumstances—to respond to stimulation by generating new tendrils of connection (synapses) to other nerve cells, and to respond to deprivation and excess stress by weakening connections.”

This “plasticity” of one’s thought processes is the key to guiding underperforming but willing persons to think and act like top performers and top performers into even better performers.

Putting Neuroplasticity To Work

Using the principles of neuroplasticity, there are three essential steps to developing potential into real performance:

1. Self-awareness

Change starts with self-awareness. Using a quantitative diagnostic, employers can help their workers objectively measure their performance and establish a baseline to see progress. Thus, employees who are willing to make behavioral changes can now have the knowledge they need to continue improving in any area they choose.

2. Accountable reinforcement.

This second step is key to creating and maintaining new, more productive thinking patterns. Using cognitive-behavioral techniques, new thinking patterns can be developed by writing down, visualizing, saying, and conscientiously applying the new thoughts. Eventually, these practiced new thoughts create stronger, default neural pathways so they become the default thinking patterns and take the place of the old, undesirable ones.

These new thinking patterns or thought shifts can be developed on one’s own, with a personal coach, or with an e-coaching system. The new thinking patterns start to take root as you practice several times each day over the course of a few weeks. With any behavioral change process, it is humanly hard to stick to it without some outside encouragement and support. A professional development tool that encourages an accountability system, partner, or community can help keep you motivated and moving forward because most of us will do the required work just to avoid admitting failure to other people!

3. Ongoing monitoring and support.

As your brain training progresses, you should feel less stressed, more confident, and achieve more satisfying results – especially when dealing with other people. Here again, a quantitative checkpoint will let you fully measure and appreciate your success. However, no matter how strong the neural pathways are then, they need to be kept in condition. Neural pathways are just like muscles: You must use them, so you don’t lose them! Therefore, ongoing practice, support, and monitoring are critical to long-term success. Your accountability system, coach, or community can again be a critical part to keep your potential activated.

Harnessing the power of root thinking for change

Could your organization use an diagnostic-based system for unlocking human potential?

You may want to start your search with Think-X™.

Using Think-X Discover, a patented, validated, and EEOC-compliant diagnostic, the Think-X system allows participants to improve their performance with a personalized report and perfectly tailored, technology- assisted coaching program. Users can work independently, in a small group, or with a Think-X Certified Coach.

There are also options for ongoing self-development support. Using videos, articles, interactive discussions, and virtual events, Think Xchange provides on-demand support throughout everyone’s self-development journey.

Here’s what some proponents of Think-X had to say:

“It’s a win/win in each column: Diagnostic tools combined with great coaching for someone looking to improve.”
Lew Walker, SPHR, Principal, KL HR advisors

“Think-X gives everyone a systematic way to level up their thinking to enable more productive behavior and results.”​
Beth Davis​, Founder, The Llewellin Groups, LLC

“I now believe that people can change from any state…Think-X helps because it gives a viewpoint of definable performance drivers to set goals to. These are the keys to get from where you are to where you want to be. Most people never get the tools to make change happen.​”
Jim E.​, Zebra Technologies

To learn more about Think-X’s professional development tools, click here.



  1. Votaw, K. Q. (2011). How Steve Jobs got the A+ players and kept them. TalentTrust.
  2. Gino, F. (2017, July 5th). The Problem With Being A Top Performer. Scientific American.
  3. Burks, F. (n.d.). What Distinguishes a High-Performing Employee From an Average Performer? Small Business Chronicles.
  4. Manpower Group. (2020, January 17). Global Talent Shortages Hit Record Highs: Manpower Group Reveals How to Close the Skills Gap with New Research on What Workers Want. Cision PR Newswire.
  5. Keller, S. (2017, November 24). Attracting and Retaining The Right Talent.
  6. Willyerd, K. (2014, November 18). What High Performers Want at Work.
  7. Murphy, M. 3 Reasons Why High Performers Are Often Miserable. (n.d.).