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Stat of the Week: Star Performers vs. Average Performers

Toby Graham /

You’re probably pretty good at your job. For a moment, imagine if you weren’t. Imagine you were overwhelmed, undertrained, unmotivated, and less productive than you are now—far, far less productive.

Let’s say, I don’t know, 800% less productive?

Believe it or not, that’s the real, quantifiable difference between star performers and average employees in some jobs. The data comes from a recent McKinsey study of more than 600,000 researchers, entertainers, politicians, and athletes. In these specialized occupations, the best of the best are 400% more productive than their peers. According to the study’s authors, “the gap rises with a job’s complexity.” When it comes to the people on the extreme end of complexity—managers, software developers, and others engaged in “information- and interaction-intensive work”—the performance gap widens to 800%.

I’ll venture to say that the contrast is significant no matter what kind of work we’re talking about. On the low end, star performers in low-complexity jobs are 50% more productive than the average. No, it’s not as dramatic as 800%, but a 50% differential in productivity is nothing to ignore.

Clearly, it’s in every company’s best interest to motivate its star performers. Here are a few proven ways to get started, via business psychologist Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic:

  1. Know who your star performers actually are—measure, don’t assume.
  2. Let them know that you know they’re valuable—treat them well and invest in their success.
  3. Make an effort to engage them—ensure they have fulfilling, challenging work and the freedom to do what they do best.
  4. Remember that money isn’t everything—pay is only one motivating factor, and generally a weak one.

For more, read “Should You Give Your Star Employees Star Treatment?”

Back to your job. First, no matter what you do, pat yourself on the back for being above average—every skill you have makes a big difference.

Next, if your occupation is to bring out the best in others, give your team the resources and support they need to be 50%, 400%, 800%, or 8000% better than the rest. Discover how KPA’s HR tools can empower you to hire, engage, and retain top talent.

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