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How to turn your B players into A players

Sarah K. White | Oct. 22, 2015
It's easy to ignore the B players in your organization. After all, they're reliable, easy to work with and rarely cause issues. But you're doing your company a disservice by not coaching up these middle-of-the-road workers.

hiring former employees

Recruiting, interviewing, onboarding and training new employees takes time and money -- two of any company's most valuable resources. So you might think that after investing new employees, companies would continue to help grow their careers within the business. However, that isn't always the case, and middle managers often find their time is split between A players and C or D players, while B players often go ignored. But there is a cost associated with ignoring B players, because with a little attention, these employees might wind up being your most valuable assets. Without that attention they may develop into another company's A player.

The concept of an A, B, C or D player is basically a ranking system often used in sports. "A players" are the stars, these are the people companies actively recruit and consider it a win when they get them. "C and D players" are the employees who take up a manager's time because they're causing problems, not meeting goals or having trouble grasping new concepts. And the "B players" are in between. These employees might have the potential to become A players, but maybe they lack some key traits, like communication skills or self-motivation. Or they might be a B player simply because they are easy to work with and flexible, and therefore aren't wasting a manager's time, even if they aren't hitting their goals every month.

According to Tom Gimbel, founder & CEO of LaSalle Network, a staffing and professional services firm, B players make up the bulk of an organization's employees, but the focus usually remains on A players, who don't need the attention, and C or D players, who should probably just be fired.

Your A players don't need help improving, as these people tend to be self-motivated workers who don't require a lot of guidance. And it's a waste of time to try and improve C or D players because they just need to leave the company. The chances of a C or D player turning into a B player, let alone an A player, are slim. At the end of the day, it's a waste of management's time and energy to focus on these underperformers.

B players offer untapped potential

Gimbel says companies let B players get lost, when they should be valued as an untapped source of talent. Gimbel says middle managers end up spending too much time with the problem employees, trying to make them less of a burden. And the A players are easy to talk to and fun to interact with, which means managers are more inclined to spend the rest of their time with them.


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