Aplin Group Blog

We’re all familiar with the ABCs used in school grading, and “Topgrading,” as coined by Bradford D. Smart, Ph.D., applies similarly in the workforce.  Dr. Smart is a renowned consultant to many Global 1000 companies as well as to many smaller growing organizations. As Peter Drucker says, “The ability to make good decisions regarding people represents one of the last reliable sources of competitive advantage, since very few organizations are very good at it.”


Dr. Smart reminds us that “the single most important driver of organizational performance and managerial success is human capital, or talent.”  What does this mean and how can your organization capitalize on Dr. Smart’s principles during these challenging economic times in Alberta?


Historically many organizations have rated their employees as A Players (top 20%), B Players (middle 70%), and C Players (bottom 10%).  Dr. Smart advocates that companies strive to reach a goal of having 90% of their employees be A Players.  This translates into hiring only from the top echelons of talent available for any position at existing pay rates.

Often 3 major problems account for poor hiring results:

  • Exaggerated achievements in resumes,
  • Incomplete information gathered in interviews, and
  • Lack of verification through references.

Our consultants at David Aplin Group employ two of Topgrading’s key principles:

1. The Threat of the Reference Check (TORC) technique in which candidates are told upfront that they will be required to arrange reference calls between our recruiters and their former managers which motivates low performers and resume embellishers to drop out. 


2. A chronological interview in which candidates are asked to reveal their challenges, accomplishments, and key decisions throughout each step in their careers.


Extending beyond identifying and hiring the best talent, Dr. Smart’s philosophy delves into developing and promoting talent while sensitively but aggressively removing underperformers.


We choose not to apply all of Dr. Smart’s principles at David Aplin Group. A Players are rarely satisfied to receive the same compensation as under-performing colleagues and the extensive Topgrading interviews are often not required at junior to intermediate levels.  While Dr. Smart discounts the value of testing, we have had great success with The Attentional and Interpersonal Style (TAIS) assessment and the Birkman. These tools can offer additional information valuable to the selection process.


While none of us can change the economics currently facing the Alberta business community, we can decide to adopt all measures available to increase productivity and drive results. If you’re interested in increasing the number of “A Players” in your organization, please contact David Aplin Group today.  We’re committed to helping our clients obtain the utmost value for their recruiting dollars.




David Aplin Group is a private family and employee owned Canadian staffing agency founded in Alberta in 1975, recognized as one of Canada's most accomplished recruiting firms. Our mission is to positively impact lives.