How to Find the Smartest Employee in Your Organization

I couldn’t sleep the other night, probably because of the 14 Diet Mountain Dews I had throughout the day, but I had an epiphany while staring at the ceiling in the dark.

I figured out a way for HR Pros to find the Smartest Employee in their Company! It isn’t a complex algorithm or a set of cognitive assessment tests – it’s a simple matrix – but it’s very effective.

Now, you might be asking yourself: ”Why do I need to find the smartest employee in our company?”

Which would be a legitimate question, but unfortunately at 2 am, I didn’t ask myself that same question. I just thought I came up with some crazy Einstein-type shit! But like most things I deal with, I can come up with a plausible argument to why it’s important to find the smartest people in your company.

Why you need to find your smartest employee

My reasons:

  1. Smart people have the potential to do smart things. In an organization, you want to make the right decisions – usually dumb people don’t.
  2. Smart people usually know other smart people. In an organization, you want to get rid of your dumb people and hire more smart people.
  3. Smart people know the fakers. Organizations make people selection mistakes. It happens all the time so don’t be embarrassed, just don’t let one bad decision turn into another by keeping a mistake. Smart people know your bad hiring mistakes because they can read through the BS.

Now for the matrix! Like I said it’s simple, which is also why it’s ingenious, because anyone can do it. It goes a little something like this (hit it!) –

  • First Step: Down one side of your matrix, list your employees by level of responsibility. Start with most responsible at the top, down to the least responsible at the bottom. Some of these you’ll just have to do the eyeball test on and slot people as you see fit – don’t get too worked up over this – just get the most responsible up top, the least down low (the ones in the middle don’t matter anyway).
  • Second Step: Across the top of the matrix list total compensation of each person to the corresponding column. For the most part you should end up with a sheet that shows the most responsible person in your organization, making the most money, and slowly but surely working your way down to the least responsible making the least amount of money.
  • Third Step: The Smart Employee Search. Here’s where the rubber hits the road! Now, look at your matrix and find the highest paid employee with the corresponding least amount of experience. Boom! You just found your smartest employee.

I told you it was easy! This person has figured out how to, relatively, make the most money by having virtually no responsibility.

Don’t try to be smarter than they are

Say what you want – but that is one smart person! You need to pull that person in and find out how to get them more engaged into your daily operations. Don’t take this as a joke, because dumb people don’t figure this out. You just don’t fall into a highly paid with low or no responsibility job – you have to work to get there.

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And don’t underestimate this person’s capabilities, because guess what? – everyone else has! That’s why you’re working your butt off until 6 pm and they’re out the door at 3 o’clock, going to their golf league, for about $4000 less than you make. They’re going home with no stress while you’re on your fourth therapist this year. They love coming to work while you have a hard time pulling yourself out of bed in the morning.

I love these employees. I try to hang with them, learn from them – I feel like I’m an anthropologist learning about a forgotten species – because they intrigue me so.

A word of caution though: don’t try and capture and change these employees. Don’t try and be “smarter” than they are and change their job, or their scope, or their pay. Remember, they’re smarter than you, and if you fiddle with them you’ll just frustrate yourself as they find another position – doing even less for more!

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.


2 Comments on “How to Find the Smartest Employee in Your Organization

  1. Tim, important topic to post on. It is more critical than ever to find the most skilled and the best fit candidates for each position.

    The top 3 challenges that organizations are facing today with the hiring process are:
    1. Enabling Growth
    2. Efficiencies with Economic Growth Conditions
    3. Scarcity of Key Skills

    Users of video interviewing have come to realize that video interviewing saves time and money. What they are also finding and most importantly is the fact that video interviewing provides the most effective tool to find the candidates who best fit the organizations and will enable growth and push the business forward. Over the past 12 months organizations using video interviewing have met 85% of their hiring goals vs. teh 66% of hiring goals achieved without video interviewing.

    To see a free webinar research by Mollie Lombardi, The Aberdeen Group about benefits of video interview:


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