What Is Your Talent GPA? How to Evaluate Your Team

Note: The following is an excerpt from How to Hirethe new book by CareerPlug CEO, Clint Smith.

To build a truly successful business, you’ve got to have the right people in the right seats. At CareerPlug, you may hear us phrase this as, “Who’s on your bus?”.

The first step to getting the right people on the bus is to evaluate who you currently have aboard. I do this by calculating a Talent GPA for my team. All that you need to do is ask a single question for each member of your team, and then grade your response:

How would you feel if you found out that [EMPLOYEE NAME] was leaving the company?

Here’s the grading scale: (Note: This is a simple way to calculate the GPA. It may be more accurate for you to overweight the grades for leaders and other key roles.)

A (4 points) – Sudden feeling of being punched in the gut. You rush to the door to block it and try to do whatever you can to keep this person. You know that it’s going to be a big hit to the team, and it will be hard to replace this person with someone as good.

B (3 points) – Disappointment and some concern about the short term. After getting past that, a feeling that you could, at the very least, hire someone as good—possibly better.

C (2 points) – Sudden feeling of relief and lightness. You rush to the door to open it and bid them farewell, knowing that you just received a golden opportunity to upgrade.

F (0 points) – Don’t let the door hit you on the way out! (Note: If you have anyone on your team that is an F player, put this book aside right now—you need to remove this person from your team immediately. Every day that you keep them on, you are putting your company at risk of becoming toxic and losing your top performers.)

Calculate your current Talent GPA

Download our free Talent GPA worksheet to help you understand who’s on your bus and how to work with individual employees to improve your overall GPA.


Be sure to factor in an employee’s culture fit when assigning grades. Someone won’t get an A from me unless they exemplify our values, no matter how good they are at their job. I have let some talented people go who were toxic to our culture. While their contributions were missed in some ways, I still felt relieved when they left (which meant their grade was no higher than a C).

If you are stuck between two grades for someone, ask yourself who does most of the pushing in the relationship? A Players make you think, Wow. I really need to step up my game to lead this person. That’s them pushing you. C Players make you think, Wow. This person doesn’t get much done without me pushing them to do it. B Players are somewhere in between. They take care of their work on their own, but you don’t feel the pressure to improve like you do with an A Player. 

The easiest way to calculate your Talent GPA is to start with an employee list with columns for grade and grade points. Then simply work your way down the list and enter a grade and the corresponding number of grade points for each employee. Finally, average all of the grade points.

Pay close attention to the grades of your leaders. Leaders and managers rarely build (and keep) a team with a Talent GPA higher than their own, so don’t expect your B Player leader to build a team full of A Players. The quality of your leadership team will determine your company’s trajectory and ultimate success. One of my mentors once showed me a simple org chart with a top leader and five direct reports. He told me, “This could be a six-person or 6,000-person organization. It all depends on the quality of your leadership team.”

Ineffective leaders and managers do not just underperform—they can also drive away high performers. I believe the old saying, “People don’t leave companies, they leave their managers.” Be aware of this risk and take the appropriate actions.

In addition to tracking the grades on a spreadsheet, I print our org chart and write the grades next to each person’s box. Then I try to take a step back mentally and look for insights. The visual aspect of the org chart has been so valuable to me. I have been able to spot issues and opportunities by looking at my team this way.

You can also conduct this exercise with your leaders and managers. Give them a copy of their team’s org chart and ask them to write a grade next to each person based on how they would feel if their employee left. Check for alignment with your own thoughts. If this is an underperforming team and the manager does not identify any C’s in the group, then they may be the C.

Once you have the grades for your employees, it’s not as easy as keeping some on the bus and kicking others off. You should determine a course of action for each person. Consider working with each employee to develop growth plans that factor in their goals and a path they can take at the company. Here’s some guidance on how to approach each group.

B Players 

I want to start with B Players because this should be the largest group of people on your team. If you rated almost every employee at your company as an A Player, take another look. Even if you do have above-average talent across the board at your company, you should have a top 10%–20% of your employees that stand out as the highest performers. They are your A Players. 

Likewise, your bottom 10%–20% should stand out as C Players. The rest are B Players (relatively speaking).

The most important thing that I have learned about B Players is this: Their performance will move up when they are working with A Players and down when they are working with C Players.

The best things that you can do for B Players is to:

1. Maximize the number of A Players on the team.

2. Minimize the number of C Players.

3. Encourage their development and help them find their strength zones.

Something else to consider: I have seen B Players make the jump to the A level after a role change in the company (or after they got a new leader).

A Players 

The best things that you can do for A Players are to:

1. Take care of them with recognition and compensation. 

2. Remove obstacles so they can grow/thrive.

A Players outperform the rest of your team and should be rewarded accordingly. Remember that not all of them are motivated primarily by money. Make sure that you know what’s most important to them (development, achievement, recognition, compensation) and focus on helping them get what they want.

Understand what they want to accomplish in their careers, and clear the path for them to achieve it. If you don’t do this, they will look for it somewhere else. The easiest way to lose an A Player is to surround them with C Players. A friend of mine once told me that “Eagles don’t like to fly with crows.” I don’t think that I can put it any better than that.

C Players 

With this group, you need to get them moving up or moving out. Ask yourself why these people are underperforming and develop performance improvement plans for them. 

Are they in the wrong role or with the wrong manager? Is there something happening in their lives affecting their performance? Is this a character issue? Do I see a path to get these people to become B Players (or higher)?

You owe it to these people to communicate any performance issues and develop action plans to improve their performance. If you don’t do this, then you are not only letting these people down as their leader — you are letting down the rest of your team.

Grades and people can change. It’s your job to put them in the best positions to succeed. If you need to part ways with them, you will have done it the right way. Carrying the burden of an underperformer may hurt more than you think. In some cases, a team can produce more without that person, even if they are not replaced.

How is that possible? Think about a sales team: The underperformer may be squandering solid leads that another rep would close. The leader of the team may need to spend a disproportionate amount of time on the underperformer, time that’s taken away from more productive reps and their deals. Worst of all, morale decreases and the standard for performance falls.

One additional thought on this group: Kim Scott (author of Radical Candor) gave me a new perspective on underperformers. She says that most people have the potential to be A Players if they are put in the right roles. Is there another type of role that may suit your underperformer better? If this role exists at the company, then you should explore it. If not, you may not be doing this person a favor by keeping them. You may be keeping them from becoming an A Player somewhere else.

I have never made the mistake of letting someone go too soon. When I think about the times I’ve had to fire people, my regrets are that 1) I should have given them more feedback, and 2) I should have acted sooner.

Download your free copy of How to Hire!

Want to read more of Clint Smith’s advice? Get your FREE copy of How to Hire – the essential playbook for hiring the right people for your team. Claim yours by clicking the button below.


Recent Posts

Steve Fowler

Manager of Partner Growth

Christina Waite

Platform Engineering Manager

Taylor Coleman

Tier 2 Manager

Al Foote

Consultant Manager

Sydney Kidd

Tier 1 Manager

Nicolle Gatlin

Manager of Partner Success

Aiden Kinney

Consultant Manager

Joe Lepis

Engineering Manager

Polly Schandorf

Engineering Manager


Hiring is hard, but partnering with us makes it easier. From posting jobs to scheduling interviews, CareerPlug allows you to automate certain parts of the process to improve your results and save you time.



Once you think you have found the right person, use our reference and background check resources to verify them. Then, send an electronic offer letter from CareerPlug to close the deal!



Use our prescreen questions and assessments to identify the best applicants. Then use our interview questions and scorecards to evaluate for the right things consistently.



Use our notifications and automations to be the first to respond to qualified applicants. Send texts and emails from directly from CareerPlug to convert applicants to scheduled interviews.



Use our templates to create an attractive careers page and job posting. Then promote it through our job board partners, as well as directly with your employees, customers, and social network.


Brandy Lee

Business Intelligence Manager

Eric Morales

Manager of Account Executives

Kirsten Penaloza

Director of Client Experience

Zach Garcia

Senior Manager of Operations

Tulay Solak

HR Manager

Tyler Berndsen

Manager of Partnership Account Executives

Ashley Johnson

Senior Manager of Partner Services

Originally from small town in central Texas, Ashley Johnson graduated from Texas State University in 2013 with a degree in Business Administration. She was hired by CareerPlug as a Talent Specialist in 2014, and moved up to ultimately lead the Recruitment Services team. From there, she pivoted to Implementation, and is now the Implementation Manager.

As the Implementation Manager, Ashley and 3 direct reports function as a transition between Sales and Partner Success in helping our clients get set up and established in our software. She spends her free time raising her 2 dogs, playing cornhole, and perfecting the art of charcuterie.

Kate Sensmeier

VP Marketing

Ashley Garia

Director of Product Marketing

Canaan Davis

Director of Engineering

Teresa Hall

Director of UX & Product Design

Brad Pilot

Senior Director of Sales

Leslie Chamberlain

Senior Director of Client Experience

Natalie Morgan

Senior Director of People

Andrew Robinson III

Vice President of Product and Engineering

Chris Igou

VP of Business Development

Chris accidentally started a 20-year career in franchising when he was 18 years old and took a job painting houses for College Pro Painters. That job turned into the ownership of his first franchise (a house painting franchise). While at Monmouth College in IL, he operated his business, played on the varsity football team, and studied to become a teacher.

The taste of entrepreneurship and desire to coach others led Chris deeper into franchising, working with a few franchise brands helping them grow their businesses. He lived in the Chicagoland area his entire life until recently moving his family to Austin, TX.

In his free time Chris coaches youth sports, especially youth football, and spends as much time as he can with his wife and 2 children.

Jenny Leman


Native to Texas, Jenny graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2004 and joined CareerPlug in 2017. She retired her first career path as a Registered Dietitian after 10 years, and has found her true belonging in business operations.

As CareerPlug’s President, Jenny leads all teams to an aligned effort toward achieving our vision. She works to build healthy and scalable internal systems to equip and empower the CareerPlug teams to bring their best for our clients. She loves contributing new ideas and rethinking the status quo. Jenny really connects with the company’s core values, but especially with our intent to “Keep Growing.”

In her non-work life, Jenny enjoys time with her family, playing drums and performing with the Austin Samba School, and finding excuses to be on the lake.

Clint Smith

Founder & CEO

Clint founded CareerPlug in 2007 with the simple idea that there was a better way to help employers connect with quality applicants. Today Clint works every day to fulfill CareerPlug’s mission: Make Hiring Easier. Leading by example, Clint loves spending his time developing new ideas and teaching others.

After graduating from the University of Florida, Clint worked in investment banking and strategic marketing; both experiences influenced the development of CareerPlug. He also spent a year away from the business world teaching 5th grade in Boulder.

Clint is passionate about helping others succeed and is involved in numerous mentoring programs. He and his wife, Sarah, are also foster parents. Clint enjoys family time, beach volleyball, and outdoor adventures.