Our Challenge in the 21st Century

... is to Retain and Hire High-Quality Employees

Total quality management and product quality are topics which have been discussed at numerous conferences in the past. But what is a high quality employee?

A high quality employee exceeds a certain set of performance standards for a given set of job responsibilities, be it a machine operator, a first-line supervisor, a personnel manager or a general manager of a specific business unit. Performance standards can be qualitative or quantitative. They can be short-term for a given shift or long-term (one year or more). 

These can be expanded to include:

  • Classifying people with high energy levels
  • Classifying people with the ability to energize others around common goals
  • Classifying people with an edge to make yes or no decisions
  • Classifying people who consistently execute and deliver on their promises

Using this criteria, your senior management team should classify people as A, B, or C players.


  • A’s are cherished, B’s need to be taught, C’s are the ones that need to leave the firm.
  • Passion separates A’s from B’s.
  • Losing an A is a sin.
  • A’s get higher raises than B’s.
  • This process is easier to implement the first year, but it gets tougher each year you  continue.
  • Evaluate all employees in a matrix format annually. 



  • Treat people with dignity and give them a voice.
  • Create a learning culture. Find a better way every day.
  • Focus on on-going education, training for the B’s and A’s.

The Viewpoints of a Professional Recruiter

A quality-focused culture in a business unit will attract quality employees. A business unit must continually focus on improving the level of customer services and product quality. Customers are the ultimate supervisors for everyone in the business unit.

A 4-year college education is not an essential element to advance in our industry. College creates an important learning atmosphere for people to continue to learn and apply new thinking throughout their lives. This also can be developed by high school and junior college graduates. On-going education and the respective application of new ideas throughout one’s career is essential (seminars, conferences, etc.)

Business units need to support the A’s and B’s by providing continuous challenges for people to respond in a team-based environment. Cross-training for hourly employees throughout a production, sales, or staff process is essential for employees in order to feel ownership with the employer. This same approach can be focused in the supervisory and mid-management ranks.

Allow “A” and “B” players to become part of the recruiting and hiring processes. Allow “A” players to become mentors (teachers) to the new hires. “A” players have a larger success rate in these assignments than “B” players. These challenges will provide added stimulus to “A” players’ potential for growth.

Senior management must continue to speak at public forums and become active in trade association activities. The focus on discussing the highlights of a quality firm will attract quality employees from the competition and from firms outside the forest products industry.




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