“A Players” or “A Positions”?: The Strategic Logic of Workforce Management

By: Mark A. Huselid, Richard W. Beatty, and Brian E. Becker I Publisher: Harvard Business Review I Published: 2005 I Resource Added: 2013

The article argues that an organization needs to identify its “A” positions. These positions are strategically critical jobs at any level of the organization, typically less than 20% of jobs. Once these positions are identified, the organization should determine the standards for high performance for these roles and measure people against those standards. To ensure that “A” positions are filled with high performers, the organization should actively develop and generously compensate “A” players in these roles. Keeping the long view in mind, the organization should invest in “feeder” jobs for “A” positions to build bench strength. Additionally, “B” positions can support “A” positions and “B” players can be developed to become “A” players. This article provides only corporate perspective and examples. However, the main idea about identifying “A” positions and investing disproportionately in these roles has proven to be relevant, in fact, often even more important to nonprofits we have worked with. With limited resources available for development and compensation, it is key for nonprofits to distinguish and invest more in the most mission-critical roles.