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Meet the Middle Performers – the Untapped Potential of Your Business

New Cornerstone OnDemand white paper makes the business case for the 74 percent of employees who fall in the middle of the talent spectrum

SANTA MONICA, Calif. March 8, 2011 – The terms “high performer” and “low performer” are firmly entrenched in the lexicon of employee performance management. But what about all the other workers who fall somewhere in the middle? A new white paper from Cornerstone OnDemand, “Employees Stuck in the Middle? How to Transform the Average Joe into an Everyday Superhero,” makes the case for these consistent yet overlooked people and explores how integrated learning, performance and talent management processes, supported by the right technology solution, can transform ordinary performers into extraordinary ones.

According to research from industry analyst firm Bersin & Associates, consistent performers who fall in the middle of the talent spectrum make up about 74 percent of most companies. From middle managers, supervisors and technical experts, to specialists and other skilled employees, these workers have a proven track record of adequate or good job performance. However, despite making up a majority of a workforce, Bersin found through interviews that, on average, managers spend only 20 percent of their time focusing on this group.1

“Employees who fall in the middle are the untapped potential of your business,” said Stacey Harris, principal analyst and director of HR and TM research, Bersin & Associates. “These are the people who play an integral role in supporting a company’s culture, and they can bring substantial business value when properly developed, managed and motivated. In fact, research indicates that a five percent performance gain from middle performers yields more than 70 percent more revenue than a five percent shift from high performers.”

One company that is successfully engaging and developing talent at all levels of the organization is online investing firm Scottrade, which uses Cornerstone’s software to power its online learning portal, Scottrade University. With a workforce philosophy of hiring for attitude and training for success, the company has a comprehensive blended learning program that trains and cultivates talent throughout the employee lifecycle. Scottrade’s efforts recently earned the company a spot on Training Magazine’s 2011 list of Top 125 corporate training and development programs for the fourth year.

“Individual development is one of Scottrade’s core values, and it has been essential to helping us grow talent from within the company,” said Jane Wulf, chief administrative officer for Scottrade. “In 2009, about 44 percent of job openings were filled internally, translating to lower recruitment costs and high employee retention rates. In fact, over half of our current executive team and 86 percent of branch managers were promoted from within the organization.”

Comprehensive talent management strategies and software solutions offer a number of ways to engage and empower the B players in any organization. Examples include:

  • Talent mobility: Organizations can drive engagement and productivity by getting the right people into the right jobs – and by acknowledging that not every valuable employee is destined for the C-suite.

  • Succession planning: Making succession planning an interactive, organization-wide and bottom-up process can help identify middle performers who have value and then target development initiatives more effectively.

  • Career paths: Clear opportunities for development and advancement can boost employee productivity, retention and engagement.

  • Development-driven performance management: Incorporating learning as part of the performance management process ensures that B players have access to the tools they need to increase their knowledge and improve their skills.

  • Goal alignment: Middle performers need to understand how they are contributing to the organization. Providing clear direction turns seemly abstract goals into actionable ones.

  • Social networking and collaboration: Enterprise social networking tools can level the playing field and give all employees access to information that enables them to do their jobs better and faster.

“Integrated talent management solutions provide actionable data on more than just the top performers or highest-potential employees,” said Charles Coy, director of product marketing for Cornerstone OnDemand. “With the right technology in place, businesses can gain insight into the performance, knowledge and skills of every employee and determine how to get the most out of seemingly average performers.”

To learn more about why businesses should be engaging the middle of their workforce, download Cornerstone’s complimentary white paper at

For more information about Cornerstone OnDemand, visit To follow Cornerstone OnDemand on Twitter, go to To read Cornerstone OnDemand’s talent management blog, visit

About Cornerstone

Cornerstone is a premier people development company. We believe people can achieve anything when they have the right development and growth opportunities. We offer organizations the technology, content, expertise and specialized focus to help them realize the potential of their people. Featuring comprehensive recruiting, personalized learning, modern training content, development-driven performance management and holistic employee data management and insights, Cornerstone’s people development solutions are used by more than 6,000 customers of all sizes, spanning more than 75 million users across over 180 countries and nearly 50 languages. Learn more at

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Deaira Irons

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