Derek John de Solla Price was an information scientist, who is credited as the father of scientometrics. He is the genesis and brains behind the “Price’s Law” Theory. Now, usually when I am learning anything that even remotely resembles mathematics or science I feel a tremendous level of anxiety but I find this particular topic relevant, mostly accurate, and profoundly interesting. Mr. Price had a lot of theories about wealth, literature, and productivity. The theory that caught my eye is specifically related to workplace productivity. In this area, Price’s Law states that “the square root of the number of people in a domain do 50% of the work.”

What does this actually mean? Price’s Law generally applies to creative work but absolutely has relevance to workplace productivity. I interpreted this as the creation of something like new products, innovation, solutions, driving results – these can fall under this “creative” umbrella as leaders, at any level, have to be inventive and growth-minded to be competitive and truly great in today’s workplaces. Putting this theory into a digestible math problem – in a company with 5000 people and 20 departments; for this example this company has an equally distributed personal count per department of  250 people. This would mean that approximately 320 people inside that organization were producing 50% of the total work, productivity, and results. Leaving the remaining 50% of the work divided among 4680 people. What company would have equal size departments, you ask?! It would never happen. I recognize that.

Equally distributed team sizes don’t exist but I wanted to make the math understandable to those who may be mathematically impaired, like me. Therefore, realistic sub-sectors would have to be evaluated, as opposed to the organizational whole. However, this is very close in the experiences that I recollected why forming this article. In one instance, last year I met with a retailer who had 113 Districts in their field org. As of the end of Q2, just 12 of the district managers were producing a positive comp.


I have always been a very strong proponent of showing top performers appreciation – mostly because it is the right thing to do. Recognition – relative to organizational integrity – is one of values I assess and provide a plan for when I work with a new company. Leaders so frequently take their hard work, competencies, and productivity for granted. I like to think this is not because they are callous or clueless but because they believe they are too busy to stop and recognize great work. Here is a very important statistic to know around retention and recognition, according to a 2017 study from Robert Half’s Office Team, 66% of people say they would “likely leave their job if they didn’t feel appreciated.” This is up significantly from 51% of employees who felt this way in 2012. Among millennials, this number jumps to 76%, in the most recent survey.

We are seeing some really impressive comebacks in the retail industry and outside of retail there are new and exciting business concepts that are elevating and energizing life as we know it. As a businesses scale and shift, leaders need to be cognizant of who is delivering the bulk of results. As a company grows, ineptitude and complacency grows aggressively and competence will always grow linearly. We need to value and protect the people who are the competent, curious, and passionate drivers of our business. We need to appreciate them and recognize them in a loud, vibrant way that is in balanced measure with their performance and contribution – as opposed to the favored silent appreciation or emotional stinginess so many managers tend to dole out.

When a company has decreasing performance over a quarter or two and the environment becomes strained and possibly unpleasant, the talented people will leave as soon as they have an alternative. These are the people producing half the work and we are letting them exit the business. In environments that further elevate their distress level, a round of layoffs may occur; the culture becomes untenable, the replacement unit of top performers leaves. The company is now is deteriorating faster by being left with people who are unable to produce to a reasonable level to drive growth or results back to the business. Once again, the redistribution of people to fill the shoes of the top performers cannot be replicated by the remaining people. The effect is attenuated. If you wonder if this can actually happen – here is a fantastic fact to know… a Fortune 500 company typically only spends about 30 years at that level and value. Companies can fall into a talent abyss that is almost impossible to get out of and it can happen extraordinarily quickly today.


GIVE THEM VISIBILITY: Everyone wants to be recognized when they deliver consistent and highly valuable results to their organization, and your best people are no different. As a leader we need to provide them the visibility they crave [and have earned] by inviting them to share their ideas and suggestions with senior and/or executive leaders, lead high-profile teams or participate in learning & development initiatives with their colleagues. Encourage them to make connections with – and help them meet – other high performers inside the organization or industry.

KEEP THEM ENTERTAINED & INTERESTED: One reason these employees excel is that they’re usually bright, active, and curious. They are always looking to upskill and take on interesting and challenging assignments. Satisfy that need by providing them with projects that will develop and enhance their conveyable marketability, skills, and competencies. Do you know what they want their career path to be? Give them responsibilities that will help them get there.

REWARD THEM: If you utilize them for solutions to business challenges or give them more assignments but you don’t reward them – you are using them. You must reward your top performers for performing above the masses. These are the people that are delivering the majority of the business – they deserve consideration and to know that they are appreciated. When it comes to rewards – remember the Five Golden Rules of Recognition & Reward:

  1. Be Quick
  2. Be Specific
  3. Be Personal
  4. Be Genuine|Authentic
  5. Be Positive [meaning don’t give them recognition and then add a “but…”]

BE THEIR MENTOR [OR FIND THEM ONE]: Your best people will benefit from being connected to a mentor who can help provide advice, career guidance and connections to others in their network. Engagement is also a great soft benefit of having an active mentor. If it is not you, find a senior leader who is involved, accessible, and dynamic for your top performer to work with. Someone who can provide them the career navigation, advice, and support they deserve and need. A mentor who is aligned with their career aspirations can keep them energized and engaged in the company vision, values, and growth as they work towards their future. Great mentor relationships can [and should] last forever and can be invaluable to both parties in the long-term, and especially in today’s quick, noisy, passive world, is a great benefit.

HELP THEM UNCOVER THEIR TALENTS: Depending on industry people can get stalled, pretty quickly, in a role or at a particular level of their career. Great companies and great leaders are constantly evaluating their talent, investing in learning & development, and career path planning with their top performers who have shown they are ambitious and are capable of being consistent in their productivity. It’s essential to communicate to your top employees and be supportive of their opportunities for career growth. If they can’t imagine a future with your organization, or if they think that they will have to wait too long to get to the next level, then they will [rightfully so] look for opportunities outside your company. Set aside time [and stick to it] to work through a realistic career plan, with clear milestones and objectives, learning opportunities, and assessments along the way. Expose them to a broad and exciting range of assignments so they will have the exposure they need to become phenomenal, well-rounded leaders who are prepared for the evolving future.