How good are the best?
In high complexity jobs like professional and sales roles, the top 10% produce 80% more than average and 700% more than the bottom 10%.
…how much do different employees typically differ in output? There have been many studies looking at this very question, across a wide range of jobs, which are summarised in a meta-study by Hunter, Schmidt and Judiesch (6). Output is measured in a variety of ways. For salespeople, it’s the dollar value of what they sell. For doctors, it could be the number of patients seen and treated. Other studies have been done with standardised tests, supervisor ratings and many other metrics (7). I should flag that it’s not clear these metrics correlate with the real value produced by jobs, but I’ll run with them for now. What they found is that in low complexity jobs, workers’ outputs do not vary much, and the best worker is usually not much better than the average worker. As the jobs become more complex however, there’s more and more variation, and the difference between the best worker and the average grows. For example, in low-complexity jobs the top 10% of workers produce 25% more than the average, and 75% more than the bottom 10%. For high-complexity jobs, such as professional and sales jobs, the difference is much larger. The top 10% of workers produce 80% more than the average, and 700% more than the bottom 10% (8).
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