You don’t want to hire that employee, do you? Of course not. You want to hire THAT employee.

That employee is one who interviewed like a star but turned out to be lazy or needy or disinterested, ultimately creating more work for management and team members than he ever completed himself. THAT employee, on the other hand, is one you wish you could clone because he learns fast, works his tail off, and requires little-to-no maintenance.

[Note: Caliper does not endorse the cloning of employees.]

Most employees land somewhere between these two extremes. We often talk about “hiring and developing the next top performer,” but realistically, you seldom have an unlimited applicant pool or time to wait for THAT employee to show up. Sometimes you have to go for the best possible choice, given your financial, temporal, and geographic constraints. You often aim for hiring ‘that’ employee—the one who might not be a superstar but who shows potential to be pretty good—and then make the most of it.

Notice that the previous sentence ended with “make the most of it” and not “hope for the best.” Good managers know that developing and leading a team is sort of like gardening: Just as you need healthy soil, the right climate, and plenty of TLC to grow flowers that bloom, you have to supply a positive work environment, stimulating challenges that emphasize employees’ strengths, and an investment in staff development to achieve a consistently excellent performance.

While there’s no guaranteed method for developing successful employees, a focus on these five areas can enable companies to maximize results over the employee lifecycle:

Selection – Naturally, a successful employee lifecycle starts with hiring a viable candidate. A pre-employment assessment for selection is a worthwhile investment when you consider all the valuable information it reveals about applicants’ motivators and behavioral tendencies. And it helps you dodge the high costs associated with hiring the wrong person (turnover, lost productivity, renewed searching, etc.).

An assessment like the Caliper Profile, which links personality traits to job performance, can be the final piece of the hiring puzzle after you’ve been through the resumes, references, and interviews and narrowed your pool to the most qualified candidates.

Onboarding – If you want your new hires to succeed and stay with the company, their first six months on the job are the most critical from a development standpoint. This is when management should be taking proactive steps to integrate the person not just through training but also through acclimation into the company culture. The more “at home” employees feel, the more likely they are to be productive and loyal.

During this period, it’s important to explore their motivations, strengths, and performance inhibitors so you can develop a targeted coaching plan and set meaningful and measurable goals.

Coaching and Development – Take that pre-employment assessment report back out of the file. Here’s where it truly starts to pay for itself.

Previously, it helped you decide which of your applicants best fit the demands of the position. Now it will help you coach and manage your new employee more effectively.

As an example, let’s say the new hire is an Account Executive in an insurance company who needs to provide support to Producers and customers, do some light up-selling, and handle a relatively high volume of account-related administrative work. This can be a tricky position from a strengths and motivators standpoint because the employee has to alternately be assertive and helpful as well as quality-minded and structured in task management yet comfortable changing priorities moment by moment.

Imagine the assessment indicates that the person is service oriented, organized, and conscientious with details, but not so strong in up-selling and overly self-critical and sensitive. If you work in the insurance industry, bells are probably going off in your head right now. You’ve met this person before.

But with the assessment in hand, you can proactively identify development areas (how to help this person deal with pressure and recover from setbacks more constructively or how to manage the transition from service-related conversations to take advantage of up-selling opportunities). The assessment results can also guide you in how to deliver coaching by answering questions such as: What kind of message will resonate best? Which coaching approach will tap into the motivators? Which approach might cause retreat?

Determining a Team Role – As technology replaces more and more repetitive tasks, the emphasis on cross-functional teamwork will only increase. And teams will need a diversity of skills, talents, and, yes, internal motivators to be most effective. Some people are adept at bringing people together, others are good at generating ideas, and still others are at their best when implementing agreed-upon solutions.

Knowing where your new hires fit into the larger collaborative framework will help you assign the work for which they are best suited, simultaneously developing their skills, enhancing their contributions toward a shared effort, and balancing the team.

Promotion/Succession – With the right people on board and a dedicated investment in coaching and development, you should be able to foster an environment where people feel valued and are productive. You will also be building your bench strength in terms of future leaders and high-level individual contributors.

Many employees are content serving the company in their existing capacities, but others have growth aspirations. For the latter group, assessment results will provide ROI once again by identifying beneficial new training opportunities. As people move from individual contributors to leaders, the coaching related to success in their current role might not be enough. With assessment data at your disposal, you know where to begin building the development bridge.

Now imagine having assessment results for your entire team. You’d be able to see untapped potential, talent gaps, and other performance dimensions that enable you to plan for the next generation of leaders. If you focus your energy the right way over the lifecycle of your hires, you’ll finally let someone else worry about staffing for a while. You’ve got THAT vacation to take.