Superstars matter. Great employees are worth a lot more -- to your teams, to your customers, and to your bottom line -- than average employees. Remarkable employees are worth dramatically more. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings thinks the best programmers deliver between 10 and 100 times the value of an average programmer.
That gives superstar employees considerable leverage in the employer-employee relationship. Great employees have options; you need them more than they need you.
The same is true in the NBA, where superstars make a disproportionate impact. (Michael Jordan had a variety of teammates during his six championship run; the only constant was Scottie Pippen.) It's difficult for a team to be successful without a top-10 player.
That gives the league's best players immense leverage in the employer-employee leverage. As Jordan's agent David Falk says, "They bring in the fans. They bring in jersey sales. They bring in the revenue."
Which means they have options; an organization aspiring to a championship needs a superstar more than that superstar needs a particular organization.
That leverage -- often referred to, with negative connotations, as "player empowerment" -- has resulted in most superstars tending to opt to play in major markets. Los Angeles. New York. Miami, San Francisco, Houston, and Philadelphia. Sure, Antetokounmpo is in Milwaukee, and Doncic in Dallas, but they're exceptions who prove the larger rule.
Players want to play -- and live -- in big markets. They also want to feel comfortable. As ESPN's Bomani Jones says, "The NBA has a problem, which is it's got some bad real estate. They put a lot of teams in places that young Black men don't necessarily want to live."
Because superstar players have options.
And so do superstar employees.
As Inc. colleague Jason Aten notes, Apple recently announced that employees should expect to be back in the office at least three days a week by September. The goal is to "optimize time for in-person collaboration."
Which sounds good.
But maybe not for some Apple employees. While statistics vary, most studies show that across a wide variety of industries, between 61 and 65 percent of people surveyed want to remain -- or be -- full-time remote employees. And more than one in four say the ability to work from home is so important they would take a 10 to to 20 percent pay cut to work remotely.
Saying you would take a pay cut is easy; it's another thing to actually put your salary where your mouth is.
But great employees don't have to worry about pay cuts. Great employees have options. Expect a superstar to come to the office three days a week who doesn't want to? She'll just shrug and take her talents elsewhere. Twitter says employees can work remotely "forever." Salesforce recently announced a new "Work From Anywhere" policy. So did Spotify. Facebook is adopting a long-term work-from-home policy.
Partly that's because those companies, like many others, now realize that remote work can be just as -- or more -- productive. Partly that's because many employees are "thriving" in a fully or largely remote workplace.
But it's also because superstars have options.
And smart companies know it.
Before you create guidelines for remote, in-person, or hybrid plans, don't just consider whether your policy works for you.
Because if you get it wrong, a few of your superstars may decide that what works for you means they won't work for you.
Because superstars have options.
And can exercise them.