Use the Star Profile to Unleash Talent and Improve Retention

Jathan Janove, J.D. By Jathan Janove, J.D. July 5, 2023

Former employment attorney and author Jathan Janove writes for SHRM Online on how to inject greater humanity into HR compliance. Jathan welcomes your questions and suggestions for future columns. Contact him at the email address at the end of this column.    

Previously, I've written about creating and using "star profiles" to improve hiring decisions. I've also described how to use a star profile as a basis for a performance review system.

In this column, I want to illustrate the everyday use of star profiles and how they can help you develop talent and secure retention. Thanks to Rabbi Kenneth Brodkin, rabbi of Congregation B'nai Israel in Manalapan, N.J., I am going to use the following star profile he created for a director position at his synagogue: 

Director of Synagogue Life

  1. Demonstrates passion for our mission to build a thriving center of Jewish community.
  2. Works with the rabbi to manage engaging programs and efficient operations.
  3. Demonstrates excellence in welcoming and engaging people in synagogue life.
  4. Works creatively and proactively, anticipating and addressing key needs in our organization. 

These four sentences capture the vision that Rabbi Brodkin has for this position. They describe attributes that maximize this person's contribution to his synagogue and the broader Jewish community.

Every word was chosen with care. It's not a job description, which you can think of as a "left-brain" exercise in organization, detail and comprehension. By contrast, the star profile comes from the "right brain:" the image or the vision of success, the movie script of the actions that will make the biggest positive difference.

To illustrate the contrast between a star profile and a job description, consider the first sentence of the director's profile. The person may have all the qualifications necessary for the job, but if the candidate lacks passion and isn't ambitious about creating a thriving center of Jewish community, the relationship with the rabbi will fail. 

Consider the second sentence. Again, assume the director has the necessary qualifications. Yet if this person doesn't help develop engaging and efficient programs and operations (tight budgets being a synagogue reality), there will be problems.

Consider the third sentence. Having worked with many different religious and community organizations, I know that one critical distinguishing factor in their success is how welcoming staff members are. That can be measured by how well they connect with prospective, new and existing members, donors, volunteers, community leaders, etc., as well as how they engage them in what the organization does. Again, it's not a matter of qualifications, it's how the director interacts with others.

Consider sentence four. If you are a leader of a religious organization, you know that you're going to be pushed and pulled in directions you can't anticipate or plan. Someone is sick. Someone is in crisis. Someone passes away. Something happens in the community and religious leaders are expected to respond.

All sorts of things can intrude into the leader's schedule. Yet the leader is still responsible for primary duties and obligations. Rabbi Brodkin is no stranger to this challenge, hence the necessity that his director be able to proactively respond to and anticipate needs and issues. When he's pulled away for some exigent circumstance, can he rely on the director to take the necessary initiative so that there isn't a breakdown or impairment of the synagogue's operations?

Hopefully, you can now see what the star profile does in terms of creating and maintaining a relationship between boss and employee. Essentially, these four sentences say to the person who occupies the position of director of synagogue life, "Your success is my success. We're in this together. Let's collaborate, let's develop new ideas and let's maintain an open, candid and continuous dialogue as we work together to make this synagogue a great place to be and an important part of our community."

If the idea of unleashing employee talent and retaining talented employees appeals to you, I suggest you consider each position that reports to you and make the investment in star profiles. I also encourage HR professionals to become versed in the star profile approach so that you can serve as a coach to your organization's leaders, as I did with Rabbi Brodkin. Help leaders get crystal-clear in their mind what the vision of success looks like in each position by tightening, refining and crafting words that will inspire both the leader and their reports.

I'll leave Rabbi Brodkin with the last word: "The star profile is an empowering way to define the essence of the position, and it's an exciting tool to develop. Once you have a star profile you feel great about, that profile can be the centerpiece of strategic conversations about the job and its role in the organization—with team members, applicants and ultimately the successful candidate." 

Jathan Janove is a former state bar "Employment Law Attorney of the Year" and author of Hard-Won Wisdom: True Stories from the Management Trenches (HarperCollins/Amacom, 2017). Jathan is Master Coach & Practice Leader with Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered CoachingÒ, and faculty member, University of California San Diego HR Masters Series. If you have questions or suggestions for topics for future columns, write to



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