How to Lift Out a High-Functioning Team

No matter how remarkable a new hire may be, rarely are major business successes ever attributed to recruiting a single candidate. While not for everyone, recruiting an entire team has the potential to deliver the ability of another organization but without the expense, risk and difficulty of a corporate acquisition. Team lift-outs are a powerful approach.

Organizations wanting to enter a new market or division commonly merge with or acquire another company. However, chartering a high-functioning group of people who work well together and who can quickly become effective in a new setting is a contemporary approach to an acquisition. Unit lift-outs allow talent to come up to speed without the logistical pressures of an acquisition or the potential social challenges of integrating existing teams.

Why consider a unit lift-out? Great employees don’t operate in a vacuum; they operate as part of a department and team. At least in part, their stellar performance is due from their intra-team relationships. An experienced team can make an impact much faster than a group of people brought together for the first time.

There’s no need for colleagues to get acquainted with one another or establish shared values, mutual accountability, or group norms. Instead, the team can hit the ground running and help the company as business opportunities arise. Acquire the right team in the right way, and you may get not only cohesive, plug-and-play talent but can even impact financial or competitive advantage immediately.

But, like mergers or acquisitions, poorly handled lift-outs carry their own set of challenges and risks. In order to mitigate the risk, recruiters should follow a standardized process, including the steps outlined below.


  • Make sure everyone is on board; consider getting an executive sponsor for the project to champion the process.
  • Ensure your company’s strategic vision matches the courted team.
  • Do your research—there’s a lot of data on lift-outs, especially in the financial and technology sectors.

Court and Build Your Team

  • Share high-level expectations and benefits with the candidates—transparency is critical on both sides.
  • Set a strict recruiting timeline—this helps avoid any blocking strategies from the team’s existing organization.
  • Offer a sign-on bonus with an expiration date—incent those to agree to your offer right away.
  • Consider a group sign-on bonus—an added sign-on bonus to each individual if more than the targeted percentage of the entire group agrees to come on board. This will encourage individuals who have decided to accept to actively recruit others.
  • Anticipate counteroffers—develop individualized counteroffer strategies in advance, because the very best are likely to be provided with one or more counteroffers from their current company.
  • Be strategic: you don’t want to overpay for the talent, but keep in mind that an intact group may be more valuable than the sum of its parts.

Do Your Due Diligence

  • Especially for revenue producing roles, review any candidate’s non-competition and non-solicitation agreements. If the employees don’t currently have a non-compete or non-solicitation agreements, consider implementing once the employees join your organization.
  • Non-Disclosure agreements are vital for both sides.
  • Review any risk exposure due and research potential regulatory issues.

Transition and Integrate

  • Onboard the team and transfer any client relationships, in accordance with any contractual agreements.
  • Be transparent—announce the lift-out of the group internally and externally.
  • Help the team integrate and establish relationships with other groups within the organization. Care should be taken to address any internal equity concerns. Ego must be dealt with early and often.

Retain and Succeed

  • According to Harvard Business Review, a “clear sense of direction” and “access to senior executives” was most often cited as the factor responsible for the success of a lifted-out team.
  • Prevent any unnecessary turnover—identify clear leaders of the team, and work closely with them to keep a pulse on the group.
  • Stay-on bonuses for key players or the entire group could be considered.
  • Take care to include processes to guarantee true integration of the new team.

Team lift-outs provide a way for companies to accelerate growth by acquiring, rather than developing, proven revenue producers. Thoughtful management during the stages of a lift-out ensures that individuals are enticed to move and are motivated to produce for their new organization.

Are you looking for a talented, high-producing team? With nearly thirty years of service to the banking, financial services, and recruiting industries, Brian has a keen ability to identify top candidates will become stellar performers for his client companies. Since 2001, he has executed several high profile commercial, and mortgage team lift-outs. Contact Brian for a consultation to learn more about placing talented individuals or teams in your organization.

HBR Source: Groysberg, B. & Abrahams, R. (2006). Lift Outs: How to Acquire a High-Functioning Team. Harvard Business Review, December 2006. Retrieved from