The Secret to a Great Talent Pool

Guest Contributorby Claude Werder | Posted | Career Management

The Secret to a Great Talent Pool

This is the second installment in a four-part talent mobility series by Claude Werder from Brandon Hall Group. Claude is the Senior Vice President and Principal HCM Analyst at BHG and leads the talent management research and advisory practice.

What is the Secret to a Great Talent Pool?

Most employers want to increase internal talent mobility. The biggest reason they don't, according to Brandon Hall Group research, is that their talent pipeline is not large or deep enough.

Logically, most employers say the solution is to invest more in developing high-potential talent. Do that and problem solved, right?

Wrong. Employers do need to put more resources into developing high-potential talent. But they must first address how they identify high-potentials.

That's the secret to a great talent pool - identifying high-potentials that actually have potential.

Most organizations equate the potential for advancement with past or current performance. The nine-box grid used in some form by most organizations for talent reviews focuses heavily on performance. But, performance may have little or nothing to do with employees' future value if they don't have the motivation and agility to learn, change and grow.

In this digital era that promises to significantly alter critical skills and competencies, we are transitioning to a Learning Economy, where value is driven by how quickly someone can learn and apply new skills in a fast-changing world.

In addition, traditional performance evaluation, which drives current talent mobility and succession planning, is deeply flawed and prone to bias, as this graphic shows:

Source: 2019 Brandon Hall Group Performance Management Study

The key to identifying high-potential talent is to take a more holistic approach. Brandon Hall Group looks at it through three lenses:

  • Capabilities and abilities – employees' current performance and the skills and capabilities they possess that can be applied to new roles in a changing business environment.
  • Engagement - the willingness of employees to consistently give their best at work and commit to the organization's values and objectives, including learning and adapting to change.
  • Aspirations - employees' personal and professional dreams and goals, and what a successful career and personal life look like to them. This includes milestones they would like to achieve short- and long-term.

Viewing potential like this generates a more well-rounded perspective. But that's just the beginning; potential must be evaluated through formal assessments and ongoing observation throughout employees' careers.

This does not mean current performance is not important; employees must still perform their current jobs well. But their future roles will be based much more on what they are capable of doing tomorrow rather than what they are good at today.

In this approach, potential involves commitment and aspiration as much as performance and capability. You can have all the ability in the world, but if you don't have the motivation to act upon it through continuous learning and willingness to change and evolve, your value to the organization is limited.

A New Way to Look at Potential

Brandon Hall Group reimagined the nine-box grid to include the three lenses to view high potential. The level of investment in an employee depends on a balance of all three areas: capabilities/abilities, engagement and aspirations.

Source: Brandon Hall Group 2020

Let's examine how an employer might evaluate an employee's potential using this model:

Our hypothetical employee, Ashley, has been a mid-level manager for three years. She routinely exceeds expectations in performance evaluations. Viewed solely from the capabilities and abilities lens (highlighted in yellow in the lower right column of the model), Ashley would undoubtedly be identified as high potential.

However, when we look at engagement, manager and peer feedback and conversations with Ashley reveal that, while adequate, her level of engagement does not match her level of performance.

Through ongoing conversations with Ashley, we've also learned she has other priorities beyond her job and does not aspire to move up the traditional career ladder, though she does like her current job and wants to continue to grow in her role.

Ashley's value to the organization is strong in her current role, but her future value may not increase much, at least in the short-term. We should manage our investment in Ashley accordingly, compared to others who might have similar performance and capability and higher engagement and aspiration to take on more responsible roles in the near future.

This new way of viewing potential is why you hear so much about the reinvention of performance management. A once- or twice-a-year performance evaluation tells little about how the employee can add future value. Evaluations must involve continuous feedback, agile goal setting, coaching and mentoring, career conversations and formal assessments.

Assessments are a great way to understand an employee's abilities, motivations, values and work styles that might not be revealed in person-to-person interactions. If assessments are done on a regular basis, they can also reveal possible changes in motivation, outlook and values over time.

The secret to a larger, deeper talent pool starts with a more holistic view of potential. From there, you can invest in learning and development with a more well-rounded view and more confidence that the candidate's goals are in alignment with your needs as an employer.

The Star You Seek May Already Be in Your Organization

Learn how to reach talent mobility success in 9 steps


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Cover of the book
Cover of the book

The Star You Seek May Already Be in Your Organization

Learn how to reach talent mobility success in 9 steps


Download Now


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