Tools For Talent Assessment

Moon_FotorResearch indicates that the most reliable approaches to the assessment of people use a variety of methods to learn about competences and potential derailers. When you use a range of complementary methods to assess leadership potential (for example), you are  better placed to come to some working hypotheses about potential, how to target development and concerning placement decisions.

The main types of tool available are:

Simulations: Where people are asked to work together or alone on the resolution of challenges that relate to the known demands of the future role. Simulations can include simple “in box” exercises where people have to assess email/mail and make a succession of decisions about how they will prioritise their time, delegate responsibility and deal with risks. There are more complex and extended simulations which evolve over a period and may attempt to replicate the challenge of a particular role or a team in the organisation.

360 Degree or Multi-Rater Assessments: These provide comparisons of an individual’s self perception with the perceptions of their behaviour that are held by “significant others” – invariably including the individual’s manager(s); their peers; their team members and possibly people they supply services to/partner with or have contractual relationships with. Results are provided on an anonymous basis. These assessments are normally conducted on-line.

360 (or 180) Degree Interviews: These are standardised interviews that may be undertaken by the individual or their coach or mentor and which provide data not dissimilar to the on-line multi-rater assessments but are usually conducted face to face or, sometimes, “virtually” using the telephone/Skype, etc.

Personality Inventories: These provide objective measurements of underlying personality characteristics – usually based on a self report basis. Access to these tools (and often to the more sophisticated and reliable forms of simulation) is usually restricted to those who have been thoroughly trained in their use.

Cognitive Ability Tests: These measure intelligence – a component part of some competencies.

Behavioural Event Interviews: Though strongly associated with job selection these can also be used to investigate how a person’s work experience relates to future role requirements.

Development Centres: Typically residential events where a number of the methods above are used to gather information that is then discussed in considerable detail with the individual in a feedback meeting or meetings.

Performance Assessments: Manager’s assessments of performance are useful particularly where a number of years of assessment data exists and that data has been “moderated” (or calibrated) to ensure that the ratings given by different managers carry the same value.

Need advice about assessment? Contact √itas Consult.

Talent Assessment

The objective of a talent assessment process is to reach a conclusion about each potential member of the talent pool in the following terms. Are they:

  • Ready Now for their next role
  • Will they be Ready Soon for their next role, typically meaning in two/three years
  • Will they be Ready in the Future, typically in around five years time
  • A Key Contributor – someone whom the organisation would find great difficulty replacing if they resigned
  • A person that should be included in the pool for Developmental purposes

(The words in italics are usually employed as the category heading in talent pools).

Notice that this approach sorts on the basis of time to readiness. However, the mere passing of time does not necessarily result in any person becoming better qualified for a given target role! More focused approaches to accelerating talent development have, therefore, begun to consider the critical experiences and learning support services that need to be made available to people in the talent pool.

Critical experiences

Art_FotorThe critical experiences may be particular postings, secondments or job moves that are known to be highly correlated with success in a given, future role. These experiences might be broadly defined (“living and working in a francophone country”) and be quite specific (“has managed a revenue account and grown income by a factor of x over a period of y”). Where this approach is taken the emphasis on “time to readiness” is often progressively overtaken and more attention is paid to “paving the way” to a given, future role (or roles) with suitable experiences.

Learning support services

It is well known that two people can experience what appears to be the same occurrence and one will learn a tremendous amount from the experience whilst another very little. It is also evident that people learn in different ways and may be more or less active, pragmatic, and reflective or articulate about what they have learnt. Given this variety of approaches to learning it not surprising that a range of learning support services are now used to accelerate development. These services include mentoring, coaching, good management practices, journaling, action learning (for groups in a talent pool), assignments and so on.

Assessment for what?

Assessment serves three fundamental purposes in talent and succession management:

  • It helps to confirm potential by indicating what kind of talent has been nominated into the pool.
  • It helps target development by allowing you to understand the relationship between individual capabilities and business objectives. This enables you to select highly targeted development solutions for each individual and for them to be captured in a motivational (leadership) development plan.
  • It helps in making placement decisions. This facilitates the selection of just the right experiences, job challenges and assignments and in providing the most appropriate support to the individual.

Need advice about any aspect of talent and succession management? Contact √itas Consult.

Flight Risk In Changing Times

During times of significant organisational change the group of staff that employers most fear losing are the highest performing, high potentials that have been earmarked for accelerated succession. (The research evidence supporting this is available and reliable but I will not repeat it here).

Organisations that are sensitive to the dangers of arriving at the new and much heralded destination without the “right people on the bus” typically make use of what I will describe as differential communication with the “hate to lose” target group. This communication, typically one on one, needs to be very carefully managed, of course. Arriving at the new destination with very little of the needed outstanding human capital on the bus and having to recruit that capability (at significant expense) is not an attractive prospect.

Periods of transformational change invariably result in some redundancies as roles no longer needed are deleted. Throughout the workforce there may arise a sense of “survivor guilt”. “Why have I been retained and others, trusted colleagues, have been let go?”

To retain and re-engage survivors it is important to have the best quality conversations with each of the, now smaller, team. Trusted managers may be able to hold these or the business leader may feel it appropriate to step in. With the most able and talented a good deal of the focus will be on rebuilding trust in the organisation and seeking to gauge, understand and respond to perceptions of flight risk. Clearly, how the leader responds will be tempered according to your estimation of the performance and potential of the individual concerned and the needs of the organisation.

Out of these conversations – especially in respect to the senior leadership team – can emerge the beginnings of a realistic forward capabilities plan. This will naturally need to take into account the developing business road-map and, obviously, the new capabilities needed for success in the planned business future.

Need to manage flight risk during a major change programme? Contact √itas Consult.

 

What Is Talent? What Can Be Learnt Through An MBA?

The term talent (Latin: talentum, from Ancient Greek: τάλαντον, talanton ‘scale, balance, sum’) was one of several ancient units of mass dates back to the Ancient Greeks and Biblical times, starting out as measure of weight, then becoming a unit of money, and later meaning a person’s value or natural abilities (Michaels, et al.,, 2001). The talent as a unit of value is mentioned in the New Testament in Jesus’ parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). This parable is the origin of the use of the word “talent” to mean “gift or skill” in English and other languages. (The Hebrew term for “talent” was kikkār, meaning a round gold or silver disk, or disk-shaped loaf).

We sometimes make a reasonable distinction between individuals who have natural abilities in an area (who some might called gifted) and those who have learned their skills and knowledge. Of course individuals are a mix of both natural abilities and learned skills.

Recently DDI undertook extensive research to investigate two associated questions:

  • Do particular degrees translate into developed leadership skills that can be rigorously assessed? Or, to express that a different way, do leader skill profiles vary by educational degree? And,
  • What skill advantages do MBA graduates exhibit?

DDI evaluated assessment data from 15,000 leaders across 300 companies and 18 countries and compared the performance of those with undergraduate business degrees and MBA degree-holders against a set of critical leader skills.

butterfly_FotorGiven that MBA programmes commonly give centre stage to the development of financial acumen, becoming business savvy, and establishing strategic direction it came as no surprise to learn that MBA degree-holders did better than undergraduate business graduates. However, MBAs performed worse than undergraduate degree-holders in coaching and developing others, driving for results, and selling the vision. DDI’s conclusion was that while an MBA programme “can strengthen many important leadership skills, it won’t necessarily produce strength in all of the skills leaders need to be successful”.

Thankfully, the skills where business degree-holders weren’t strong—compelling communication, driving for results, and inspiring excellence—are all closely aligned with the highly develop-able interaction skills imparted by leadership development programmes, such as those created by √itas Consult.


Michaels, E., Handfield-Jones, H. & Axelrod, B. (2001). The War for Talent. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Develop Your Career With Insights From Branding Practices

Brand differentiation is usually taken to mean ‘setting your product apart from its competitors as a basis for preference’. In career development it is certainly useful to know about overall leadership strengths and weaknesses as this influences the access the individual has to career opportunities. However, at leadership level access to career opportunities may be somewhat determined by a subtle combination of leadership capabilities with certain significant career competences that we may dub the “three knows”:Three Knows

Know how competences concern job related knowledge and work related skills that are reflected in employee, team or business unit performance. Know why competences are seen in the way in which leaders (and others) understand their own motivation and are able to identify with organisational goals. Know whom competences are about networking both within and outside the organisation.

Leaders with these “three knows” stashed in their toolkit are unlikely – especially in today’s changing organisations – to rely over much on career pathways. They are more likely to see career development as a network of ‘crazy paving’ that they lay themselves. They are also likely to recognise that career paths are increasingly likely to be diverted and interrupted and that their own career development may be facilitated by lateral and other moves. Leaders who are adept at managing their own careers also tend to recognise that learning and career development can occur at any age and career stage and that access to opportunities is influenced by family, personal and community roles and can be facilitated by work outside paid employment.

 

Avoiding the “Contribution Deficit”

Succession management has always belonged on the Board’s agenda. Today’s leader shoulders a great responsibility for identifying and raising successors. Yet succession planning can appear, because it shapes the organisation’s mid-term future, to be a little ethereal. Just how wrong that view really is can be underscored by a rapid scan of the four year period from 2012 to 2015. In that span of years, 74 percent of the new CEOs appointed to Standard & Poor’s 500 companies were promoted from within. No surprise there because, since Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras published “Built to Last”, it has become widely (though not universally) accepted that there is absolutely no inconsistency between promoting from within and stimulating significant change. What might be surprising is that the 74 percent of internally promoted CEOs represents an increase from 63 percent during the 2004-2007 period. And 91 percent of those internally promoted CEOs had no prior CEO experience.

Succession planning is vital and must be done well. The risks of doing it badly are too well known to discuss: let’s take an overview, realistically, of a major challenge and a related calculated risk that organisations need to contemplate today.

Avoiding the “Contribution Deficit”

Over promotion is a well-known phenomenon with its own dangers but promoting a functional specialist into a senior leadership role before they are ready can create different risks. Many of these risks are directly connected to the “contribution deficit”. This is often seen in the new leader’s lack of confidence when engaging in debate about critical issues or their inability to hold competing options in dynamic tension. The results: significant limitations on the newly promoted leader’s ability to be a compelling adviser to the Board, CEO and wider leadership teams. Frequently, what’s missing is a combination of sufficiently broad knowledge about business drivers, understanding the actual and potential contributions of other functional areas, limited influencing skills or a failure to build and empower a strong team.

Taking Early Action: Whilst the Window’s Open

cropped-Window.pngThose organisations most skilled at developing succession-ready leaders identify high potentials early, so they have the most options for crafting developmentally focused assignments across the business. A failure to do so delivers problems that are often compounded by other features of organisational life.

A progressive narrowing of the window of opportunity typically plays an increasing part. The time to qualification and establishment in many professions has progressively lengthened as the need for a first degree plus a professional qualification has frequently been replaced by the requirement for a postgraduate qualification, plus a professional accreditation and, possibly, an MBA. Naturally, the accredited professional then needs time to soundly establish their performance within their function. Significant life choices are made at about this time, creating future responsibilities that will factor into mobility decisions later. Reduced employee willingness to accept global movements at the invitation of their employer also serve to restrict the organisation’s scope for manoeuvre, whilst familial senior care responsibilities can limit options in the last decade of working life.

Taken together, these – and related – pressures conspire to quite narrowly define the individual’s and the organisation’s opportunity to identify, assess and work with together to prepare for future organisational leadership. The calculated risk is critical, the quality of the evidence base available frequently needs to be significantly enhanced, but doing nothing is usually the worst possible option.

Need to plan, implement or evaluate succession planning and talent management? Contact √itas Consult.

The Risks of Not Managing Talent

Bronze Face_FotorThe unwanted loss of even one leader can be costly, given that 46% of replacements fail within 18 months (according to a study by Leadership IQ) and, among senior ranks, the cost of this failure to the organisation can exceed twenty times salary.

Imagine that cost being multiplied by your annual churn rate for managers. The truth is that managing this risk is complex – for it isn’t technical skills that result in new hires failing – it’s most commonly down to poor interpersonal skills.

Coach-ability, emotional intelligence, motivation and temperament – sometimes still collectively referred to as “character” – are much more predictive of a new hire’s success or failure than technical competence. Understanding technical competence remains a popular subject amongst interviewers simply because it’s easy to assess – yet it doesn’t contribute significantly to reducing the critical leadership appointment risk. So do some selection interviewing methods (e.g., behavioural, chronological, case study, etc.) reduce the risks of new hire failures?

Apparently not, according to the Leadership IQ study. No significant difference in failure rates was found across a range of different interviewing approaches. However, 812 managers experienced significantly more hiring success than their peers. What differentiated their job interviewing approach was their emphasis on interpersonal and motivational issues and their willingness to back their insights. Those managers that asked about and looked/listened for evidence of candidates coach-ability, emotional intelligence, motivation and temperament, saw vast improvements in their hiring success rates.


The three-year study by Leadership IQ, a global leadership training and research company, compiled these results after studying 5,247 hiring managers from 312 public, private, business and healthcare organizations. Collectively these managers hired more than 20,000 employees during the study period.