Getting Sustainable Results from Talent Review Meetings

By: Michael Grubich, Managing Partner, LAK Group

“Our people are our most important resource.”  It is a cliché that is used by every business leader and Human Resources professional, yet the processes we leverage rarely yield the results businesses need to build a sustainable pipeline of diverse talent.  In fact, recent research from ATD found that only 14% of organizations rated their succession planning process as successful.

So here is my question … what could be more critical to organizational success than developing bench strength at all levels?  A key element of talent reviews that is often poorly executed is identifying emerging talent within the organization, at the lowest levels, who have the potential to lead your company into the future.

So, what is a Talent Review Meeting?

A practice underutilized in many organizations, talent review meetings are strategic sessions that take a high-level view of business performance, employee performance, debate regarding potential of talent, and succession planning discussions.  The talent review process typically brings senior-level stakeholders together to align on the current performance of top talent and the potential this talent demonstrates.

In my experience, challenges organizations face in delivering “organization-transforming” talent review sessions include the following:

  • Limited clarity regarding definitions around good performance
  • Inconsistent definitions or understanding regarding “potential”
  • Conflict avoidance by facilitators when debating talent performance and potential
  • Lack of preparation by leaders, blocking robust discussion
  • Process is rushed to accommodate time limitations
  • Little follow through on development actions
  • Leaders have limited access to current, relevant, and comprehensive workforce data
  • Lack of connection to business strategy and overall performance

Bring Together Performance, Succession, and Development

The talent review process should be a disciplined approach that links core talent management elements:

  • Performance Management
  • Identification of Potential
  • Development Planning
  • Succession Planning
  • Third Party Facilitation

 Performance Management processes are a critical component of the talent review.  But simple rankings of employees in a 9-box matrix based on performance or potential aren’t enough to support strategic decisions that will strengthen an organization.  Talent review discussions must look at performance sustained over a period of time.  These discussions should also focus on leadership capability, not technical capability.

Identification of potential is managed through a facilitated balancing performance, and potential to evaluate talent and determine which employees have the capacity to assume greater responsibility.  We like to put a focus on learning agility when we work with organization on identifying potential in future leaders.

Development planning supports the talent review process by serving as an action plan for talent.  This element supports emerging talent as they build the skills, knowledge, and experience needed to contribute in a future role.  This step also includes accountability for the employee, manager, and organization to conduct development discussions and identify development experiences for all talent included in talent reviews.

Succession planning includes the exercise of populating succession boxes and keeping the organization’s leaders focused on the right talent.  It also must include discussion of emerging talent and aligning the right development opportunities for each individual identified on succession plans.

Third party facilitation has a value-added impact on talent review results.  A neutral facilitator is more likely to challenge senior leadership regarding their position and assessment of talent.  Internal staff tend to back down when experiencing resistance from leaders, compromising standards and including people on a list who truly don’t have the capability to advance in the organization.

After all is said and done, integration of all talent process is the key success factor to achieving high-impact talent management.  Organizations with talent management systems that integrate performance management, assessment, development, and succession planning have a distinct advantage during talent reviews.

Successful Talent Reviews Enable Sustained Business Success

Successful talent review meetings are essentially a talent plan to support the strategic business plan.  When managed effectively, the following results can be achieved by organizations:

  • The organization becomes resilient to expected changes in leadership, like retirements and promotions.  They effectively build an internal talent pipeline.
  • Leaders can proactively fill existing talent gaps and respond quickly when people in critical roles leave.
  • Top talent understand their growth potential, receive the recognition they deserve, and stay motivated and engaged.
  • High-potential employees receive opportunities for focused development that aligns with their individual career goals.

By taking steps to provide leaders with the right systems and data to drive and inform talent reviews, the organization overall will benefit through increased retention, productivity, and business continuity.

LAK Group believes people are the competitive differentiator for organizations and communities.  Our purpose is to transform careers, cultures & organizations from selection through succession.  We partner with companies to create and execute integrated talent strategies which improve business performance, advance the capabilities of leaders, and transform the careers of employees.