A Complete Guide to Talent Calibration

Akshit Dangi

Talent-related decisions is crucial and equally hard to make. To ensure that these decisions are made with the highest level of accuracy, managers and leaders rely on talent calibration. This process involves managers and leaders of an organization coming together to discuss and evaluate their talent holistically. 

As a part of performance management, the process helps understand the organization’s talent capability and future organizational needs to optimize further and boost employee performance.

But as it stands, talent calibration is seldom discussed or held in organizations, and it often stays in the shadow of performance calibration despite its importance That said, here is the one guide you need to start calibrating your organization’s talent pool.

Why have talent calibration?

Before anything else, we need to understand why we should conduct talent calibration. Here are a few points that will help you understand:

  1. Talent calibration assesses your talent health: It ensures that, before every talent review, you have a clear picture of the gap between the existing talent in your organization and the expected talent and skillsets that you’ll need.
  1. Talent calibration helps make informed talent decisions: It assists in collecting the data required to make talent decisions such as filling in specific positions or reviewing a team member.
  1. Talent calibration helps eliminate biases and prejudices: It’s a no-brainer that talent review, being a subjective process, is prone to bias and prejudice. To some extent, talent calibration eliminates that by collecting information on the talent pool beforehand.
  1. Talent calibration provides data points to bring in new talent: It enables managers and team leads to identify the opportunity for hiring new talent and find the best fit. It also allows them to develop new talents and devise a strategy to reward them appropriately.
  2. Helps coach managers: Facilitating a holistic discussion over talent provides mutual coaching for managers to discuss how employees can receive training and development.

With these, we can understand that talent calibration is imperative to building a strong talent pool and bench strength in the organization. But, as mentioned before, it is often overlooked for performance calibration. Why is that, and more importantly, what differentiates the two? Let’s go over exactly that.

Talent Calibration vs. Performance Calibration: What’s the difference?

Simply put, performance calibration is a process by which managers and leaders ensure that the reviews of their team members have been fair and accurate. They go about it by discussing the proposed performance ratings that are to be given to their direct reports with other managers. As the name suggests, it occurs at the end of every performance review cycle to calibrate employee performance.

Talent calibration, on the other hand, is used to assess the health of an organization’s talent pool by assessing several factors, such as employee potential, current capabilities, and future talent needs of the organization. Generally, it takes place after talent reviews to prevent bias and make informed decisions in choosing successors.

While both are calibration processes, they are not interchangeable and have a distinct place in an organization’s performance management system. We also need to understand that:

  • talent calibration is forward-looking while performance calibration is backward-looking.
  • talent calibration is a part of succession planning while performance calibration is a part of performance reviews.
  • performance calibration happens before talent calibration as understanding the performance of each individual is a prerequisite for talent reviews.

What does a typical talent calibration process look like/How do leaders go about the talent calibration process?

Assemble the leaders

As talent calibration is all about assessing and calibrating your entire organization’s talent pool, the first step to do is to assemble all key managers and leaders of the organization. When doing so, ask the leaders to prepare the following data about their team:

  1. Each member’s performance and potential.
  2. Each member’s readiness to take on bigger responsibilities.
  3. The potential successors within the team.
  4. The development activities they’ve developed for each team member.
  5. The team members’ future career paths.

Reflect on the talent

Once all the leaders have gathered up, the next thing to do is to first discuss the overall health of the talent pool by understanding which key positions may be vacated in the future and what other responsibilities are being left unfulfilled at the moment. Next, we need to discuss the status of each existing team member by teams or by some predetermined groups.

  1. Start by reflecting on your top talent. Work with the group to understand how all the leaders can help these people move into bigger, more critical roles.
  2. Next comes your emerging talent. For them, discuss and lock the development opportunities necessary for them to take on leadership roles in the future.
  3. After the emerging talent, discuss your workhorses and develop retention strategies for them. Along with that, develop ways with which these people can contribute the most to the organization’s performance and objectives.
  4. Lastly, it’s time to discuss the talent that either hasn’t been doing well or hasn’t been classified for one reason or another. For these, the group needs to determine which people should be retained in the organization and what development strategies should be created to uplift their status.

Discuss the locked decisions with the talent pool

Once everything has been discussed and all the decisions have been finalized, ask each leader to discuss the decisions with their team and direct reports to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Finally, work with each team member to develop step-by-step development plans to take their performance to the next level and push their potential to the limit. With all this, you’re finally done with your organization’s talent calibration and now that we understand how talent calibration works, let’s learn the best practices to do it seamlessly.

The five best talent calibration practices

Always have a group facilitator

A group facilitator will ensure that talent calibration is carried out smoothly by improving the decision quality and reducing the time required for the decision-making process. Not to mention, they can also draw emphasis on accountability by having each manager properly make a case for their ratings.

Reduce your group size

A reduced group size would ensure better coordination between the raters, reduce conformity, and increase individual participation from group members. So, make sure that your talent calibration team is no more than 6-7 people in size.

Try holding multiple sessions

Talent calibration groups often try to wrap up all the decisions in one session. However, doing so tends to hamper the overall accuracy of the decisions, making it counterintuitive. Instead of doing it all in one go, try to hold multiple sessions as it would also improve decision-making by focusing on a defined set of criteria with each session.

Back everything with data

No decision during talent calibration should be taken based on instinct or any personal judgments. Ensure that every decision that is taken during talent calibration is backed by information and data collected during talent reviews.

Ensure the completion of four critical goals

To ensure the effectiveness of your talent calibration process, you must ensure that your team of reviewers achieves these four key objectives by the end:

  1. The talent decisions for each direct report have been shared and discussed thoroughly.
  2. The team is better positioned to identify potential successors for each key role.
  3. The has identified development opportunities for the top and emerging talent.
  4. Every manager’s perspective and decisions have been considered.


At the end of the day, the key takeaway here is that talent calibration is imperative to making your talent reviews and succession planning successful. It is a process that can be easily done alongside performance calibration. It serves a much different purpose than its sibling and is essential in boosting your organization’s performance.

So, to identify your organization’s successors and assess the overall health of your talent, be sure to calibrate your talent after every review.

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