Planning an organization’s successors is a practice that has existed since time immemorial. From choosing a suitable prince for leading a kingdom to choosing the next leaders of a business, it has evolved into the process we now know as succession planning. There is a by-product of succession planning, and talent management in general that is often overlooked and under-appreciated, though.
That by-product is Talent Review, which helps you evaluate your team members across the organization on performance and future potential. Not only do these Talent Reviews assist in Succession Planning, but they also play a crucial role in enabling a high-performance culture in your organization. Pretty sweet, isn’t it?
But, move a little deeper into the rabbit hole, and you’re bound to notice the absence of a standard process for conducting Talent reviews. Perhaps it is because of different company cultures and values, or perhaps some Lovecraftian entity prohibits us from having one.
Either way, we’ve got your back with this one. Here’s how you can conduct effective and efficient Talent Reviews in 2023.
What is a talent review?
As explained above, a talent review is a process that pushes an organization’s leaders to assess their teams based on their performance and potential. As a process different from our usual performance reviews, a talent review helps achieve three things:
- Identify the high and low performers of the workplace.
- Develop a strong leadership bench strength.
- Fill talent gaps and optimize performance.
Different companies use different tools or methods to achieve these. For example, you might have noticed that General Electric uses the nine-block grid to facilitate differentiation in its talent pool. Or Predictive Index, which simply sends each leader in their organization a spreadsheet with criteria and the names of each employee and how both the organizations have their leaders make a collective decision in Talent Reviews.
The point we’re trying to make here is that almost all approaches are optimal as steps in the talent review process as long as it achieves the three objectives as mentioned earlier. But here’s the thing - we know what objectives a talent review can achieve, but we have not established to whom we must assign these objectives. So, who should be conducting an organization’s talent reviews? Let’s have a look.
Who should be responsible for conducting talent reviews?
Firstly, your “who” here will depend on the company's size. You see, the baseline of every talent review process is to understand every individual’s work and initiative thoroughly. That requires a direct line of sight into every member of the organization.
Let’s say you’re a budding organization with a team of around 50. In such a scenario, the executive team would be more than enough to handle the reviews of each team member. However, as the organization grows, your talent reviews would require insights from the department heads and senior managers, considering how they are going to remain in contact with every team member a whole lot more.
Throughout all this, it will be up to the HR leaders of the organization to ensure that the talent reviews take place effectively and efficiently. They must also meet with each reviewer to discuss each individual that they are assessing. So, keeping all that in mind, your talent reviews must include every senior member in direct contact with your organization's members with support from the HR leaders.
If you’ve followed even a bit of pop culture, you must be familiar with the iconic line from Spider-Man, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” Here’s the question, though, what if you have power but cannot take the said responsibility that comes with it? What would happen to your talent reviews if the people in charge of the reviews were not up to the task?
Where can your talent reviews fall apart?
Talent Reviews can take some critical damage if the manager or the leader is incompetent. For example, suppose a team member has not been able to complete his assignments on time or showcase their potential due to a lack of diligence on the manager’s part. In that case, the Talent Review of that team member will automatically suffer. However, there’s an even bigger problem right around the block.
Show any bias, and your talent reviews shall no longer be pious. As a leader, you must never begin your process with a preference toward any particular individual. However, the trap of bias does not end there. You must steer clear of multiple biases when conducting a Talent Review:
One of the easiest biases to fall into, even if something seems super apparent, does not mean it's true. The only thing this bias leads to is a lack of communication and sincerity on your part as a leader. You can easily overcome this bias by prioritizing less apparent signs of success/failure and getting a complete picture by talking to colleagues and other leaders.
It is easier to remember how a team member performed last week than to remember how they did throughout the quarter or year. To overcome this, keep track of your KRs and IDPs and measure your team member’s progress against those to get a clearer picture.
If someone has a personality or work ethic similar to yours, it does not mean they are one of your organization’s stars. Preferring someone based on similar practices or faith is also a massive no-no. Keeping that in mind, find common ground with all your team members within the boundaries of work to review them fairly and objectively.
As long as the manager is up to the task at hand and is free from the biases mentioned above, talent reviews can well and truly be a piece of cake. That said, it’s about time we go over how to get that good ol’ piece of cake too. So, let us establish our recipe and then bake a successful, oven-fresh talent review.
Establishing the right criteria for conducting talent reviews
As you dive deeper into the rabbit hole, you’ll notice how companies never share similar criteria for their talent reviews. All have different metrics in place against which they measure an individual’s work. Some prioritize performance over potential, while others have some general metrics that they use to measure a team member’s work.
We’ve made things a little easier for you here - to give a general direction, here are some standard criteria across different companies. These will also give you insight into your team member’s performance and potential levels.
- Quality of Work: Does an individual ship the work up to the organization's standards? Is the work able to push the company forward?
- Job Awareness: How knowledgeable of the assigned job is your team member? Is it something they are a veteran or a newbie at?
- Adaptability: Can your team member easily handle deadlines and pressure and venture back and forth into the unknown?
- Punctuality and Ethics: How strict is an individual with the guidelines and deadlines given to them? How well are they aligned with the company’s culture code?
- Productivity: Is your team member capable of making the best of their time and resources?
- Initiative: Is the team member always ready to take up new tasks and want to try to give their best for the company at all times?
- Decision-Making and Critical Thinking: Has your team member shown any signs that they are capable of making critical decisions with thorough analysis and logical thinking?
- Team Spirit: Is the individual a team player or a lone wolf? Do they try to bring others up with them, or do they not care about others at all?
- Overall Impact: How much impact have they created in the organization’s growth with their actions?
How to conduct a talent review?
Once you have established the criteria for your reviews, it is time to get into the actual steps of your talent review process. All the required ingredients are in place; it’s time to cook the meal.
To begin conducting your talent review, share a template (similar to, or the one we’ve shared) with all the reviewers that can contain the details of the team member, how they fare against each established criteria, what the reviewers think of their work so far, and what they need to do going forward.
Once you share the template, the reviewers will begin by assessing each individual they are in contact with one by one, scoring them against each criterion and determining their placing (performance and potential) using a rating scale such as the 9-box grid.
Analyzing and identifying needs and future potential
Once the reviewers are aware of their team members' placings in the first phase, the next step is to analyze what went right or wrong along with each member's needs. We must also determine whether a member is ready to take up some leadership opportunities in the future.
For example, some members may need more stretch tasks, projects, or tasks beyond their knowledge or skill to maximize performance and potential. On the other hand, the ones with more potential may require more leadership opportunities.
Preparing and communicating a development plan
Now that we have identified the needs and potential of each employee, the next step is to craft a formal plan with steps and assignments that your team members can immediately take to reach greater heights. Here, prepare a retention or improvement plan for your team member according to how well they’ve placed.
To communicate the formed plan effectively, hold a 1:1 with your team members and discuss what went right, what could’ve been done differently, and how to do things from then on. Follow up with your team members regularly to realign, refocus, and rework if needed.
The best talent review practices for 2023
Keep your talent review process agile
Every organization is dynamic, facing challenges and changes throughout the year. Considering that, ensuring that your process and subsequent development plans are agile and can facilitate future changes is essential. Ensure that your talent reviews are frequent enough to avoid discrepancies and inaccuracies.
Avoid boxing an employee’s potential
The ability to define your team member’s potential is pretty remarkable, but not when it inaccurately represents their capabilities. To that end, you must ensure that your talent reviews go beyond the scope of your KRs and include overall performance, strengths, growth made since joining the company, and achievement of personal goals.
A talent review shouldn’t simply be restricted to a manager assessing an individual. Collaborating with other managers and leaders can help make the reviews more comprehensive and ensure zero disruptions. Similarly, you can also include the individual in the process, co-creating the development plans and follow-ups with them.
Make technology your new friend
Using tech software that can track an employee’s work and performance over a long time will ensure that the data is accurate, accessible, and action-ready across different reviewers and managers. An appropriate performance management tool (such as yours truly) can help automate and smoothen the overall process of your talent reviews at every level.
Talent reviews deserve more appreciation
Reading through, you must’ve realized just how vital Talent Reviews are for every organization. Yet, it is often overlooked and underappreciated, with all the focus placed on the ol’ reliable performance reviews.
That said, it is vital to include talent reviews in analyzing an organization’s performance and future. Love and do your talent reviews properly, and the reviews will surely shower your organization with a concrete future full of growth and success.