Identifying Talent

Identifying talent is about accurately evaluating individuals against your definition of talent.


Understanding how to identify talent

Identifying talent should look at past performance, experience, expertise and the behaviours of an individual. While this gives a view of their track record, it doesn’t necessarily give a view of what they are capable of in the future (potential). Therefore a focus on the potential of the individual is key to identifying talent.

At a high level, potential refers to the ability to operate successfully at a more senior or complex role in the future. This definition does not tell us much about the individual elements that make up potential. It also doesn’t distinguish sufficiently the difference between those individuals who deliver consistent results and are highly valued by the organisation (high performers) from those who deliver results and demonstrate the skills, behaviours and ambition necessary to do a bigger job (high potentials).

Use the Model of Performance and Potential to understand what makes up each component, giving us a simple equation that helps identify talent.

Download the Model of Performance and Potential


Evaluating performance, potential and readiness

There are two recommended approaches to identifying talent through evaluating performance, potential and readiness; NHS Talent Conversation Tool and Maximising Potential Conversation Tool (MPC-T).

The NHS Talent Conversation Tool  is a comprehensive guide to identifying talent using a 9-box grid especially developed for the NHS.

If this specific talent approach is not being used, the NHS Maximising Potential Conversation Tool (MPC-T)  can be used more widely to explore the potential of all staff

Performance indicators reflect the individual’s current skills and abilities and can be assessed through appraisals and performance management. Our three-point rating scale for performance should make it relatively easy for the individual and the manager to understand performance in role by looking at the evidence surrounding the output of their work.

Rating behaviour is usually based on people’s perception. The Healthcare Leadership Model (HLM) provides a framework of the leadership behaviours developed by the NHS and is supported by a 360 feedback tool which can help to identify the individual’s behaviours and development areas.  It is essential that your organisation is clear about the set of behaviours it is looking for, which should potentially be linked to the organisational values and NHS constitution.

Evaluating an individual’s potential requires a future-looking perspective, looking at someone’s ambition as well as whether they have the skills and competencies required to take on bigger, more complex roles. Potential can be assessed based on a dialogue with the individual about their ambitions and whether they have the skills and competencies to reach specific roles. Alternatively it can be useful to consider psychometric tools, 360 tools or other forms of objective data.

A third important component for identifying talent is to look at readiness to progress to future roles. While an individual may have the track record of past performance and the potential to progress, the extent to which an individual is ready to progress may differ. Understanding an individual’s aspirations for career development as well as the distance between where they are now in terms of performance and where they need to be for that future role, impacts the talent management actions that need to be taken.


Conducting talent reviews

The talent review process is a formal process that engages line managers, senior leaders and HR professionals in a face-to-face meeting and conversation about identifying potential talent in the organisation. Talent review meetings ideally happen once or twice a year in line with the annual talent management cycle and will usually last for half a day or a day. It is an opportunity for cross-functional peers to come together to discuss the talent in the organisation and agree actions, which is best facilitated by HR.

The purpose of the talent review is to focus on the organisational issues which need to be addressed through talent actions i.e. recruitment, development, succession, deployment and retention; identify those individuals who have demonstrated potential to progress in a fair, robust and consistent manner; ensure high quality people are in place to sustain the organisation in the longer-term; and to discuss and agree actions and priorities which need to be taken to address the talent issues.

The talent review meeting should be preceded and followed up with a one-to-one talent conversation between line managers and individual. For further details, see the relevant section on how to have effective talent conversations.

Use the Talent Review Preparation Tool to explore a couple of ways that you can approach the talent review meeting and ensure you structure the meeting to reach the desired outcomes.

Download the Talent Review Preparation Tool

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