Talent assessment needs to evolve in big ways. Many clients know this and are making changes but I don't think they are substantive. As many large companies, Adobe, Accenture, GE and Microsoft to name a few, are changing their performance management system in substantial ways, we need to make the same big shifts in talent assessment and succession.
Complex, adaptive issues, disruption, shortening business cycle times, and the need for greater collaboration among more diverse employees means that assessing talent has become more challenging. It is no longer enough for someone to play well with their manager and direct team, though both are still an important metrics. More and more we need to ensure people manage well across more complex, matrixed organizations and influence people who may not be in their immediate sphere of influence.
To ensure that leaders are effective, up, down and across organizational borders (and global boundaries) talent assessment must better leverage collective intelligence. The direct boss should still have a say in who gets promoted. But select peers and superiors across the organization should also be asked to provide feedback. Sometimes I feel that the boss should have the least input because they have formal authority. There is a strong incentive for their direct team to “manage up” well. Delivering results for the organization and boss is an important ticket to entry, but it can no longer be the only metric for promotion. It is really how leaders act when they think no one is watching or evaluating that is much more informative. In talent reviews, leaders need to share and discuss a wider array of performance metrics, including:
Direct managers often don’t know all (or half) of this. But their colleagues across the organization do. This collective experience provides richer data and a more holistic view of a person’s real leadership impact. Organizations should set up talent management processes to capture and leverage it. There are lots of ways to gather collective intelligence in talent assessment but however you go about it, make it transparent and communicate it. In this way, you can create a level playing field and everyone knows what is expected. The way you assess and grow talent is culture creating – so it is worth the time to upgrade your system.
I am very aware that most leaders covet their ability to promote their best employees. When I discuss this more collaborative talent review process, clients most often tell me that they want to retain the decision on who to promote. I understand. And I know they may be short changing organizational performance by not considering a holistic approach. I also tell them not to try this more rigorous collaborative process unless they are willing to fully engage, listen and be open to changing their opinion.
Moira Clarke founded Leadership Consulting Partners 18 years ago to help companies advance their leadership and people systems. If you are reading this to the end, and you find value, please say so and share with others on LinkedIn and Twitter. Thank you!
Welcome to Moira's blog. I write a bi-monthly post about the work of building better people strategies, systems, teams and leaders.