We all  know about managing Talent don’t we?…and we manage it very well , thanks for asking.

No need to dwell on this point…

We look after our High Potentials, we talk about them, (at least once a year) we put them into blank spaces on 9 box grids and debate at length their likelihood to take their less popular boss’s job … Oh, and  occasionally, we even promote them.


Big personalities and profiles matched to bigger roles.

All good here thanks, Move along.

Ok if you are pushing, yes, some of them do eventually leave us..and in exit interviews they politely talk about “the need to take their next step” but we wish them well, because they worked hard for us ..and you can’t hold them back can you?  Sometimes it’s just right to let them move on, right?

We go to market and spend top dollar trying to find their pale shadow.

C’est la vie. That’s Talent Mangement for you…

or is it?

I’m not so sure.

What is a bit strange is that in the splash of a high potental  leaving, our organisations can often experience a smaller but more significent ripple as we start to lose some of our “less talented ones” , you know the sort…those individuals that don’t  quite live in our corporate limelight, good people  who worked hard with the Hipo’s but who didn’t get to dance in front of the higher executive members at monthly meetings. These are the ones that wrote the reports, our Cinderellas,  who really got the hard stuff done, the stuff the Hipo’s presented. Our hidden ones. our hidden talent. These are the guys who when the vacancy opens up…are ‘career crushed’ when we overlook them to recruit the next Prince Charming.

Maybe, just maybe, we have got this all wrong…ready to talk?

Let’s talk.

Lets start with a simple question …what is Talent?

I ask as there appear to be so many definitions out there, many from high profile academics and Guru’s who quickly emerse and seduce us with pseudo scientific topics from emotional intelligence, visionary thinking to the very latest fad concepts like ‘Result driven charisma’  – you’ve heard of this one?  I hope not….I just made it up…but you take my point right? ….talent, like beauty…can just be in the eye of the beholder, and it’s fickle assessment can often prove as objectively valid as a teenager’s crush on the latest Pop star – passionate, blind but ultimately unsatisfying.

I think we need more than this. Humour me.

I read a survey repot in the financial times this week that stated what we have all known for years, that 99% of an interview is spent looking for ‘confirmation bias’ to validate that initial 10 second impression we had when he/she walked through the door.

What if traditional talent assessment is equally laden with such ‘Confirmation bias’. As we race to validate (and re-validate) as ‘Talent’  the confident ones, the stars in our business who manage meetings well, who play savvy corporate politics, the sound byte Kings and Queens, experts at managing upwards, often less so with those that follow them. Which is perhaps why the usual names bounce around those top right boxes and are discussed at length, before we build their ego, promote them or lose them.

So how do we look beyond the sparkle and find the real substance of talent, beyond the fools gold?

Let me try and throw something at you… how is your maths?


Mine’s not great, so trust me – this won’t be hard…

Talent, whether its bright, shiny and sparkling under the microscope of HR or the hidden gem, yet unearthed, can be simply found, tested, considered , and chrieshed …just through basic maths.

True Talent Management is  a simple equation:


Talent=          Performance + Potential (– Interference)


                              Individual Aspiration


Ok this looks tough maths, it’s not…let me break it down for you…


Talent  =      Performance   +               (–                   )



  • Talented people Perform highly in their current role – not necessarily high profile positions – look for those hitting their objectives, regularly
  • They are Impactful – their contribution makes a difference to our business
  • They simply require Exposure to Leadership teams to show their ability

Question: Do you regularly create opportunities to witness all of your talent perform?… When was the last time you provided an opportunity for senior leadership exposure for one of your un sung hero’s?



Talent    =            +   Potential           (–                   )



  • People with Potential have the capacity to rise quickly in an organisation (2 levels +)
  • They are technically skilled, learn quickly and adapt well to new challenges set
  • They are more influential and productive than their peers in similar roles


Question : Do you have development plans to accelerate your talented individuals through the organisation? Do you have development plans for all your people?



Talent  =              +                  (– Interference)



  • Talented people respond very well to clarity of purpose, trust and challenge
  • Talent responds negatively to micro management or unnecessary interference
  • Poor leadership behaviour will lead to loss of Talent from the organisation


Questions : Is the Talent in your organisation free from interference ? Who is being ‘over managed’ in your business?



Talent    =                  +                   (–                     )


                               Individual Aspiration

  • Aspiration is the single most significant factor in determining Talent Management success
  • Talented people often have aspirations & plans for their future
  • Companies often have aspirations & plans for their talented people
  • These plans need to be discussed & aligned to avoid wasted time, energy & investment
  • Unaligned plans accelerate talent loss.


Questions : Are you very clear on the personal aspirations of your most talented people? When did you last check on their aspirations?

If you are uncovering deep seated ambition  in coffee fuelled exit interviews, it should be pretty clear you are not doing enough.


The Talent Equation:

T    =      Performance + Potential (– Interference)


                     Individual Aspiration


Its really that simple.

If it helps, try using a simple score  out of 10 (10 being high) when you consider each element for each individual you consider.  Whilst you may want to weight performance or potential (depending on your organisational priorities), keep Aspiration as the key determinant.

Try the maths out yourself…pick three names from your current Hipo  talent pool and run the numbers… what does it tell you?

Then pick 3 names from your wider pool…those that just missed the usual talent cut…and just run the numbers. What does it tell you?


Talent assessment really doesn’t have to be such an enigma for you or your organisation

Enjoy being that code breaker.



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