(This article is the second in a series about the strategic talent management process.)

In our first article on strategic talent management, we focused on Step One – strategy and, more importantly, the talent implications of that strategy.  We challenged you to create a picture of success – what the team would look like (including specific talent, skills, experiences, characteristics, roles, etc.) and what it might take to get there (i.e., do our current players fit, do we have some gaps, where can we find new players who might fit, etc.). This initial step is followed by Selecting for Talent.

Step Two: Selecting for Talent
Once you have defined strategy and determined the talent needs, you must select team members who can execute and deliver on that strategy, and it may not be as easy as you think.  Selecting talent and selecting FOR talent, are two different things. To be most successful, strategic talent management calls for selecting for talent, whether you are choosing existing team members for a new role/promotion or bringing in new team members from outside the organization.

Gallup Inc. defines talent as “the capacity for excellence”. Innate talents are the naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior that can be productively applied, and they are a significant predictor of performance.  In fact, Gallup’s research shows that when compared to more traditional factors in hiring such as knowledge, skills, experience, education, beliefs, intelligence, and values, innate talent has more than five times the impact on performance than any other factor.  This doesn’t mean eliminate the traditional factors altogether. Rather, it means being intentional to include actions that target and uncover innate talents because there is a proven return on investment when they are added to the mix.

Companies that embrace talent-based hiring integrate the following activities into their selection process:

  • Identify talents needed to promote performance in the role
    Having a talent profile for the role is useful in the screening process for candidates.  This includes carefully considering the contributions (i.e., results) expected from the role, the type of role it is (e.g., managerial, sales oriented, team leader, etc.), and the innate talents that will drive the outcomes needed. While the profile doesn’t have to be overly formal, it does need to be fleshed out enough to provide visibility into what you are seeking within a successful candidate.
  • Use scientifically validated talent assessments 
    Once you’ve identified the talent profile, consider how you might use scientifically validated talent assessments as a part of the process.  Some companies use assessments, but only after they have narrowed the field.  However, using these tools earlier in the process can surface more candidates with the desired talents.  Why? Because it limits the inherent pitfalls of human bias in screening the candidate pool. US Bank made this shift and not only experienced an increase in viable candidates, they also have achieved positive results in performance and diversity as a result. 
  • Evaluate prior experiences and accomplishments
    Because performance is critical, it is also important to seek cues to talent in a candidate’s prior experiences and accomplishments.  In most cases, this method includes the use of behavior-based interview questions that require the candidate to share key experiences in which they played a significant role or promoted growth.  Significant accomplishments or achievements can also be explored for behavioral indicators of innate talent.  When considering both of these areas, you want to think about what contributions will be required from the candidate in the new role, see if you can identify when they have demonstrated similar tendencies in past performance and/or what indicators of readiness and potential you see for them to contribute in the areas and at the level needed in the new role. 
  • Use multiple data points
    In selection, there is no magic bullet. There is no one shining indicator that will guarantee success.  The process often includes a combination of data points.  It is important to consider and include both objective (e.g., the talent-based assessment) and subjective (e.g., interview) sources for talent data.  In addition, for subjective data, it is essential to include more than one interviewer to invite multiple points of view and to educate the interviewers on how to dig for talent indicators. If the candidate is from within the organization and being considered for a new or different role, a final data point can be observation or performance data that is screened in the context of the new role expectations.

If we consider these elements and return to the NFL scouting combine analogy that was referenced in Part One, each element is present.  While the context differs, each player is run through a series of not only physical assessments but also psychometric assessments to identify talent.  This data is provided to the teams who then conduct a series of interviews, considering their own strategy, culture, and needs.  The multiple data points all contribute to the selection decisions made on draft day. It’s a rigorous process to select the right players.

To elevate your effectiveness of selecting for talent, consider the following questions:

  • What elements of your selection process are objectively measuring innate talent?
  • If you are using assessments, at what point are you using them in the process?
  • How effectively are you using your subjective elements, such as behavior-based interviewing, to intentionally explore innate talents?
  • What could you add or do more of that would increase the focus on identifying talent as a part of your selection process?
  • How are you considering talent on internal promotions (e.g., managerial talent, entrepreneurial talent, etc.)?

If people are your most important asset, the most important decision you can make is who you hire and who you promote. Having a robust, talent-based selection process can support and better inform those decisions, and ultimately, will help you achieve better business results.