Research-based assessments add science to the art of talent management
Making the right talent decision can be an extremely demanding task, in part due to the level of complexity that comes with it. No wonder some refer to it as an art rather than a business activity. A lot depends on this art, and a bad decision can cost a company dearly. At a larger scale, poor talent decisions can have disastrous impacts on a company’s reputation, morale, and ultimately, its bottom line. This can be attributed to the fact that talent decisions really affect all areas of talent management including recruitment, workforce planning, succession planning, leadership development and performance management. Assessments offer research-based tools to support this range of talent management decisions. Even those who have mastered the art of talent management can benefit from the scientific validation assessments can provide. Sophisticated assessment tools have the ability to meet the high levels of complexity inherent in any talent decision, and with many companies being required to do more with less, assessments can increase efficiency and reduce the use of resources. Data derived from these tools can help maximize performance and productivity while reducing the cost and risk associated with bad talent management.
Not every assessment is the same though, and the spectrum of offerings is wide, both from an applicability and a validity perspective. Some tools measure an individual’s knowledge, others assess skills and experience, while some focus on behaviours. Regardless of its focus, a good talent management tool doesn’t only assess an individual’s performance, but also looks at their potential. The best research-based talent management models work with competencies, which can be defined as observable behaviours. They have the potential to determine organization-specific competencies as well as position-specific competencies, creating solid frameworks for individuals to be assessed against. Among the most reputable research-based and experience-tested talent management models are Lominger, Development Dimensions International (DDI) and Personnel Decisions International Ninth House (PDI Ninth House). All have done extensive research by studying successful leaders and dissecting what makes them tick. Most importantly, they have developed best-in-class profiles which individuals can be assessed against, revealing any areas that can be developed further in order to turn a high potential individual into a top performer. The methodology can be applied to individuals, teams and entire organizations. Competency models can be applied to job profiling, training, recruiting of new hires, succession planning, giving feedback, performance management, and designing development plans.
Among the large number of competencies, there is one that truly stands out: learning agility. It describes the ability to wrest meaning from experience. Research shows that what separates exceptional leaders from good ones is their ability to perform well under first-time, challenging conditions. When it comes to talent and potential, learning agility separates the best from the rest. With regards to the impact of new hires, the focus – at least initially – lies on a different set of competencies. In its recently published Global Talent Impact Study, Futurestep examined how companies measure the impact of professional and managerial talent. Surveying over 1,500 HR professionals globally, the study revealed that there are three key competencies most successful new professional and managerial hires demonstrate: decision quality (the ability to make accurate and good decisions), action focus (quick to take initiative) and customer focus (dedication to meeting customers’ needs and expectations). Interestingly, while the report confirmed that more than 60% of participating companies said they undertook formal measurement of the impact of new hires on their business, only half of those reported that the methodology they had in place was widely used in their organizations. Knowing this, companies choosing to implement a formal, research-based talent management system have an exceptional opportunity to get ahead of their competition. Employers with strong candidate assessment tools will be able to attract the right talent, and those that also have a structured, research-based career and leadership development model in place will be able keep them.