viaPeople Insight - Performance Management & Succession Planning Blog

Potential Confusion.....in the Talent Review Process

Posted by Karen N. Caruso, Ph.D. on Aug 5, 2012 10:53:00 AM

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high potential succession planningThe Talent Review process critical component of Succession Planning and Talent Management. Talent Review provides an opportunity for a leadership team to get together and discuss the performance and potential of the talent pool.  Organizations frequently use a variation of the 9 box grid as a tool to facilitate discussion and make talent decisions. The 9 box is a simple, yet powerful, tool to facilitate Talent Review discussions.  

Ideally, the leadership team comes to some degree of consensus regarding various categories of talent (i.e., high potentials, problem performers) at the end of the Talent Review. On the surface, Talent Review is a straightforward process yielding defined outcomes.  Looking deeper, this process is not without challenges that, if not addressed, will greatly impact both the process and the outcomes.

Potential Confusion - The Biggest Challenge in Talent Review

succession planningThe construct of Potential is often poorly defined and can be the source of disagreement among organizational leaders. Potential is an individual’s ability and willingness to learn from experience and successfully apply the knowledge and skills gained from experience to new, higher level situations and roles. 

Performance Anxiety 

Potential is often confused with performance. Performance refers to how well an individual executes the responsibilities and demonstrates the behaviors required for their current job or role.  Performance is indicator that is related to the current while Potential refers to a prediction about future performance. Both constructs should be a part of the Talent Review process and each addressed independently. 

Ready for What?

Potential is frequently confused with Readiness, as well. Readiness should be defined as the degree to which an individual’s skills, competencies, experiences, knowledge and motivation meet the requirements for a specific job or group of jobs. As such, and individual with a high level of potential can be more ‘ready’ for some jobs than others. The discussion regarding the readiness of an individual for a specific position is distinct from the discussion of Potential.

Is Promotability a Word?

Lastly, Potential is confused with promotability.  I am not sure that promotability is an official word but I will assume it is for our purposes. Promotability refers to an individual having the experiences and capabilities to take on a role at the next logical organizational level but is not to be equated with Potential. I discourage the use of this term with my clients as it adds to the complexity and increases the probability of disagreement among leaders in the Talent Review.

Finding Clarity

  1. Provide definitions to leaders involved with Talent Review discussions in advance and keep them handy for reference. Define the terms Performance, Potential, and Readiness.
  2. Make historical performance information available to all leaders during the Talent Review discussion. Historical performance information provides a picture of how consistently an individual has performed over time.  While having that data at hand is important, performance should be evaluated in context.  I recommend the definition of a performance rating scale that can guide final performance ratings.  For detailed information, read: Assessing Performance for Succession Planning Made Easy.
  3. Create a rating scale for Potential that can be used to guide discussion and the final rating. Once you have defined Potential in your organization, articulate descriptors at the various levels - Low, Moderate and High. 
  4. Lastly, discuss each of these terms separately for each individual under consideration in Talent Review.

Taking these 4 steps in preparation for a Talent Review will allow the efforts of leaders to focus on individual talent and prevent distractions during meetings.  Time should be focus on dialog versus confusion of terms.

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Topics: Succession Planning, Talent Management, 9 Box