Finding ‘The X Factor’ in Talent Management

Published November 26, 2015

“Just what have you been doing in Wetherby for the past two weeks, Aunt Karen?” asked my niece at the weekend.

I replied “I’ve been working as an Observer at some Talent Centres…”  I immediately realised my mistake in that she’d struggle to relate to this description.  Inwardly I groaned at how often the concept of Talent Management consultancy is lost on anyone, for that matter.

“Oh, do you mean like Simon Cowell on the X Factor?”  

My first reaction was one of horror.  “Absolutely nothing like Simon Cowell!”  I spluttered.  I then paused… “Well, maybe, at least in some ways…”

I had to admit that, just like Simon Cowell et al, working in a team of three observers, watching candidates perform and then evaluating their performance was exactly what I’d been doing.  However, the important difference between our Talent Centres and The X Factor is that everyone wins (including employee and employer).

Our client commissioned us to help them get a sense of both the depth and breadth of talent within their organisation.  In fact, we were asked to help them know what effective performance looks like by updating their behavioural framework.  The benchmark set was a high one, seeking to measure behaviours expected in members of their top team.  Everyone participating was clear that it didn’t matter how far off this benchmark they might be.  For each ‘performer,’ this was about getting a sense of where they are now, where their strengths lie and how they can leverage these in current and future roles. It was also about understanding how wide the gap was in areas where they are under the benchmark, and focusing on ways they can develop on a continual basis.

The especially exciting thing for us and the organisation is what happens next.  We’re going to analyse all the data from the four Talent Centres and present back an overall picture of the bench-strength of the 48 colleagues who participated.  We’ll be looking to identify ‘spikes’ in individual and corporate leadership.  The client is going to get a clear picture of common areas where it might be good to focus development investment, as well as discovering some hidden talents.

This has been a significant investment of people’s time and of their budget, so the Board and the top team are keen to measure the return on this investment.  They are excited by the prospect that our initiative is providing the greatest certainty of a real, tangible business impact for the company.  We won’t know the full nature of this impact for some months to come, but reassessing the participants’ leadership abilities in early summer (after their action plans from the Talent Centres have been put into practice) will give a comparison by which to judge value for money.

And in the meantime?  Those who have gone through the Talent Centres can rejoice in the positive and developmental feedback.  Our clients too are rejoicing.  As on The X Factor, we’ve found some future stars who, with support and continued development, can now move from the leadership equivalent of singing in their bedroom to bigger and better stages on which to perform.

Read more about our Assessment Centres here.

Author: Karen West

    Read more in Leadership & Management Development (Bespoke)