For many businesses one of the biggest risks to their future success is having the right talent in place as and when key people leave the organisation.

While finding good people may be less difficult during a recession, the demand and competition for talent will increase over the next few years because of a number of factors:

  • The global economy will recover.
  • Companies are operating more and more on a global scale and can attract the best from around the world.
  • Changing demographics means that it is estimated that one in four of the working population is over 45.
  • A change in working culture and the choices people make mean that young people are more likely to move jobs.

All of this provides a number of challenges for businesses who wish to find and retain talent.  At first glance it may appear easier to hire talent from the outside, to bring in “fresh blood” or someone with a “different perspective”, but is this really the right thing to do?

Certainly with competition increasing, this will become a more time consuming and expensive process.  It has been estimated that it “costs” between 1-2 times the salary before a new middle management recruit becomes effective.  In other words, if you hire a manager on £60,000 p.a., it could cost the company between £60,000 -£120,000 before that person starts to be effective.  However, this money might be better invested (and less risky!) in identifying and developing “in house” talent.

However, what techniques are available to assess the capability and talent internally?

The first assessment that should be made is how an individual has performed previously.  While previous performance is no guarantee of future success it is a good guide to how the individual is likely to perform in the future.  However, there are also other factors that should be assessed such as:

  • Undertaking an assessment of an individual’s critical thinking, numerical and verbal reasoning will provide an indicator of their thinking capability and innate intelligence.
  • Psychometric profiling instruments can assess an individual’s personality traits, likely communication and leadership styles. How do these fit with what the business needs?
  • Giving an individual specific business or organisational problems to resolve will provide valuable assessments of their business acumen and problem solving skills.
  • 360 degree feedback tools are valuable for assessing an individual’s performance and behaviour in the workplace.This assessment will provide a broader view than one simply based on the line manager’s assessment.
  • Asking the individual to lead a challenging business improvement project that will take them out of their usual work experiences, will provide a valuable assessment about how they handle new and unfamiliar challenges.

Some of the above techniques can be blended with others (such as formal presentations) at an assessment/development centre.  How each individual deals with such a pressurised and stressful situation will provide additional evidence of their future potential.

While the assessments described above will not guarantee the identification of those with the greatest potential, they will provide the business with vital information on which objective decisions can be based.  As the marketplace for talent becomes even more competitive, it is vital that businesses meet this challenge and establish their own assessment and talent management programmes – after all you don’t have to scour the world for talent if the potential you need is right under your nose!