Strategic talent management – how companies identify the top talent?

During my visits with companies to discuss how the talent management happens within companies, one of the key discussion point always was the process for ‘talent identification’.

We all know that ‘performance appraisals’ and ‘one to one meetings’ are common ways of communicating the messages down to people on how they are performing their duties.  On the other hand, some of you might also know about the try that WIPRO did to identify your top talent by asking their employees to go through an entrance test for promotion.

However, are these the only ways by which you identify your top talent?  Probably in a normal organization, yes.  So what are other ways of identifying your top talent?  Lets revisit some of the common tools and practices put in by companies to bracket their pool in to talented and ‘little less’ talented buckets.


Creating & maintaining talent grids


talentgridTalent grids typically helps the managers ‘place’ their people into right matrix blocks.  The talent grid is a matrix which is formed with grading people according to their performance so far, and what their supervisor feels about their potential.


The top right corner (High performance – High potential) is the people who have peaked in their current roles and have been doing extremely well and may need to be considered for future bigger assignments.  That is of course your brightest talent. The people under medium potential and high performance have been delivering well over their supposed capability and also should be rewarded for consistency. They may not be able to carry out entire projects on their shoulders but they thrive typically in the individual capacity roles.  The people in the high potential & medium performance bracket are the ones who need stretch assignments and could do better in roles where it requires lot of coordination and pushing others to get job done.


It is recommended that the talent grids are updated regularly (at least once a quarter) to ensure that your employees fit in the right block on the grid.


Annual appraisals & mid term appraisals

One of the most common ways of rating the talent.  We all know how the overall process works and the way people are taken through the goal-setting, mid term review, quarterly feedback and the year end review against goals cycle.


Although this is a mandatory process is all organizations, it does not give a fair comparison and reflection of top talent across organization.  This is primarily due to the fact that the goals are localized to the team the people belong to, and the comparison of teams often doesn’t hold well for top talent when it comes to so called ‘normalization’ phase during the appraisals.


While it has its flaws, this process is widely accepted as the natural talent assessment process which is heavily backed by corporate promotions, perk hikes and other benefits given to the employees.  However, if you ask the top talented people, if they feel really justified after their annual appraisals, I am sure many of them would deny.


Stretch assignments

In many companies, before giving promotions to people, they are put on something called ‘acting’ shoes for that role.  It means that while the individual is supposed to carry out all the activities related to the work, he or she can not take critical decisions unless backed up by the supervisor.  The stretch assignments are typically over and above your project scope and work that is done by the people in their existing roles. However, they are likely to give ‘opportunities’ to people who seem to think they can deliver better than what they are currently doing.


Stretch assignments should typically be the kind of organization wide or team wide tasks that are carried out by their managers or above. The good performers are expected to shine in the new given assignments and once they show promise, its expected that the management gives them their due reward.


Personal interviews & assessments towards senior roles

I mentioned earlier about the try that WIPRO did to introduce the personal interviews & assessments for filtering of the top talent. WIPRO has not the only company that been doing this work, quite a few MNCs (including Accenture) also apply assessment & personal interview filters to ensure that only the right talent which is suitable for the upper roles is given the priority.   Although it adds to the efforts to carry out the individual assessments and interviews, it definitely gives the people a sense of justice back that they have not been ignored due to ‘organization’ policy rules.


  1. Hey Swapnil,

    My first article of your’s. Nice one albeit a few thoughts:
    1) The above ones are what we follow in Amdocs. Would be nice to read what other organizations have
    2) I feel talent grid should not be based on what supervisor feels about his/her performance. I think it should be parameter based against which the person can be rated and weighted. This would give more scientific way of assessing and putting a person in the talent grid

    Would definitely be reading more of your articles.

    1. Hey Sameer,

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting on the article :-). Yes the above steps are done in amdocs for sure. More or less other organizations also take similar steps. Some of them also have a matrix called ‘Motivation to work matrix’. The basis of this matrix is to know how motivated the employees feel working for the organization, however talented and capable they are, a mitigation plan needs to be created for these people for either retaining them or letting them go.

      What I wrote above were some of the common steps of talent identification done within companies. As such talent identification is a big phase which also includes activities such as defining the talent pipeline, creating competency based recruitment policies, talent hunting, succession planning and etc.

      I would hopefully write more articles on this topic during my series on talent management within companies, with a focus on building innovative organizations.

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