One of the challenges of talent spotting in business is knowing whether a seemingly talented individual will thrive if promoted to a new task or area. Once earmarked and moved into a talent pool, these individuals must also be managed properly, in terms of their own expectations and those of the employer.

One of the main challenges in spotting talent is being able to evaluate future performance in a new role, when we only have exposure to current and past performance against a different role. It is even more of a challenge to get accurate insight into a candidate who resides outside of the business.

It is not valid to consider current performance in a current role as an accurate predictor of future performance in a new role. Yes, you could consider performance against similar requirements between roles, but this would not provide definitive insight into the person’s potential. You should assess potential using tools against the new role, such as matched personality profiles. Use simulations against the new role in assessment centres and conduct in-depth interviews.

The book The Leadership Pipeline, for example, talks to different competency requirements for the different levels of leadership. In spotting talent, the assessment tools must match the requirements of the new level of leadership and consider the leadership passages, in order to assess whether the person is able to fulfil the new increasingly complex role. Too often we see the “Peter Principle” at play, whereby people are promoted beyond their capability. This sets the person up for failure which de-motivates the person and the business, as they see poor appointments and poor performance emerging.

The benefit of utilising a range of assessment tools is that it provides a person with the opportunity to display their potential or latent talent, which may be hidden in the daily duties and run-of-the-mill tasks.

One of the challenges of assessing talent is that the assessment results, certainly if limited to the use of one or two tools, would be open to subjective interpretation. One way to balance this is to have a panel appointed to oversee the talent selection decisions. A panel of a cross representation of managers within the business would help to overcome personal bias creeping into the talent assessment process.

Of course the process of selecting and assessing talent must be clearly defined, to ensure consistency in the application of the criteria and in the nominations and screening process.

The notion of transparency remains a highly contested point. The argument exists that if a person is informed that they are in a specific talent pool, earmarked for progression, the person may be inclined to assume that the promotion is automatic. One way of overcoming this is to apply a time limit for which the person remains in the talent pool. Should performance not meet the required standards in the current role during that period, the person may lose their slot in the talent pool. On the other hand, a person who is informed that they are not selected to a specific talent pool may also show a decline in performance levels, feeling de-motivated and excluded. Solid but average performers are just as important to the business, as the larger scale of employees would fall under this category and are required to perform to their current roles. Development opportunities must be open to all individuals, to keep them engaged in their current roles and disciplines. It has been found to be more advantageous to share information around the talent development process.

This helps to manage expectations and to avoid suspicion or mistrust. Rumour-mongering is particularly rife when organisations attempt to hide the talent spotting process, which spreads destructive seeds amongst all employees.

Spotting talent should be built into each manager’s performance requirements, with incentives to build ‘bench cover’ or a ‘cover ratio’ of skill against all key roles in their teams. One organisation actually provides a component of their bonus scheme to the manager for the number of successful promotions of people within or outside of the manager’s team, seeing it as a positive role of the manager to be providing a pool of potential talent to the business.

Talent management is an ongoing process, whereby key people can be built and developed to continually grow within the business. The potential for multiple career paths and development opportunities help to engage high levels of motivation and interest from the individual. But without the right person in the right role, performance suffers. Assessment and talent spotting is an integral part of managing talent in a business. If you work to realise the talent and allow it to flourish, the magical element of performance and satisfaction shines through, to the benefit of the individual, the manager and the business.

About the author: Sarah Babb is the MD of The Skills Framework (Pty) Ltd which she founded in 1998 as part of her passion and commitment to skills development in South Africa. Sarah has been published widely and cited in journals such as Financial Mail, FinWeek, Sunday Times, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, Business Brief, HR Future, and People Dynamics.

This article was published on Women Inc, the complete resource for the working woman. Women Inc offers articles on entrepreneurship, management, personal effectiveness and issues beyond the workplace (

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