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Build your talent intelligence

Shlomo Ben-Hur, author Organisations succeed when they have the right people in the right roles: not a controversial statement these days. We know that firms that are better than their peers at talent management return significantly more value to their shareholders. Some studies suggest this return can be up to 22% more than the industry average. We also know that good hiring and promotion decisions have a bigger impact on market value than creating a customer-focused environment or having good union relationships.

So, why do so many companies struggle to get talent management right? Because survey after survey shows that business leaders are generally unimpressed by their organisation’s talent processes. The answer is that they simply don’t have the talent intelligence required. Nik Kinley and Shlomo Ben-Hur tell us how to rectify the problem.

Nik Kinley, author

Talent intelligence is the understanding that businesses have of the skills, expertise and qualities of their people. It is something that every company and manager has and uses. And it is essential because companies can only make good talent decisions if they know what they need, what they have and what is available. The problem, however, is that all the evidence shows that most organisations' talent intelligence just isn't that intelligent.

In our new book, Talent Intelligence, we look at why this is and what companies can do to rectify the situation. The good news is the solutions need not be complex or expensive.

Gather the right information

The first challenge facing organisations that want to improve their talent intelligence is knowing what data to gather. At the moment, most talent data collected relates to workforce composition. This sort of administrative information has its uses, but is inherently limited. What is more valuable is talent assessment data that describes the skills, attributes and characteristics of an organisation's workforce.

Collect your data centrally

Next, you need to centrally collect all this assessment data. Interview ratings, psychometric scores, competency ratings – all need to be collated in one place. It may be possible to use an HR IT system to store the data, but a large spreadsheet will do. The importance of this is that without central collection, businesses cannot build up a picture of talent across the organisation. Instead, all they will have are fragments relating only to individuals or teams. Talent data is a valuable resource and should be managed as such.

Knowing how to use your data

Of course, just having data does not mean it will be valuable. The next step – one that many firms struggle with – is knowing how to use your talent intelligence. For example, assessment data can be used for much more than just informing individual people decisions, such as whether to hire or promote someone. Yet in our experience the vast majority of firms do not use this information for anything ‘more’.

What do we mean by ‘more’? Well, at the simplest level we mean feeding assessment results into development processes. One of the easiest wins here is to use assessment results collected in recruitment processes to help tailor onboarding and initial developmental support for new joiners. Yet research shows that only 19% of firms do this. This is a big missed opportunity.

It is also just a start, though. As a growing number of businesses are realising, when assessment results are collected and then connected up with other types of data they can yield insights of real value. For instance, knowing the average competency ratings of new hires can be useful. Yet if you also know the performance scores of new hires one year after they have joined, you can see which competencies are most predictive of initial success. If you know who is still employed two years later, you can work out which factors are most predictive of retention. And if you know who is later promoted, it can provide insight into the types of talent most valued in your business.

When you build and use your talent intelligence effectively, development processes can be targeted, recruitment processes can be adjusted to bring in certain types of talent and retention processes can Talent Intelligence - book likewise be better aimed at specific talent populations. This may sound complex, but it need not be. All that is really required is a basic comfort with numbers and a good spreadsheet. That, and the will to do it.

Nik Kinley and Shlomo Ben-Hur are authors of the new book Talent Intelligence (published by Jossey-Bass, RRP £23.99) and write a regular blog at Nik Kinley is a Director of the global Talent Management consultancy YSC, and has specialised in the fields of talent measurement and behavior change for nearly 25 years. Shlomo Ben-Hur is Professor of leadership and organizational behavior at IMD business school in Switzerland, where he is the program director of Organizational Learning in Action.

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