Rethinking Talent Reviews

As part of your responsibilities as a Manager, you are accountable for managing your employees’ performance, assessing if they are meeting the performance standards, identifying development opportunities, helping them achieve their career aspirations and meeting organizational objectives. Recognizing talent and providing development opportunities on your team should be a simple task yet many Managers find this part of their job extremely difficult.  Organizations continue to struggle with identifying the next successor for critical roles. 

We have seen countless solutions such as nine box and many other solutions utilized to discuss talent.  We reviewed definitions such as potential versus performance when assessing our employees. Managers have been burdened by the administrative process of the documenting goals, managing performance and evaluating talent.  Employees are discussed in calibration sessions and many hours are spent analyzing placement and advocating for employees.

But what if all of this could be simplified?

What if we could make assessing talent simpler, have Managers fully understand, embrace and own the process of assessing talent? 

What if managers embraced a process so simple and easy to utilize without the burdensome paperwork and documentation required by Human Resources?

Well, it is possible to improve your assessment of talent.

Talent assessment and reviews are integrated and incorporate additional processes as a feeder into the assessment and review process as follows: 

  1. Goal setting
  2. Coaching
  3. Talent Assessment & Reviews

In addition to these three parts of the process, Managers must also work on developing employees which is an ongoing process and occurs across all three stages. 

Goal Setting

Establish clear goals on an annual basis that employees work to achieve.  Ensure that these goals are assessed and reviewed on a quarterly or monthly business to ensure alignment with business objectives. 

Most businesses are operating in a very fast, high paced, constantly changing environment. Therefore, employees’ goals must adapt to ensure alignment with the overall business objectives.  Communicate with your employees and keep them updated on the organization's performance.


Develop a coaching process with your employees.  Determine a process that works best for your organization to clearly understand the challenges the employee is facing, provide support on how to help the employee achieve their goals or course correct, and provide updates on organizational and departmental accomplishments or realignment. 

These coaching conversations provide regular opportunities for you to assess your employees' work.  Also, it provides insight into the type of initiatives that your employees are working on so that you can better understand their capabilities.  

It is critical during these conversations to provide your employees with real-time input on their performance so that they can improve on the areas that are necessary or continue the things that they are doing well.

Talent Assessments and Reviews

So many models exist for talent assessments and reviews, but Managers still struggle with how to assess talent. 

A simple four-box process will allow managers to understand their talent pipeline and determine the necessary actions required to get the team to full performance.


This four-box model consists of:

  1. Soar
  2. Stay the Course
  3. Build Up
  4. Up or Out


Employees classified in the soar box are your top performers.  They are reliable and consistently deliver on performance objectives.  They are driven and have the potential to do more.

With these employees, it is best to provide stretch opportunities, such as managing a team, managing a line of business, working across functions and leading project initiatives, and partnering on project initiatives with external organizations and universities to improve a product.

Stay updated on the soar employees workload to ensure that you do not stretch them across too many projects. 

Stay The Course

Employees identified in stay the course is precious to the organization but are already doing the work that they love and adds value to the organization.  These employees can be key knowledge experts and used to train other employees, they are also beneficial as mentors to help develop others in the organization, they are known as the go-to employee or product expert, and they are widely respected and influential. 

In some cases, these employees are pleased with the role that they are in and have no desire to advance further but can still add value to the organization in other ways. 

Up or Out

The employees in the up our out category should be actively managed by the Manager.  The Manager needs to work with this group of employees closely.  These employees’ performance will need to improve, or the Manager will have to performance manage these employees out of the organization.

During this process, the Manager must determine if the employee's performance issue is a will or skill issue.  In doing so, the Manager must assess if the employee is still a suitable fit for their existing role and determine what action must be taken next. 

If the role has evolved, does the individual have capabilities to perform in this role?  If so, then move the employee to build up and provide the right development resources (training, mentoring and shadowing, etc.) to develop that employee’s skill quickly.

If the employee in the up or out category lacks the will to make the necessary performance improvement, you may need to separate the employee from the organization.  Before separating the employee from the organization, clearly, articulate what the performance criteria are so that the employee is aware of the standards and understands how they are not actively meeting these standards.  Actively manage the employee's performance over a 30 to 90 day period to determine if the employee has demonstrated significant improvement.  If the employee lacks the will to improve over the agreed upon timeframe, then you can separate the employee from the organization.

Build Up

In the build-up, Managers work proactively to develop the capabilities of these employees.  Managers may provide employees with Everything DiSC® personality profiles so that employees are aware of the impact and influence they have in their organization and learn how to develop more effective relations.  Managers can work with other Senior Leaders to identify mentors who currently have the skillset that needs to be improved in their employees.  Managers can identify cross-functional projects or project initiatives to volunteer their employees on so that the employees can develop new skills.

The department or organization can put in place a secondment which allows employees to develop new skills that help the employee become qualified for a unique opportunity.  Secondment enables an individual to keep their existing job while working in an entirely different function for about six months to a year.  Secondment allows the employee to gain the critical experience required to get to the next level.

There are many different opportunities that Managers, HR Leaders and Senior Leaders in the organization can help to build up the skills of their organization.  Ongoing discussions with employees, managers, and HR to understand the organizational needs, and an employees’ career aspiration can develop customized approaches to help build up employees.