Talent Assessment – The X Factor Way

Whilst watching the X Factor this weekend with the family, two things sprung to mind. Firstly, the realisation that this is now the countdown to Christmas (better start stocking up on the tins of Roses!) and secondly with the absence of a talent framework, how do organisations really assess who has got the X Factor?

Viewers have now been exposed to the final twelve contestants. These range from the ultra-talented sixteen year old Ella to the dramatic Rylan and everything in between, all people who were selected by their Mentors as having the ‘X Factor’. However, if we apply this to the working world, the talent range in organisations can also be as vast due to the filters that we personally assess through. It’s a scary thought that talent without parameters can have such varied connotations.

As Leaders there is a risk that without a robust talent framework, talent can be defined in so many ways including personality, potential, capability, confidence, capacity. All of which sound perfect talent headline on paper, but it’s the detail behind theses that is of the upmost important. So taking personality for example, the behaviours that someone exhibits may be perceived as high energy by some, but annoying by others. What one person sees as a character strength, another person can see as a weakness when it’s over played (something SDI focuses on really well).

Convincing a Board to sit and define the wider talent agenda can be a difficult task for many. It is often a talked about subject that keeps moving down the priority list and without the defined framework, judgement calls are made on ‘talent’ on a daily basis.  Or at its worse, it’s a conversation that happens once a year and forgotten about until the appraisal cycle is complete the following year.

Real talent management defines, identifies, develops and retains the high performing players that will enable and sustain organisational growth and success. Nurturing this pool of people provides the greatest return on investment operationally, financially and behaviourally if gripped properly. This is no different to the Simon Cowell approach to talent development – assess them, develop them, make them compete, keep them on their toes, see who can win hearts and minds and finally, find the one that will give you the greatest commercial return.

But in all seriousness, what can organisations really learn from the X Factor?

In my eyes it’s simple, make the talent framework public knowledge and allow people to apply. Benchmark the talent and encourage people to compete for a place and work hard to maintain that position. Provide good Mentors who can maximise their potential and be honest with them, no matter how brutal the feedback is. Finally, keep assessing the organisations talent to ensure the best people are in position.

So if you are a HRD, who is struggling to get their CEO and Board to buy-in to an agreed talent agenda, just ask them the question, “Do you want the equivalent of a  Ella or a Rylan on your team?” that should drive some action!!!


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