Charting future talent

According to Mark Hodgson, practice leader at talent and career management firm Right Management:  “Talent mapping could be described as the process of linking talent management with strategic workforce planning, managing the balance between an organisation’s existing supply of high-performance and high-potential talent, and the need for different skills and qualities as the business changes.”

This is often undertaken through a nine-box grid mapping tool which charts individuals’ skills and capabilities, and assesses them in terms of performance and potential, says Gary Miles, director of international operations at leadership institute Roffey Park. “It is important to emphasise high potential is different from high performance,” he points out. “High performers may be at the top of their game, but not be equipped for future changes, whereas potential is about future, rather than past, performance.”

High performance different from high potential 

Talent mapping usually starts with managers reviewing current performance and potential of a section of their workforce to produce the nine-box grid, says Mr Miles. But it can also be the result of a wider talent management process where leaders identify critical job roles for the future, and work backwards to identify the skills they will require and what they currently have.

9 box performance-potential matrix

Armed with such knowledge, organisations can begin to put in place measures that should help address any gaps in their employees’ skillsets, to ensure they’re able to develop the people and job roles that will be required in future.

High performers may be at the top of their game, but not be equipped for future changes

Talent mapping helps hire the workforce of the future

“Assessment is of high value to the organisation and individuals, not only to help gauge how ready someone is for a particular role, but also to clarify strengths and areas for development, and so help provide the data for planning a development programme,” says Simon Mitchell, UK general manager, European and multinational segment marketing director at global talent management consultancy DDI. “The best assessments now allow the data captured to be manipulated according to varying business strategies,” he adds.

The engineering sector is an example of one that is benefiting from using talent mapping, says Abdul Uddin, business lead, infrastructure and manufacturing, at Hay Group, as it seeks to respond to the challenges of digital technology and globalisation. “It’s not enough to simply fill roles for today, it’s about attracting, retaining and engaging the right talent who will tackle workforce challenges for the next five to ten years,” he says. “Digital experts are needed to make the most of new technologies, for example, while large-scale programmes require confident project managers.”

The value of comparing talent mapping with retention rates

In reality, though, while many organisations understand the value of talent mapping, few are actively putting this into practice. “Very few are successfully measuring and realising the business impact,” says Mr Hodgson. “Line managers need to capture career conversations with employees, measure the retention rate of employees who have gone through their talent mapping or high-potential programme and look at the business performance resulting from those individuals. For example, they could measure how many of those individuals have taken lateral moves as a result of a talent map or career conversation, compared with individuals who have not.”

But Nichola Batley, head of leadership and management at Thales Learning and Development, says some organisations are already starting to plan coaching and development programmes as a result of talent mapping exercises. “Talent mapping can be hugely beneficial to an organisation, particularly at a time when career paths are becoming more unpredictable and fragmented,” she says. “The organisations that use this most effectively are the ones that go the extra mile to frame their development plans and ensure a robust succession plan is in place should any key talent leave the business.”