Why You Should Conduct Talent Review Meetings and 10 Best Practices for Doing Them

I’ll bet a
lot of executives and managers reading this post would enthusiastically agree
with the declaration “Employees are our
greatest asset”

How about
you? How successful would your team or organization be without talented, high
performing people?  At the end of the
day, in today’s hyper-competitive global economy, talent just might be the only remaining sustainable
competitive advantage.

However, if
you want to find out what’s really
valued by an organization’s leadership, just take a peek at the agendas for
their business review meetings, board meetings, operations reviews, quarterly
shareholder meetings, sales meetings, or any other kind of management meeting
that permeates a busy executives’ calendar. Count up how much time is spent
reviewing the earning per share, revenue, profit, sales quotas, manufacturing
capacity, inventory, marketing strategy, and other topics. Any mention of a
review of talent? 
Probably not, and if there is, it’s only there because it’s a
once-a-year HR mandated review.

speak louder than words. If you’re serious about leveraging that all-important
asset (your talent), then it’s time to get into a regular rhythm of talent reviews.

A talent
review is simply a discussion of your team or organizations people. It answers
the questions:

– Who are our highest and lowest

– Who has potential to move into a
larger role?

– Who are our potential successors for
key leadership positions?

– What should we be doing to improve
our talent?

– Where are we vulnerable, and what
should we do to minimize our risk?

Even if
you’re already conducting talent review meetings, there may be some ways to
improve their effectiveness and efficiency. Here are 10 best practices, gleamed
from my own experience as well as tips from other talent management experts and
successful leaders:

1. Enlist the assistance of an
experienced, unbiased facilitator.
If you’ve never ran your own talent review meeting, get some
help from a trusted expert. It could be someone from HR, a consultant, or even
a trusted experienced peer. After a few meetings, you and your team will get
the hang of it and can fly solo. However, there still may be times when you’d
want someone to run the meeting so you can sit back and be a full participant
without getting bogged down by running the process.

2. It’s YOUR meeting – show up! Getting assistance is fine, but just
remember, you and your team are responsible for managing your team’s talent,
not HR or anyone else. 
I’ve heard of managers that insist they 
shouldn’t participate in their own talent review meetings, because  they don’t want to bias the results and don’t
think their team will be completely candid if they are present. Nonsense! The
team needs to hear your opinions and your expectations, and if your team is
afraid to speak up in your presence, then 
you’ve got a bigger problem that
needs to be addressed.
I’ve seen
other executives use the time to check emails and get caught up on their
reading. Again, actions speak louder than words. Don’t just show up – be 100%

3. Don’t over-complicate it. Use a performance and potential matrix (9-box) – a simple, yet effective
way to have a discussion about your people. This one sheet of paper is all any
manager should have in front of them – not a stack of employee profiles,
organizations charts, development plans, and other forms. That stuff should all
be available electronically if needed, but it rarely is.
Also, don’t
try to 
over-complicate the 9-box tool. Coming up with labels for each quadrant
or numbering systems rarely adds value to the discussion and more often derails

4. Make sure you and your team are
Review the
purpose and process, as well as ground rules for the talent review prior to the
meeting, and give your team at least a week to prepare.

5. Allow plenty of time. A typical in-depth talent review can
take about 4 hours. If you try to do it in multiple meetings, you’ll waste too
much time in the transitions from one meeting to the next. Then, after a
once-per-year (minimal) in-depth review, progress and updates can be handled as
a part of your regular meetings.

6. Hold your leadership team
I once
supported a business unit President that took his talent management
very seriously. When some poor manager
showed up unprepared, 
didn’t follow instructions, or 
didn’t follow through on
action items, it was NOT a pretty sight. However, they caught on quickly to the
importance of managing talent and most learned to be world-class talent
managers themselves (or they 
didn’t last long).

7. Don’t just assess your talent. I’ve seen and heard of a lot of organizations that just
assess their talent, but never get around to discussing how to
develop their talent. It doesn’t have to
take long. As a team, just decide on the
one thing that would help the employee grow
stronger. If you don’t have time to discuss development for every employee,
then prioritize, i.e., just do your high potentials. Also, if someone is seen
as having senior leadership potential, check to see if they are on anyone’s
succession plan – or if they should be.

8. Take notes. This is another reason to have a
facilitator assist you – someone to keep track of changes to the 9-box and
agreed upon development actions. Each manager should also be taking notes on
their own employees. These notes are then used to help hold the team
accountable for implementation, which is where talent management usually comes
up short.

9. Transparency. While a good ground rule to follow
is “what’s said in Vegas stays in Vegas”, that 
doesn’t mean that nothing should be shared with employees.
Managers should be having follow-up career and development discussions with
their employees to provide feedback and create robust development plans.

10. Be a role model. Sure, holding others accountable is
important. However, when a manager treats development as something that’s good
for everyone else but 
doesn’t model development and coaching themselves, they lose
credibility. They miss the opportunity to improve themselves, their leadership
team, and teach valuable skills that will cascade down through the

Follow these
10 tips to get the maximum ROI from your talent review meetings. And if your HR
 supporting you in this process, ask why not? Remember, you’re
accountable for your organization’s bottom line and you’ll need nothing but
the best talent to get those results.