Making Talent Reviews More Effective

Workforce Management

Talent reviews are a fantastic tool for identifying top-notch employees in a business. They have become increasingly popular, with many organizations replacing the annual employee performance review with ongoing talent reviews instead.

However, not all talent reviews are executed well, and in some cases, the process used to perform these reviews lacks leadership and is unnecessarily vague or complicated. Stale talent review processes, or the lack of any process, can be detrimental to the strength of a company.

For this reason, it is important to ensure that your talent review process is as efficient as possible. An efficient talent review enables a company to keep up with opportunities and gaps in talent, and for top talent to be identified, developed, and retained.

When talent reviews are done well, they can fuel success in any company. In this article, we discuss everything you need to know before conducting your next talent review.

What Are Talent Reviews?

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When a company’s management team meets and discusses the performance, future potential, and scope of improvement of employees, it is referred to as a talent review meeting. While performance reviews focus specifically on employee performance over a certain period, talent reviews focus more on the big picture.

This process is a great way to map out the company’s talent requirements, and which employees would do well in future positions. Talent reviews highlight employee talents and weaknesses and help management identify which employees would be able to fill vacancies.

The need for new positions may also be uncovered through talent review meetings.

In short, talent reviews enable businesses to make strategic decisions when it comes to talent.

When companies prioritize talent review meetings, it can:

  • Boost the company’s bench strength
  • Help to retain talent
  • Reduce employee turnover
  • Demonstrate adaptability
  • Demonstrate agility
  • Cultivate growth and opportunities in the company
  • Identify and develop natural leaders and innovators

Typically, management rates an employee’s work on one of several scales. These include:

  • Elite Performance – The best performers, considered for future roles
  • Far Exceeds Expectations – Employees with an outsized impact
  • Exceeds Expectations – High performers who need consistent nurturing
  • Meets Expectations – Employees with a lot of scope for improvement
  • Below Expectations – Bottom-ranking employees that need to be put on a performance improvement plan

Conduct Talent Reviews

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Ideally, talent reviews should be performed by business leaders and senior executives. The size and type of organization usually determine the size of the review team and the members involved. In an organization with fewer than fifteen employees, it may not be necessary to involve business leaders and senior executives.

However, in a large business where it is impossible to gain visibility into the performance of individual employees, it is important to appoint leaders, executives, and managers with insight into employee performance.

Common Criteria in a Talent Review

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No two companies have the same challenges or objectives, which means that performance and talent review criteria typically differ between organizations. However, there are some common talent management review criteria used in most businesses to identify high-potential employees. These include:

Handling Pressure

Pressure can bring out the worst and best in employees. Talent reviews are an excellent way to identify employees that flourish when working under pressure.

Solving Problems

Identify the employees that are good at solving problems independently, instead of consistently bringing small matters to senior executives.

Making Decisions

Find employees that are capable of making crucial decisions and have great analytical skills.


Talent reviews are also an excellent way to identify employees with the important skill of adapting easily to changes and new environments.

Productivity and Efficiency

Because efficiency and productivity are so important in a company, look for employees that know how to make the most of the resources and time at their disposal.

Collaboration and Cooperation

Look for employees that have reached across the business and connected with other teams. These employees are typically natural leaders.

Leadership Skills

Find employees with a natural talent for inspiring others and leading the herd (i.e., proven leadership skills).

Outsized Impact

While some employees are only concerned with finishing tasks and going home, other employees go above and beyond to add value to the company. These employees have an outsized impact on the organization.

Positive Attitude

Use talent reviews to identify employees that have positive attitudes, aren’t afraid of facing challenges, and get tasks done no matter what.


Find employees with strong moral values and ethics. These employees tend to be trustworthy, loyal, and honest.

How the Talent Review Process Works

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Talent reviews typically start with managers completing and reviewing the performance management documentation and outcomes. This can include gathering supporting evidence of current levels of performance and determining the strengths, improvement areas, ratings, and level of potential for all team members. It can also include analyzing critical roles and key people in the business, as well as reviewing the strategies and corporate plans of the business.

Keep in mind that the data may include the following limitations:

  • Difficulty making across-the-board comparisons due to different processes being used in different areas of the company
  • Inconsistencies in the objectives and their quality
  • Varying degrees of leniency between different managers while assessing the achievement of objectives
  • Different requirements and challenges found in different roles

For this reason, it is important to look at the gathered data critically before making important talent decisions.


Once each team member has been assessed, managers usually document the outcomes of the assessment in preparation for the talent review meeting. HR professionals often provide templates for this purpose. Some of the methods and tools that can be used to gather this information include:

  • Performance/Potential Grid (also referred to as the ‘9-Box’)
  • SWOT
  • Talent management databases and systems
  • Talent review templates or spreadsheets

Prior to the talent review, managers in many companies complete and provide bespoke talent review spreadsheets, which are used to record information such as

  • Current role and level of employee
  • Employee’s achievement of objectives
  • Employee’s behavior and competencies
  • Overall performance
  • Overall potential
  • Possibility of promotion
  • Strengths and weaknesses
  • Position on the 9-box grid

Keep in mind that the 9-box method is not without its limitations and does not necessarily ensure the best talent decisions when used on its own.

During talent reviews, line managers place individual employees on the 9-box grid, based on debates, peer challenges, and moderation that takes place during the review meeting. Whether or not such plotting is useful can depend on several things, but the following is important for successful talent reviews:

  • The validity and quality of criteria used to determine potential and performance
  • Convincing and reliable assessments by line managers
  • Consistent and high-quality performance assessments
  • High-quality discussions about employee placements


Usually, the next step in the process is the talent review board meeting, which should include a kind of Gap Analysis. During this analysis, managers should aim to get a bigger picture by comparing the needs of the company with the current talent pool.

As mentioned, this meeting typically also includes discussions about placements in the 9-box grid. Managers should come to an agreement regarding the potential of talent in the company, as well as how to support and manage talented individuals.


Once the review board has concluded, the responsibility of putting the wheels in motion usually lies with the various stakeholders. This includes:

  • Updating succession plans to include the new data
  • Inviting employees to join leadership development programs, talent pools, or fast-track schemes
  • Promoting employees who were deemed ready to fill talent gaps
  • Supporting employees who are underperforming or preparing for new roles

It is important for the follow-up process to maintain momentum and structure for the conclusions of the talent review to be implemented successfully.

Ensuring Effective Talent Reviews

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The decisions made during the talent review process can impact the organization in terms of objectives, leadership, and mindset. For this reason, it is important to conduct a successful talent review process.

Keep reading to discover some of the best practices to help to ensure an effective talent review.


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The talent review process and the HR software used to track employee performance need to be agile enough to allow for changing challenges, objectives, and needs. One way to make talent review meetings more efficient, is by scheduling them as needed, instead of annually.

Employee Potential

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It is also important to focus on the big picture and consider performance throughout the year. While talent reviews are often performed more frequently, they should not focus solely on performance from recent months as this could lead to losing valuable employees.

An employee’s performance should also be reviewed beyond company revenue. Consider the value employees add to the business by improving culture, raising morale, and assisting coworkers.

For a truly effective talent review, be sure to capture talent data such as:

  • Overall performance
  • KPI
  • Goal achievement
  • Strengths
  • Progress or growth (since joining the organization)

Be on the lookout for reasons why employees may want to leave the company. This can be a great way to find areas for potential improvement in the company, boost employee morale, and improve employee retention.

Evaluate Talent Throughout the Business

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It is a common mistake to only conduct talent reviews for high-level positions in the company, such as managerial level or higher. While it may be tempting and save time, this approach can be disengaging and limiting. Lower-level employees play major roles in the success of any business, and you may find many junior employees with a lot of ambition, valuable skills, great performance, and potential for leadership.

Analyzing employees across all levels and departments can be a great way to encourage organizational growth and empower rising talent in the business.


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Because the growth of an organization often relies on making the right talent decisions, it is important to root talent decisions in accurate and high-quality data. However, using manual techniques in talent reviews can be time-consuming and unreliable.

Instead, data can be collected, organized, and analyzed using a variety of reliable automated tools, including performance management systems and recruiting software. These tools can also aid in scheduling.

Using software can make information more accessible and make it easier to share data. This allows leaders in the business to engage and collaborate in the talent management process.

Encourage Collaboration

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Most organizations in this day and age are highly collaborative. Employees can communicate freely and work closely with senior-level management, as well as leaders and teams from other departments. An effective talent review should encourage collaboration and calibration, and account for the relationships and experiences within that.

One way to make talent reviews more collaborative is by allowing other leaders (not just managers and team leaders) to contribute and offer input on an employee’s review. When talent reviews are based solely on one manager’s perception of an employee, they can be inaccurate or biased. This can lead to politics disrupting strategic talent decisions in a company.

Another way to encourage a collaborative company environment is by making talent review data easily accessible to managers and leaders throughout the entire organization. In this way, leaders can be aware of rising stars in the talent pool that possess the right skills to fill key positions or talent gaps in other departments.