Talent mapping: The challenge of going beyond the 9-box assessment

Note published on July 19 in El Economista, Capital Humano [Human Capital] Section by Blanya Correal Sarmiento
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Those of us who are responsible for talent strategy repeatedly face a key question from the business: Do we have the necessary capabilities to support the company’s strategy? Does the current talent have what it takes to grow, consolidate organically, or even make a major transformation?

It is exciting to be able to answer these questions from a strategic perspective. To this end, we now have various tools that are classified according to their approach, some of them oriented toward the measurement of “what” and others toward the “how”; when combined, these tools allow us to piece a more complete puzzle together in regard to the capabilities that the organization has and, at the same time, provide greater objectivity on a naturally perceptive matter.

But before getting into the topic of measurement tools, it is important to define what a capability is. Multiple definitions can be summarized in three core elements:

» 1. Capability is an attribute of the organization, it goes beyond individuals. That is, capability is made up by the individual abilities of the people that are part of the organization. Although this is not sufficient by itself to be considered as a competitive advantage.

Nevertheless, this point becomes a challenge in itself because organizational capability is affected by the movement of talent. For example, some companies are now starting to measure both general rotation and rotation by capabilities, in such a way that talent planning responds not only to the functional need, but also to the need of strengthening or retaining capabilities.

» 2. Capability must be supported by internal processes. For example, a flexible organization not only has individuals who are capable of quickly adapting to the challenges posed by its market, but also simple and agile processes that allow those people to achieve results in a practical and enabling environment. Many organizations suffer today because they implement programs for the development of their competences, but they do not transform their processes, generating not only monetary expenses, but also internal frustration.

» 3. Capability must be linked to the business strategy. When capability inventories are made, it is strange to see that there is little correlation between the business plan and talent planning, since we sometimes find capabilities that are very well developed, but impractical for the current or future challenges of the companies.

For example, there are companies that have invested time, effort and money into installing the capability of innovation, but their business plan depends in 80 or 90% on the consolidation of their organic growth, where their capability for execution, monitoring or a greater development of the market are prioritary.

If there is clarity on what needs to be measured, then we can develop concrete indicators that help us identify the talent map beyond the 9-quadrant classification. To achieve this, some companies start making an inventory of each individual’s full trajectory, identifying the actual experiences that he has had, beyond the result, because these learnings are valuable pieces that add to the organizational memory.

Among these indicators, one that stands out is talent traceability, which consists of measuring an organization’s capability to internally develop the talent and competences it requires.

These measurements enable making decisions on the type of strategy that is needed, using the 4B model mentioned in Build, Buy, Borrow and Bridge: How to solve the talent shortage in your organisation by ManpowerGroup, either through the injection (buy), internal development (build), exchange (borrow) or disruptive assignments (bridge).

From this perspective, having a clear map of capabilities will be key in determining and making the necessary investment more efficient to ensure that peoples’ capabilities are ready to respond to the organization’s challenges. Nothing is more exciting in strategic terms!