Capability Assessments in Talent Management and Acquisition: 3 Strategies

While “capability assessments” as a term refers to a specific tool, the practice of measuring candidate or employee competencies tends to be a broad strategy with many names. From structured interviews and trial projects to AI-enabled learning and development programs and succession planning, most enterprises use some form of capability assessments (or what they may call skills/talent/competency assessments) to inform and improve their talent acquisition and talent management efforts.

There are levels of sophistication to using capability assessments, though. As busy as today’s HR and recruiting teams are, especially in enterprises, it’s easy to stick with tried-and-true tactics and put off exploring other applications of capability assessments for another day. Which is to say that many organizations aren’t getting as big a bang for their assessment-buck as they could.

It’s understandable that it could fall down the priority list, yet it’s really worth it to take a step back and evaluate the role capability assessments play in your organization — you may decide you need to level-up. The first step in that evaluation? Understanding the specifics of each stage. That’s what this article is all about.

Basic: Capability Assessments for Hiring

This is the most familiar and most common application of capability assessments. At this level, you’re using assessments to establish candidates’ fit for your open roles — yep, pretty straightforward. This can take the form of an in-interview whiteboarding session or think-out-loud exercise, in which you gauge a candidate’s real-time abilities and get a glimpse into how they process information; it could also be a pre- or post-interview trial project. Contract-to-hire arrangements fit this model, too — a “try before you buy” of sorts.

Then there’s capability assessments themselves, designed to quantitatively measure specific skills, and suggest a candidate’s likelihood of success in the role. Depending on how they’re implemented, capability assessments can have significant, far-reaching benefits beyond identifying the best potential hire. The data generated from assessments can:

(Look out for a deep-dive into these in a future post)

Intermediate: Capability Assessments for Succession Planning

At this level, we’re using capability assessments with both interested candidates and existing employees. In a similar fashion to pre-hire, capability assessments, combined with predefined role-specific capability levels, can be used to determine the best candidate — whether internal or external — for future key roles within the organization.

Capability assessments also help you determine what specific attributes would make the “best” candidate for each role — when you assess existing employees on the team in question, you uncover skill gaps, and know what to look for in a candidate (or plan to develop in them) to best bolster the group.

Similarly, capability assessments reveal gaps at the organization level. With that data, you can set development (and hiring) plans accordingly.

Advanced: Capability Assessments for Engagement and Retention

This is where we get really strategic with the valuable data capability assessments provide. We also get even more intentional with our implementation, incorporating assessments into every stage of the employee lifecycle, and establishing a regular assessment cadence.

By periodically and systematically measuring workers’ skills and capabilities, we can increase employee engagement and improve retention. This is because a major component of engagement, especially for top talent, is having the necessary

info and opportunities to continuously learn and grow. High performers want to always be improving; stagnation in their role is what leads them to disconnect and look elsewhere. Capability assessments can prevent that stagnation and disengagement — and improved engagement leads to increased retention.

Here are some of the ways capability assessments help:

  • Benchmarking and feedback: Assessments show workers where their skill levels are and where they should be for their current role. They also make clear what competencies employees need to develop to move into future positions they aspire to.
  • Individual learning and development plans: Those competency gaps are the intel needed to create highly specific and targeted development plans.
  • Personalized career guidance and coaching: Periodic and systematic skills measurements give managers the data they need to provide meaningful coaching and guidance to their reports.

Clearly, capability assessments can be a very powerful tool in your talent tool belt. Take some time to think through your approach to capability assessments in your organization — you may be leaving a lot of insight and value on the table!

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