Series 1.5: Talent Assessment Design

Foundational planning for a successful talent assessment program yields (1) garnered support from leadership and the identification of the best internal champions to design the assessment framework; (2) core competencies required for all talent including behaviors rooted in the organization's culture and values and;  (3) a high performance talent profile for each role with consideration given to similar cross-functional and grouped roles.

Completing this cornerstone planning exercise provides part of the content necessary to design the assessment framework.  The remaining elements are derived from the specific needs of the business unit relative to the various unique roles, especially those that are pivotal.  Continuing with the technology company example used in Series 1.4, the Talent Assessment (TA) team  utilized ACES® Talent Assessment to design the core interview framework that captured the overarching competencies that every member of the organization should possess:  innovation, accountability, passion, and customer service excellence, and leadership.  

From these competencies, the TA team built out three core assessment modules:

1. Leadership -  Measuring the candidate's ability and propensity to lead not just downward but among peers; outside of their sphere of influence and; upward, demonstrating a higher degree of influence and collaboration.  This module also assesses a candidate's accountability through measuring their ability to manage work, others, and self.

2. Innovation - Measures the candidate's ability to go beyond the status quo, regardless of their role.  This module measures critical thinking ability to provide excellence in customer (both internal and external) service and their passion in the context of work, career and results.

3. Relevant Demonstrated Performance - This interview module assesses a candidate's demonstrated experience relevant to the role by having the candidate describe, in detail, the most challenging/complex project or initiative they worked on relative to the position they are interviewing for.  This assessment is formatted to give the interviewer a complete view into the candidate's performance relative to the role and, by design, provides insight into what the candidate considers to be most complex.

Once the core framework was developed and approved by the CEO, the TA team schedules meetings with leaders of the Sales/Account Management, Technical, and Functional Implementation business units to introduce them to the new framework and begin discussion around additional assessment modules to meet the specific requirements of the business and related departments to ensure candidates possess the required skills, competencies and knowledge.  These assessments typically examine the candidate's ability to solve real world problems they would encounter on the job or to demonstrate specific skills and knowledge critical to the role.


Specific assessments for each business unit were created:

 •   The Sales/Account Management Team

 -  Developed a case study with 3 short case studies that assessed the candidate's approach to (1) developing a new account;  (2) expanding and existing account and; (3) building and leveraging relationships to achieve customer service excellence.  The business created detailed scenarios as they would encounter on the job and embedded challenging circumstances that only their high performers have been successful in overcoming.  The goal is to create a bar that is just high enough to ensure they have the basics to be successful and NOT to eliminate candidates on certain aspects of the role that are coachable.

- Devised a presentation module where the candidate was given 45 minutes to create a 10 minute presentation to a prospective client based on detailed information provided about the client, their industry and benchmarking data, along with details about the service, capabilities and reputation/accolades of the company the candidate is representing.  The goal was to assess whether the candidate would pull out the most meaningful data and provide the most compelling [abridged] presentation to engage the client.


 •   The Technical Business Unit

 -  Created a multi-tiered technical skills tests for each technology and programming platform to validate the candidate's basic knowledge in addition to assessing their innovative and cognitive skills using simulated project and client requests to provide solutions and suggest related coding options.  For candidates at the Manager level and above, an additional case study was created to assess their ability to intake a new client account and translate business requirements into technical solutions and how they would manage people, projects, quality and results.


•   The Functional Implementation Business Unit

 - Produced a two-tiered case study that tested the candidate's ability to (1) understand and prioritize a new client's critical business objectives,  (2) identify and offer suggestions to data points that are clearly incorrect or potentially derailing and; (3) operationalize what the candidate determines as the initial priority into an outline of process flow and related technical considerations and specifications.  The goal of this exercise is to examine how the candidate would serve as a liaison for the business and the Technical business unit to ensure both business and related technology requirements are met with quality, innovation and exemplary customer service.

Interview guides and electronic interview evaluation forms are created for each module.  Upon completion, the business units gain approval from leadership and then test their additional assessments within their group and pilot at the next interview day.  This leads up to the final stage of the Implementation of the new talent assessment program, which I'll cover next in Series 1.6.  Visit to read more.


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