What Talent Visibility Is And Why It Should Matter to You

May 1, 2017

To build a strong employee culture, increase engagement and deliver better learning solutions, the key is having high talent visibility.

Think about your team. You probably have a good understanding of your team’s relative strengths and weaknesses, who would be the next obvious choice if your team’s leader left, even most of your teammates' career aspirations.

If you had to design a talent management system for just your team, you probably could do a really good job. Why?

Because you have excellent “talent visibility” into the people you work with each day.

Now, think about your whole department – say all of engineering at your company. All of a sudden, I bet it’s not so easy to know who is ready to take on a bigger role, what the biggest weaknesses are and people’s career aspirations. And if you zoom out to your entire company, most likely you have very little idea of any of that.

That’s because you (likely) have limited “talent visibility” into your whole department and virtually no “talent visibility” into your whole company. And therefore, it would be very difficult for you to determine who to promote, what skills need improvement, what people need lateral movements and which people are no longer worth investing in at all.

Hence, the best organizations work hard to increase their “talent visibility”, so they can answer those questions best. Because the more talent visibility leadership, human resources and learning and development teams have, the better job they can do of delivering the right learning solutions, promoting the right people, knowing when to hire externally versus internally and ultimately building a more engaging culture overall.

How to increase the talent visibility at your organization

There are several ways organizations can increase their talent visibility, according to Leadership and Development Consultant Katherine Sharon in her LinkedIn Learning course on talent management. One is formal and one is informal.

Let’s start with formal, which is more scalable but less descriptive. Probably the most common form of increasing talent visibility formally is a standardized review process. So, all people are ranked in your department by their performance (and perhaps also their potential), which gives you a codified idea of whose excelling and who isn’t.

This can obviously help with succession planning, as high performers are more formally identified, as well as having a fair compensation structure. But it’s also just a number, and that number does little to delve into the true strengths and weaknesses of your people.

Other formal ways to gain talent visibility is to conduct employee surveys where you ask employees how they feel about their company and areas for improvement. This can help you shape a company-wide strategy to increase retention, for example.

Then there are informal ways to increase your talent visibility. These are less scalable and more subjective. But they also are critical for identifying real training needs and developing more nuanced – and potentially more effective – people-focused strategies.

An example of an informal form of increasing talent visibility is to have managers schedule career conversations with their employees – something most employees want to have. While those conversations aren’t easily quantifiable, they allow managers to have the upmost visibility into their employees and empower them to make strong recommendations when new positions open up.

A second example of an informal form of increasing talent visibility would be asking managers training needs. This can be subjective. But it also can provide deeper insights than a quantifiable measure could on what learning solutions would most help your business.

So what’s better, increasing talent visibility formally or informally? The obvious answer: both. Ideally, the formal methods will allow HR and L&D to buy tools at scale that can address big weaknesses showing up in quantifiable metrics. And these tools should be customizable enough so managers can make more nuanced solutions based off the informal conversations they’ve had with their team members.

What an example of high talent visibility can look like

Rather than talk about it in the theoretical, here’s a real-life example Sharon shared in her course. The example came at a technology company that prioritized talent visibility, and how it helped them make a better business decision.

Using formal techniques – namely an employee survey and standardized performance reviews – they realized their top performers were the most eager to take on new challenges. Additionally, their employee data showed that top performers were most likely to leave if they didn’t have new challenges to tackle.

Additionally, using informal techniques – namely, promoting honest career conversations between managers and their employees – managers had a clear idea of what employees were most eager to take on a new challenge.

It so happened the technology company was launching a new office in Mexico, in an effort to expand their offering. To determine who to send, the company identified top performers from their standardized assessment. They coupled that with the informal conversations managers had with their employees and found people within that high performance group who were most eager for a career change.

From that, they offered those people positions to build out this initiative in Mexico. Whereas other companies might have to mandate something like that and it would lower morale, most of the people eagerly accepted the offer and it increased morale. Ultimately, the company successfully expanded into Mexico, largely because it had the right talent there.

That’s just one example, but you can see how high talent visibility can also help a company design better learning solutions, build a strong succession plan and build a better culture.

The takeaway

Talent visibility hardly gets the attention employee engagement or leadership training gets, for example. And yet, to do anything in the area of human resources or L&D well, an organization needs to have high talent visibility.

When talent visibility is high, people tend to trust the system. They see the right people promoted, lateral movements are (relatively) seamless and they believe the organization has their best interest at heart. When it’s low, the exact opposite happens: people feel like they are alone.

So it’s worth taking a hard look at your strategy on talent visibility. The more information HR, L&D and leadership can get, the better decisions they can make and the better they can serve their people.