What's Ahead: People Intelligence: No Longer a 'Nice to Have'

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Friday, April 1, 2011
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As organizations wrestle with doing more with fewer resources, the importance of people intelligence -- specific and objective insights into people's abilities and potential to perform -- is more critical than ever.

Sure, we've still got the good ole performance review to rely on, but seriously, how many succession-planning conversations are based solely on the last performance review? Best-in-class organizations have recognized that people intelligence is based on more than the last performance review or anecdotal feedback from the last supervisor.

Critical insights about talent are gained by putting a total picture together based on a range of inputs which include performance (yep, that performance review), hard data (business results, if available and attributable to that employee or group of employees) and indicators of potential.

Measures of potential are best obtained through the strategic use of well-constructed assessment tools. But forget what you thought you knew about assessments. Long gone are the days of paper-and-pencil tests with simple (and seemingly endless) text-based multiple-choice questions that asked you things that didn't seem to have any relationship to the job.

Today's assessments are highly strategic and highly job-relevant instruments that give managers insights into the potential of their talent. Most importantly, they have become much more interesting and engaging from a test-taker's perspective.

Today's assessments are delivered via the web, contain multiple types of measurement and include highly engaging simulations and business-case scenarios that "immerse" the test-taker in scenarios that look and feel like the job. Now, there's a concept!

So, when should you consider using assessments to guide and inform your talent decisions? Well, the answer is when enhanced people intelligence is critical to informing your talent decision. This would be when you know very little about the person's ability to perform against certain key competencies or when you are looking for macro-level insights into a team or department's level of competence in particular areas.

Specific examples of this throughout the talent lifecycle are:

* Hiring and selection decisions. The time when you know the least amount about a candidate's potential or ability to succeed in the role. This is the most common use of assessments today.

* Succession planning and promotion decisions. To guide and inform decisions when the candidate (or group of potential candidates) has not had the chance to demonstrate the competencies required in higher level roles, e.g. supervising others, strategic thinking, etc.

* Development strategies and investments. To target development programs and training investments toward key competencies that need developing (at either the individual or group level).

* Workforce planning. To inform macro and longer-range workforce-planning strategies based on strategic insights into your workforce's abilities and strengths. What percentage of your current workforce has the potential to take on selling roles? Planning to expand internationally? How many of your current leaders have the potential to take on complex international assignments?

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Best-in-class organizations are figuring out ways to embed insights gathered through the strategic use of assessments into their overall talent strategies. Most powerfully, these insights into talent can be linked directly to organizational outcomes. In other words, people intelligence drives business results. How many talent programs have you implemented that have direct and measurable ROI?

According to Aberdeen's recent research, the 2011 HR Executive's Agenda, a survey of HR executives and business leaders, 52 percent of respondents indicated that HR spends too much time on tactical HR activities.

Even more startling, only 34 percent of best-in-class organizations and 7 percent (!) of all others have data that backs up the correlation between talent-management efforts and business results. No wonder 33 percent of all respondents indicated that senior leadership has not bought in to HCM efforts.

Given how many times I've mentioned competencies in this article so far, you will also have recognized that a well-defined competency model is a critical tool in building people intelligence. Competencies are the language of people intelligence and form a common framework for considering and making talent decisions.

A well-conceived strategy for the use of assessment enterprise-wide coupled with a well-defined and understood competency framework is a key element of talent strategy today. In these days of doing more with less and making each incremental head count, objective and actionable insights into talent -- based around competencies -- are absolutely critical. That's why people intelligence is no longer a nice to have. It's a must have. 

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