Today, many successful organizations are taking a closer look at how to identify, measure and develop their key employees as part of talent management.

While your startup’s “A” players or “top talent” are typically those with the best performance ratings, defining top talent should go beyond this single measure. Focusing only on job performance does not allow you to effectively target employee development for key projects and achieve business goals in the longer term.

Identify your top talent among your employees

Your “A” players will have characteristics or behaviours that make them a top performer. These will vary by organization or department. In some parts of the organization, being able to deliver results may be the driving factor, while in others, the ability to innovate might rank first.

To identify your startup’s top talent, pinpoint the characteristics that are vital to your success. Find ways to cultivate these traits in all of your employees. Your “A” players are those who demonstrate these key characteristics most consistently and who deliver superior results.

Characteristics and behaviours that may help you identify top talent among your employees

When reflecting on what characteristics and behaviour may help you identify top talent, the following examples may help. Consider whether your employee demonstrates the attributes you need. Some common examples include:

  • Positive energy/attitude
  • An entrepreneurial spirit
  • Innovation or creativity
  • A commitment to your startup’s culture and mission
  • Effective communication skills
  • Integrity
  • Teamwork
  • A customer focus
  • Leadership
  • Potential for growth
  • Job expertise and skills
  • Commitment to deliver
  • A strong work ethic
  • Decision-making skills

Develop a talent management strategy

Measure employees’ performance based on your identified “top talent” characteristics or behaviours

Once you have identified the key characteristics or behaviours are that will drive your startup’s business goals now and in the future, measure employees against these expectations.

Develop a plan on how to manage your top employees—your “A” players

Attracting and retaining your best and brightest means you need to actively identify and develop talent among employees. This will require a commitment from your executive team—it is therefore critical that the definition of these characteristics and behaviours begin with them.

Effective talent identification and management: Tips

  • Clearly communicate the talent required by your startup
  • Define how your organization will measure potential in employees
  • Clarify the link between current and potential performance
  • Monitor and develop the individuals you identify as “key” or “high-potential”

No talent management process is likely to succeed unless the organization recognizes the value of talent identification and development, and makes it a part of every manager’s job. This ensures that the program is widely understood and aligned with the business at all levels of decision-making processes.

Implementing talent management

To create an aligned talent management process, review your startup’s human-resources strategy. The following will help you ensure that talent management is prioritized:

Define employee competencies

Competencies are the integrated knowledge, skills, characteristics and behaviours that employees need to perform a job effectively. To help identify talent, competency programs need careful definition with a focus on the future.

Although this talent management process can be regarded as cumbersome to administer and support, identifying employee competencies while your startup is still small can be fairly simple. The process will prove valuable as your startup grows.

Recruit the right people

The selection of the right people is a vital step in maintaining a high-quality talent pool. The starting point is to have a good understanding of any gaps in strategic skills.

Implement 360° feedback and performance-management systems

As part of the performance management process, using feedback that draws from multiple sources (i.e., 360° feedback) can yield useful information to establish a benchmark in terms of behaviours and skills.

Support employees with talent development programs

Development programs can be more carefully targeted and tracked to ensure alignment between your “A” players and your startup’s goals. Talent development is especially important for “A” players, as strong performers expect to be given new opportunities to learn. If they don’t receive this kind of support, they may look for an employer who offers it.