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Talent deployment is the process of identifying, moving, and using individuals’ skills and expertise to maximise value. This includes assigning people to roles, projects, or responsibilities to increase their impact and improve the organization’s performance.

Whenever you move someone from one position to another, you have to ask if the move will increase or decrease their value. To answer this question accurately, you need to understand the fit between the person and their future context.

This article discusses two models for improving the odds of increasing, rather than destroying, value by moving talent internally.

The challenge of effective talent deployment

Business leaders typically ask these ‘who’ questions when it comes to talent deployment:

  • Who is ready to be promoted?
  • Who should we move to solve that business challenge?
  • Who would be the best person to add to that team?
  • Who is ready to take over running the business unit?

All these questions aim to predict how successful someone will be if their work context changes.

If HR can’t quickly and accurately answer these questions, business leaders may resort to opinion-based decisions, which significantly increases the risk of failure.

Here are some statistics:

  • Harvard Business Review reports that 40% to 60% of new managers hired fail within 18 months.
  • The Corporate Leadership Council notes that nearly 50% of executive new hires fail within the same 18-month period.
  • Research by Gallup shows that a striking 82% of managers feel they fall short in recruiting senior managerial talent effectively.

What this research reveals, is that you have roughly the same odds of success when hiring someone as flipping a coin (and it’s probably much faster and cheaper to just flip a coin). The good news is that there are some talent deployment strategies you can use to stack the odds in your favor.

The aim of this series of articles is to help you to build a capability that allows you to answer the ‘who’ questions faster and more accurately than the business leaders asking them.

The saying that ‘your best salesperson can become your worst sales manager’ is a common experience in many businesses.

Moving people from a context in which their talent has high value (good fit with context) to a context where their talent has low value (poor fit with context) makes no sense, yet it is done repeatedly. Why? Because past success is mistakenly seen as a predictor of future performance.

Have a look at the diagram to see what that looks like visually.

Representation of building fit with context. Current and future context are displayed as two circles on a horizontal line. Current context is on the left, and future context on the right. To move someone from current context to future context requires redefining development requirements.

When someone is placed in a job (current context in the diagram above), it will take time for them to understand the challenges, learn new skills and build relationships. The better the fit between the talent of the person and the requirements of the context, the better they will perform.

Current and future role fit represented by two circles on a horizontal axis. To maximise fit, one needs to accelerate fit using 4 enablers.

When moving someone, you are changing the requirements for success. What was a good fit can quickly become a poor fit and the value of the person is diminished (even though they have not fundamentally changed).

Every time you move someone, the process of learning, building and adapting to their new context has to start again.

The faster they are able to do this, the faster they are able to add value. So determining fit and accelerating fit (represented by the dotted curve in the second diagram) is a huge value add.

Four enablers that help maximize role fit in talent promotion or deployment

  1. Data: When looking to understand what data you need to assess someone’s performance for a future role, think of it like planning a trip overseas. If you know what places you want to explore, what weather conditions you are expecting and how long in advance you can prepare, you know what to pack in your suitcase. For future role fit, you need to know what attributes, experience and skills are required to cope with the challenges of the new context. Ask yourself: “is this knowledge based on research or opinions?” Now that you’ve considered the requirements of the job, think about the context in which the job has to be performed. Will the new context require a different set of skills or experience? For example, a job based in a foreign country may require completely different set of skills because the context has changed.
  2. Processes: Moving and deploying talent requires a great deal of coordination and planning. You need an efficient process to connect people with opportunities. Do you have policies and practices that enable or constrain mobility? How far in advance can you predict the need for someone in a specific place? Can HR quickly and effectively fill a talent gap when a manager releases someone to pursue an opportunity?
  3. Culture: People will watch what you do more than they will listen to what you say. So if you are constantly filling positions with external talent, they will see a culture that doesn’t value development and internal mobility. Do you have leaders who see the value of having an agile talent culture? Do managers enable or constrain movement? Do employees value career growth and taking on new challenges?
  4. Tech and tools: Technology and tools should be there to provide the data, accelerate the processes and embed the culture of talent value management. You need the tools to know what people are good at, and where their skills are needed.

Answering the talent deployment 'who' questions

A great model to use when building the ability to answer the critical ‘who’ questions in talent promotion and deployment, is the 6Q framework developed by Bob Eichinger and Mike Lombardo.

Although the model was designed to identify high potentials, it’s a great tool to help you determine fit with a future context when speaking to business leaders.

The best part about using this approach, is that it is multi-dimensional. This model applies several different measures to assess fit, which can significantly increase your odds of getting it right.

Lets get into the 6Qs and explain why this model is useful.

Solving talent deployment questions using the 6Qs model

The 6Q’s

Intellectual quotient (IQ)

You’re probably familiar with this one. In summary, it’s intellectual horsepower. The issue with assessing IQ, is that research indicates a correlation with job success of between 20% and 30%.

IQ is predominantly the ability to connect-the-dots, which one does through learning things and intuitive actions. If someone is struggling with connecting the dots at the level they are currently at, they are unlikely to be able to do it at a higher or more complex job level.

Technical quotient (TQ)

Technical quotient is a measure of a person’s technical and functional skills. This is the easiest, and often the only assessment used to promote someone.

The higher up the corporate ladder someone climbs, the less important these skills become, because they should then using the deeper and more diverse skills of their team. However, a minimum TQ is required in every role.

Experience quotient (XQ)

E(x)perience quotient is the relevance of someone’s experience. Nobody gets it right the first time, no matter how talented they are. Everything requires practice. It’s important to assess if the individual you’re looking to promote or deploy has ever dealt with the kinds of challenges they will face in the new context. Identifying relevant experience means that this won’t be the first time they have to deal with every situation they will face.

Motivation quotient (MQ)

Motivation quotient is the level of energy a person has for the new context. This can be assessed by looking at whether this is something they really want or like doing, are energized by the challenges they will face and the people they’ll work with. To assess MQ, you have to know what lights the person’s fire.

People quotient (PQ)

People quotient is the person’s ability to manage relationships with others, but also their level of self-awareness. What has worked with people in the past may not work with a completely new team with different personalities.

Learning quotient (LQ)

Learning quotient is the speed with which someone can learn something new. This often requires letting go of previous mental models (heuristics) and actively adopting a beginners mindset to a task, which is really uncomfortable for the majority of people.

The 6Q’s is a great way to determine the ability fit of an individual, but there is another model that may be even more important to consider, and that is the ecosystem fit.

Why you should think about ecosystems in the context of promotion and deployment

If you’ve seen our website or posts on LinkedIn, you’ll see we are really passionate about building sustainable People Ecosystems. When you assess role fit, its not just about the person’s ability to do the job, but their ability to add value to the people ecosystem that they are doing that job in.

Here are some questions that we use to measure their connection with the purpose of the ecosystem, and their connection with people in it. Take our People Ecosystem Health Check to find out how healthy your People Ecosystem is or watch our video series on the topic of creating People Ecosystems here.

Connection with purpose

Here are a few questions you can use to assess whether the individual has a connection with the company’s purpose:

  1. Is this someone who really wants to be in our ecosystem?
  2. Is this someone who really enjoys being in our ecosystem?
  3. Is this someone who sincerely believes the work they do in our ecosystem is meaningful and has a positive impact?
  4. Is this someone who is genuinely interested in our ecosystem and what we do?
  5. Is this someone who believes in the purpose of our ecosystem?

Connection with people

The second factor you need to assess for role fit, is whether the individual has a connection with people:

  1. Is this someone who shows an interest in other people in our ecosystem?
  2. Is this someone who actively builds relationships with others in our ecosystem?
  3. Is this someone who often shares ideas and opportunities for improvement with other people in our ecosystem?
  4. Is this someone whose contribution to our ecosystem is really valued by others?
  5. Is this someone who truly appreciates working together and cooperating with others?

If you are moving, or more importantly, promoting someone, and you don’t answer each of these questions with “yes”, then you are potentially poisoning your people ecosystem. No matter how good their ability fit is, if the person is not a good fit with the purpose and people in your ecosystem, they shouldn’t be considered for the position. Purpose and people fit is the single most important factor to consider when promoting and deploying someone.

Final note

We started this article with ‘who’ questions related to talent deployment because they are the ones we hear business leaders ask most often.

To answer the critical who questions, you need to build a capability that allows you to do it faster and more accurately than business leaders can themselves.

Talent deployment involves planning and purpose. To answer the who questions, you have to be able to answer these two questions:

  • What is the person expected to do, and
  • Why them, and not someone else?

To do this:

  • Create a consistent, multi-dimensional approach (6Q’s) to determining fit (ability)
  • Assess the people ecosystem fit using the purpose and people assessment questions
  • Build your capability do these two things using quality data, efficient processes and a culture that values growth
  • Enable it all with technology and tools that give you fast and accurate answers to the information you need.

Talent deployment is critical for building the agility you need to respond to talent demand. Having the right people in the right place at the right time is the ultimate purpose of talent management as a practice.

Find out more about our approach to helping our clients build the capability to answer their critical who questions.