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Talent Spotting Intelligence: Building Your A-Team

In the broader field of talent intelligence, talent spotting is key to finding exceptional talent and hiring individuals with the unique skills required for leadership positions. By preparing in advance for the eventual need for leaders to fill vacant positions, hiring becomes less situational and more opportunistic and advantageous for employees and employers alike.

As the workforce has evolved with the advances made in technology, a more cognitive approach towards talent is becoming the norm. Businesses now are focusing on deriving value for the organization through the predictability, performance, and productivity of their new hires.

The “20 Percenters”

The Pareto Principle infers that 80% of outcomes are derived from 20% of the output. Applied to the workforce, this means that 80% of productivity in a company comes from the work of 20% of the employees. 

These employees can behave like force multipliers for the business, setting the bar for high results and pushing others on their team to perform even better. By recruiting with an eye to hiring “20 percenter” employees, organizations can boost productivity, revenues, and satisfaction across all departments. 

Being guided by the Pareto Principle leads to the development of high-performing cultures. However, to be successful at implementing this approach, it is necessary to not only become adept at spotting high-value talent in outside pools but identify what talent already exists in the company and which employees have the potential and inclination to be successful in leadership roles. 

Using Talent Spotting to Identify High Potential 

Identification of High Potential (HiPo) has for years been predicated on tracking and intervention to steer careers for individual employees. There has been a distinct lack of data-driven hiring intelligence involved in the process, causing a failure to measure the ability of a higher-performing (HiPo) individual to lead effectively.

HiPo employees should not only be leveraged for their individual contributions to the company, but directed into roles where they engage with other employees and have the opportunity to develop teams into machines that perform just as highly as they do.

Imagine a company that takes the 20% of the most productive employees in their organization, and raises up the next 20% to match that same level of drive and enthusiasm. This can happen, but only when HiPo team members are singled out and groomed for leadership roles.

Talent spotting can be a natural offshoot of new-hire reporting processes. Quality of hire feeds naturally into the identification of HiPo, but there is a chasm between spotting talent with high performance and leveraging that into accurately predicting future success.  

[See Eight Processes You Can Automate In Your Recruitment Funnel]

talent spotting intelligence

Performance vs Potential 

There is a vast difference between individuals with high potential, and individuals who display high performance. While a high-performing employee may have the potential to do more in a larger role, there’s not a 1:1 correlation. 

In some cases, the big fish, small pond phenomenon may apply, and an employee may simply be very, very good at their job but lack the drive or skills to be effective further up the ladder. Meanwhile, another employee may not be performing at their peak, simply because they aren’t challenged and motivated to do so.

Performance may be an end state, but potential by its nature is dynamic. HiPo employees can be developed beyond their current abilities and skills. While some may argue that innate components must be present for a HiPo worker to reach the level needed to achieve a leadership role, any HiPo employee has the ability to be developed beyond their current level.  

Talent spotting vs. skills assessments

Identifying potential in employees is completely different from assessing development needs. Organizations utilize a wide range of candidate assessment tools to determine current leadership ability and skills and to identify an individual’s development needs. 

Most assessments measure the employee against a set of end-state competencies that are designed to capture abilities and skills recommended for effectiveness in various roles. Since individuals are typically in a dynamic state, this may be less than helpful for spotting potential, and also cannot accurately measure a person’s ability to grow.

Talent spotting looks for individuals with clear growth arcs and the potential to grow into a broader range of career opportunities while inspiring that growth in those around them. Cognitive talent spotting goes beyond current abilities and helps predict a worker’s ability to handle more complex and challenging roles than they currently hold.

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Defining Potential with Talent Spotting 

To clarify potential in the context of recruitment, it’s critical to ask and answer “The potential for what?” Companies must look first at the projected skills gaps in the organization over the next five to ten years, then at the positions that may become vacant or be created that will need to be filled with candidates who possess those skills.

The employees of the future need the potential to excel in those roles, and the potential to become great leaders within the business. Ideally, they will be capable of helping drive higher performance and productivity from both their peers and the employees they mentor.  

Potential has traditionally been viewed as the ability to move upward by role or by level. This can mean moving effectively into senior or managerial roles in a sub-vertical or department within the company or moving two positions or levels above the current position. Upward mobility may happen concurrent with or subsequent to lateral movement as well.   

Taking a cognitive talent approach to potential embraces the idea of a more diverse type of movement, such as one that recognizes the capability to take on a leadership role that has a broader scope. When talent spotting is leveraged to find these individuals, the focus is automatically on the long term, serving retention purposes as well.

Expertise and the ability to expand on it is another possibility: does an employee have a track record of consistently exceptional performance across a range of roles and responsibilities? They may be spotted at this stage and groomed for greater things.

Finally, these individuals with high potential can be developed specifically for key positions that may open up or appear in an organization and be a core function of business success in the future. Strategic positioning of these employees against projected future needs can put an organization well ahead of the competition. 

Defining Leadership

Potential can be defined as the ability to advance, perform highly, and become a key driver of high performance by others within an organization. How can leadership be defined within this framework, and talent spotting deployed to identify individuals who can make great leaders? 

Individuals who act like leaders when not already in leadership roles are primary targets, but standing out by taking charge isn’t the only hallmark of a potential leader. Employees can act like leaders simply by participating in a variety of projects outside their own core competencies, redefining their own values and abilities, and creating strong networks outside of their own narrow sphere of influence. 

[See Filling Your Candidate Pipeline With Quality Candidates: A Look at Crosschq Recruit]

talent spotting intelligence

Potential leaders show individual traits and abilities which can often be identified through the use of standardized tests and assessment tools and confirmed by work history and performance reports.


This is the motivation and personal will to succeed, no matter what the task. Tests that measure ambition, motivation, and conscientiousness as well as performance track records can be useful in identifying employees with drive. 


This is the cognitive adeptness to perform in a job and to gain proficiency over time in key skills required for a leadership role. IQ and cognitive ability tests as well as assessment of individual proficiency in required skills can deliver results that may be utilized with AI-enabled skills matching for role-based candidate sourcing.

Social skills

The true litmus test of leadership isn’t individual drive and ability to succeed, but the willingness and skill to take a team along for the ride. The ability to manage self must be accompanied by the ability to manage others. Assessments that gauge emotional intelligence, social quotients, and network strength can deliver insights into an employee’s ability to rally others to their cause.

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Building an A-Team

Talent spotting intelligence can help organizations future-proof their workforce by:

  • Identifying high-potential individuals across the organization
  • Strategically moving HiPo employees into positions of opportunity
  • Developing the skills needed to fill roles of the future and prevent gaps
  • Improving retention through continual upward mobility
  • Creating a 20% that continually raises the bar for productivity
  • Transforming teams into flawlessly operating, high-production machines

A combination of talent-spotting tools can be used to assess drive, ability, and social skills, identify leadership qualities, and drive decisions for both hiring and internal promotions. These include cognitive assessments, skills tests, and performance reporting using Quality-of-Hire metrics.  

Crosschq Analytics delivers the ability to track and report on new hires through their first year and beyond, making spotting talent with high potential easier and creating opportunities to move such talent into positions for development and nurturing to build strong leaders. 

To learn more about Crosschq and its potential for use in talent spotting and A-Team building, contact us for a free demo today.

Noelle Davis

by Noelle Davis

Staff Writer

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