The Website and Blog of HR Author and Speaker Lori Kleiman

Why Am I the Only One Without Top Talent?


You’re not! We all have top talent on our teams, but sometimes they are not as strategically placed as you might like. The key to top talent is looking beyond your high performers. A High Performer is someone who is doing a great job today. Top Talent is someone who can help you drive operations forward and make a long term leadership impact in your organization. An interesting blog on the difference between the two is on the TINYpulse site.

Leaders should consider evaluating who their top talent is strategically. In my human resources toolkit,I have developed a chart which can be used to look at your employees on 6 criteria that I believe separate high performers from top talent.

Talent – Top performers certainly need to have the talent to do the job. But keep in mind you may have someone bored today, the question is whether or not they have talent for the skills you need in the future.

Behavior – Dedication, empathy, service and ethics are very hard to teach. Look for the behaviors that align with your company culture, and encourage those employees to be leaders.

PotentialThe Peter Principle is alive and well. All too often in my human resources leadership I have promoted someone doing a great job, who got to the next level and failed miserably. Look for those that show signs of the ability to succeed at higher level skills.

Performance – Day-to-day performance in the current role must be excellent. A promotion or added responsibility is a signal to other employees of expected behavior. Be sure others see that if they do a great job for you, they too can move ahead in your organization.

Engagement – The employee designated as top talent has to be fully invested in the outcomes you want in your business. You may have the best employee who meets all the other criteria, but comes to work does their job and leaves. You want someone interested and inspired by what your organization does.

Ambition – You can’t go anywhere unless the employee is ambitious and wants to get ahead. Many people are happy to be in a position that they do great, and don’t want additional responsibility. If this is the case, don’t push it!

Organizations should identify 2-3% of their employee population as top talent. Think 20 years from now, who can you include in this group. Then focus your energy on retaining this group. Harvard Business Review has an interest take on retention of top talent. Consider this to be one of your most important steps of performance management and it will serve your organization well.

Lori Kleiman is an HR expert who presents to business people and groups. Click here to see a video of Lori in action. If you’d like to have Lori keynote one of her HR presentations at your upcoming event, click here, or email Lori directly at!
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