Enhancing the Talent Review Process: An Interview with Beth Valenta of Cox Communications

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Beth Valenta

The talent review process is an integral part in identifying the productive members of a team. However, old methods of doing so don’t always yield the best results. Beth Valenta, the manager of talent development at Cox Communications, tells Human Resources IQ how to raise the bar in the talent review process.

How do you identify leadership talent within a company?

There are many ways an organization could identify leadership talent. Within Cox we have a formal talent review process that enables us to take a look at employees on a yearly basis to assess their strengths, development needs and potential for future roles. Not only do we include the manager’s view point, but we also incorporate perspectives from others who work with the individuals to ensure we are getting a complete picture.

How do you identify trends impacting your leadership team?

An organization can identify trends impacting its leadership team by looking at the big picture. Rather than just looking at each person individually, managers should take a look at key factors for their overall leadership team. What is the overall age of the team? Are there a lot of experienced individuals on the team? Is the leadership team diverse? By identifying overall trends, an organization can identify any areas of concern and outline a plan of action.

How does one set up and complete a talent review process? What are some general steps in this process?

At Cox, we have a four step process. It begins with input from the employee and manager. Employees need to identify their career interests, their background and their mobility. Managers identify their perception of the employees’ competencies, strengths, development needs and potential. Then we move into a series of review meetings to incorporate different perspectives and calibrate assessments. After the review meetings, managers provide feedback to employees, and then they partner to create and implement a development plan.

How can you determine the specific skills a company will require? With this in mind, how do you apply these specifications towards your talent search to make sure you’re getting the type of employees you need?

You can determine the skills a company will require in the future by looking at the strategies and priorities of the organization. Once you know what the priorities of the organization are, you can determine the capabilities needed to execute against those and then determine any gaps in existing talent. A company’s search and selection process should be focused on identifying individuals with those capabilities.

How involved do the CEO and other leaders in a company need to be in the talent search?

The senior leaders of the company are the ones who set the vision, values and priorities of the company. Based on this, they are key in identifying the capabilities needed for the company to succeed today and in the future.

How frequently does Cox Communications conduct talent reviews? Is this typical of most companies?

Cox goes through a formal talent review process on an annual basis. In our last talent review, over 1,000 individuals were reviewed. Many companies do their talent review on an annual basis, although many of them conduct the process only at the higher leadership levels.

How can you determine which talent issues will be important to a company in the future?

The senior leaders of the company set the vision, values and priorities of the company. These are used to identify the capabilities needed for the company to succeed today and in the future and can then be used to determine any gaps in existing talent. These gaps would be one source of talent issues. In addition, an organization needs to look at demographic trends for its overall leadership team to determine any issues around retirements, diversity, tenure, etc.

What are key attributes to search for when looking for new talent?

When looking for talent for an organization, the organization would want to look for someone who has the skills and capabilities needed for the job today and for where the company is going in the future. They also need to look for those who have the leadership and people skills to be successful in the organization. Finally, an organization should focus on identifying those who would be a good fit with the company’s culture.??

How can the talent review be tied to business priorities?

We use a cascading process where managers from each field location and each corporate function identify the priorities for their area, then roll that down to determine capabilities needed to execute against these priorities. Once people know the capabilities needed, they can assess current talent against those needs. This in turn will drive discussion around the most critical people issues facing the area and actions needed to retain key talent and build bench strength.

Interview by Jessica Livingston, editor