Talent Development: Identifying Emerging Leaders in Your Business

Keeley Tillotson

What is Talent Development?

“Talent Development” includes a variety of activities: hiring, training, developing, retaining, and planning for the growth the people within your organization. Investing time and resources in talent development is crucial. Identifying and investing in rising talent is the key to long-term success as a business – great leaders bring the continuity, innovation, and drive to steer organizations through change and growth.

At Spark, we recommend including talent development as a part of your annual and quarterly strategic planning processes. We’ve observed that when businesses focus on the top performing 10% of their employees, they can expect to get 90% of the results they are looking for. Focusing resources on your high-potential individuals is the best way to make the most out of your existing team.

When other employees see that their organization invests in talent assessment and development, it fosters a culture of excellence. Employees feel valued, motivated, and more engaged, knowing that their skills and potential are recognized and nurtured. This not only attracts talented people, but also keeps the high-performers around because they see opportunities to grow within the company.

The process of determining your top talent – the top 10% – plays a big role in effective talent development. You want to find those hidden gems who can bring innovation, drive growth, and help ensure long-term success. Today, we’re sharing an activity we frequently recommend to help identify top talent within organizations, departments, or teams.

Talent Assessment Matrix Activity

At Spark, we often recommend a “9 Box” Talent Assessment Matrix Activity. This is a relatively simple way to organize where you’d like to make people investments over the coming year.

To start with, ask that your leadership team members answer these questions:

  1. What are the Top 1-3 critical roles in your department today?
  2. What are your thoughts on how to fill these roles in the future? Are there any internal candidates that might be a potential fit now or in the future with the right training or experience?


Next, ask each leader to complete a 9 Box Talent Assessment Matrix:

First, draw a 9 Box grid with “Performance Results” on the X axis and “Growth Potential” on the Y axis, numbering the boxes as in the below example.

Next, place the initials of each of your employees in the box that matches your current assessment of their Performance and Growth/Leadership Potential, per the descriptions below.

After this activity is complete, though there are opportunities within all boxes to offer coaching and improvement to help level up your whole team, Boxes 1, 2, and 3 will include the highest opportunity members of your team to invest in as emerging leaders. We recommend investing here as an initial step of your People Plan to ensure you’re focused on retention and growth first.

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