Evaluating your talent management approaches

Evaluating talent management can be difficult, but it is necessary. A good evaluation will ensure that your investments are justified, and that any actions and activities are focused in the right areas at the right time. It can also give leaders the opportunity to understand what employees need and want when it comes to their career goals and personal fulfilment.


Any evaluation needs to be both quantitative (using quantifiable measures) and qualitative (focusing on more subjective measures), and should be based on valid, reliable and robust data.


Ultimately, the most important evaluation of talent management is the success of your organisation.


Why should you evaluate your talent management approaches?

Evaluating your approaches can help to:

  • Gain data and analytics to measure progress and outcomes
  • Make decisions, changes and improvements to talent management approaches based on facts and statistics
  • Streamline talent management processes
  • Identify strengths and development areas among employee groups
  • Support funding and resourcing requests and decisions
  • Demonstrate which talent management initiatives add tangible organisational value


When to evaluate

Forget annual evaluations. Many of the most effective organisations with the most forward-thinking talent management strategies use regular and continuous evaluation. This allows them to track progress on a more consistent and meaningful basis.


However, there may also be obvious points in which to measure individual talent management initiatives, for example, when you reach the end of a specific project.


What should you measure?

Success metrics/key performance indicators should be agreed at the start of any talent management activity. You could measure:

  • Promotion and progression
    • Success rates achieved during promotion processes
    • Appointments from fast-track/talent pools
    • Appointments of planned successors
    • Average time in roles prior to progression
  • Employee engagement
    • Do employees feel valued?
    • Are employees satisfied with development and progression opportunities?
    • Do employees intend to stay in the fire and rescue service/sector?
  • Retention rates
    • Is the fire and rescue service losing newly trained or experienced staff?
    • What is the staff turnover in specific areas and employee groups?
    • What is the turnover and retention data for those participating in talent management programmes?
  • Impact of specific talent management activities for underrepresented groups
  • Time and cost to fill roles, especially those considered, ‘business critical’
  • Cost savings through effective succession planning
  • Implementing and embedding clear and transparent processes
  • Tangible outcomes from development programmes


People data and analytics

People data and workforce intelligence can be used to create dashboards or analyse workforce trends. This information can help demonstrate links between talent and performance, both individually and at an organisational level. People data can be found in:

  • HR systems, including exit interview data
  • Other departments, such as IT
  • Different functions and teams across the fire and rescue service
  • External sources, such as salary surveys (more appropriate for support staff)


Services should also consider how to use workforce information alongside finance data to show the impact of talent management practices.


Evaluation methods

Whatever method you use to evaluate a talent management intervention, you must start with the end in mind:

  • Does the intervention really target the problem you are trying to address?
  • What will success look like?
  • How will this be measured?


Considering why you need to complete an evaluation will also help shape the method you use. For example, if you want to prove the effectiveness of the intervention to your service leadership team in order to secure future funding, you may want to use a method that demonstrates return on investment (ROI) to support your case.


Success case method
Robert Brinkerhoff’s success case method looks at individual cases and builds stories around the impact of any interventions. It involves five key steps:


1.    Identify the intervention’s goals and outline what success looks like

2.    Survey a large number of participants to identify the most and least successful cases

3.    Gather data on the factors that led to their successes and failures (in other words, both enabling factors and obstacles)

4.    Analyse the data and create a story for each case

5.    Share the stories and use the findings to inform and upskill your fire and rescue service


Examining the most and least successful cases in an intervention can help you understand the root causes of success and failure.

Theory-based impact
Theory-based impact evaluation (TBIE) seeks to understand why an intervention is effective and how these results can be replicated. TBIE does not prescribe specific methods but suggests guidelines for a valid and reliable evaluation.


The approach is based around six key principles:

1.    Map out the causal chain* from the intervention to the desired outcomes

2.    Understand the intervention’s context (that is, its social, political and economic setting)

3.    Anticipate that the intervention’s success might vary according to several factors

4.    Evaluate the intervention’s impact using a credible control or baseline comparison

5.    Assess the assumptions in the causal chain*

6.    Use both quantitative and qualitative methods to get a broader overview of the impact

*A hypothetical or actual sequence of events that lead to a particular effect. The chain of events must be ordered to show how they occur one after the other. This demonstrates that the events are, indeed, related to each other.


Return on investment
Developed by Dr Donald Kirkpatrick and Dr Jack Phillips, the ROI evaluation model has become arguably the most credible and most widely used learning evaluation methodology in the world thanks to its appropriateness in the business setting. Although predominantly used for measuring the impact of learning, all or some elements can be used to measure the outcomes of talent management initiatives.


In particular, the Phillips methodology offers a practical way to forecast the potential ROI of a proposed training or talent development initiative before funds are committed.


The Phillips model measures outcomes at five levels.


Level 1 Reaction, satisfaction and planned action Measures participant reaction to and satisfaction with the training programme and participants’ plans for action
Level 2 Learning Measures skills and knowledge gains
Level 3 Application and implementation Measures changes in on-the-job application, behaviour change and implementation
Level 4 Business impact Measures business impact
Level 5 ROI Compares the monetary value of the business outcomes against the costs of the training programme/talent initiative