How to identify and assess talent

Talent management is not simply about proactively identifying, nurturing and developing the future leaders of tomorrow, irrespective of personal background.

Differentiating high potential from high performance is key. This toolkit is designed to help you.

Aspiration | Engagement | Ability | Leadership values | Key features

Identify and assessing talent infographic

Organisational competency frameworks (for example, Civil Service / NHS leadership model) are used to assess an individual's performance in their current role and grade.

Sustained high performance is a given when assessing individuals with the potential to progress into more senior and challenging roles.

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AspirationImage of a woman looking out of a window. Image represents aspiration.

Ambitious; motivated; flexible

Aspiration considers the level of desire to progress and the motivation to learn and develop.

Generally this is indicated by:

  • expresses desire to progress within the health and care system and is willing to move across boundaries (organisational, professions or sector) to widen their experience and meet the operating needs of the system;
  • sets challenging career goals for self and takes the necessary steps to achieve these, critically reviewing their progress at  regular stages;
  • consistently seeks out opportunities to develop with stretching assignments, learning from their mistakes along the way; and
  • is known outside of their immediate business area by building successful networks and has a reputation for delivering to an exceptional standard.


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EngagementImage of three hands on top of each other. Image represents engagement.

Committed; passionate; goes the extra mile

Engagement explores how committed to the health and care system the individual is at an emotional and rational level.

Generally this is indicated by:

  • committed to developing a career in the health and care sector by taking advantage of external opportunities and bringing the learning back to their organisation and the system as a whole;
  • committed to delivering excellent public services for the citizen and value for money for the tax payer;
  • acts as an ambassador for the system demonstrating pride and enjoyment in their work and role modelling system leadership behaviours and values;
  • willingly applies additional discretionary effort;
  • is values driven and depends upon passion and commitment to set and achieve goals rather then the acquisition of power; and
  • not afraid to be emotional in articulating what it is that motivates them.

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AbilityImage of a man at a lectern. Image represents ability.

Setting direction: strategic; politically agile; intellectually able

Ability explores how far an individual shows the ‘stretch’ to do and ability to learn a role with increased complexity and ambiguity, greater use of sound judgement and wider role span.

Generally this is indicated by: Payband 8a-8c - payband 8d / 9; G7-6 / deputy director transition

  • Understands the wider debate, influences effectively and consistently alert to issues beyond the immediate and obvious scope of the role.
  • Always thinking beyond the here and now and evaluating the future impact of the decisions they make today for the organisation and the citizen.

Generally this is indicated by: aspirant director transition

  • Simplifies the complex, remains strategic and makes effective, corporate and open decisions by focussing on key facts.
  • Employs a well developed political astuteness to navigate and influence the political environment skillfully.
  • Analytical and incisive. Lacking managerial levers available to more traditional leaders, system leaders have to be capable of gathering and citing evidence to support their case and of articulating an argument in a simple and unambiguous way.
  • Understands how to lead through collaboration, developing ways to maintain momentum without pursuing their own interests or leaving others behind.

Generally this is indicated by: Executive director to CEO / DG transition

  • A strategic thinker who defines the agenda and makes broader connections, grasping the full impact of their decisions.
  • Makes a positive, authoritative and influential impact everywhere they go, communicating complex issues simply, powerfully and convincingly to a wider audience including at Board, ministerial level and to the citizen.

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AbilityImage of a group of people walking across a foot bridge. Image represents ability.

Engaging people: resilient; self-aware; empowers others

Ability explores how far an individual shows the 'stretch' to do and ability to learn a role with increased complexity and ambiguity, greater use of sound judgement and wider role span.

Generally this is indicated by: Payband 8a-8c - payband 8d / 9; G7-6 / deputy director transition

  • Builds strong, diverse teams, empowering and developing others to improve performance. Holds people to account for delivery.
  • Leads by painting a clear view of the future, working effectively with a range of agendas, personalities and interests.

Generally this is indicated by: aspirant director transition

  • Confident and effective in building relationships at senior levels, operating with sensitivity and political astuteness and remaining calm under pressure.
  • Has a flexible leadership style, balancing accountability, empowerment and space for creativity.
  • They are honest and direct and are able to have 'courageous conversations' where these are needed, in order to achieve results.
  • Emotionally literate with capacity to empathise with others and work with ambiguity in a world of multiple perspectives.
  • Know how to collaborate with others at all levels and are good at engaging and empowering others. They know the greatest skill is being able to build a coalition of the willing and persuade others that their best interest lies in committing voluntarily to the common good.

Generally this is indicated by: Executive director to CEO / DG transition

  • An authentic leader who creates a culture of honesty, transparency, trust and support.
  • Copes effectively with scrutiny of their actions, doesn’t fade under the spotlight, showing considerable resilience to high levels of pressure.

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AbilityImage of a man with his hand in front of him in the shape of a square. Image represents ability.

Delivering results: challenges; achieves excellence; open to change

Ability explores how far an individual shows the 'stretch' to do and ability to learn a role with increased complexity and ambiguity, greater use of sound judgement and wider role span.

Generally this is indicated by: Payband 8a-8c - payband 8d / 9; G7-6 / deputy director transition

  • Innovates and leads corporate initiatives, challenging the status quo and creating sustainable change to benefit the health and care system and the citizen.
  • Willingly grabs accountability for driving higher performance, relishing opportunities to operate at pace without direction.

Generally this is indicated by: aspirant director transition

  • Innovates and transforms, driving positive change through a confident balancing of risks and benefits and creating a culture where change is seen as an opportunity.
  • Shows determination to take on the big challenges and make tough decisions at pace.
  • Systems leaders know how to lead change by addressing cultural issues rather than relying on structural solutions.

Generally this is indicated by: Executive director to CEO / DG transition

  • Is adaptable and flexible, successfully navigating the political context of the health and care system to deliver outcomes for their organisation and the citizen. Also able to work with and influence ministers.
  • Delivers strong corporate outcomes at pace and leads effectively knowing where to focus energy and time and where to lead with a light touch.

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Leadership valuesImage of a group of people, two sitting down, three standing up. Image represents leadership values.

Each participating organisation has its own values, but there are some shared leadership values important for any high potential individuals to demonstrate.

Leaders of the future health and care system need to embed both their organisational values with those of the national leadership values. The following leadership values combine the essence of the Civil Service values that apply to DH and those of the NHS.

  • Pride - Be proud of what we do, putting the public and patients first in everything we do and ensuring, by our performance that we improve the health and wellbeing of the nation and gain the confidence of the people we serve.
  • Passion - Be passionate about providing high quality public services for all, valuing individual contributions and respecting diversity.
  • Pace - Act with pace to deliver rapid responses that are the right solutions for the long term.
  • Professionalism - Act with professionalism in the way we formulate policies and deliver services.

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Key features, demands and challenges of the national system leadership transitions

Payband 8a-8c to payband 8d / 9; G7/6 / deputy director transition

Generally, this is the first corporate leadership point at which the leader’s actions, decisions and behaviours are visible and have wider impacts than their own deliverable – they need to deliver through others.

The pace, volume and breadth and challenge of work all increase, making it a more challenging and exposed role than previously encountered.

A delivery and change management role with accountability for setting the delivery agenda of a particular operational or policy area.

There is a stronger focus on building teams and staff capability than individual goals, taking difficult decisions for the team and providing support and cover.

The requirement for representing the organisation outwardly, acting for the corporate good and interacting with peers across the organisation and externally increases.

Aspirant director transition

A corporate leader with responsibility and accountability for an organisational area and connectedness to wider system concerns.

A key strategic delivery role requiring long-term resource and budget management across a portfolio of activities or entity in its entirety.

Senior level exposure is heightened (working with Board members, ministers, local politicians, the media and high level stakeholders), being a visible leader and influencer become vital leadership skills.

A higher level of independence in setting and shaping the direction of work around strategic priorities, communicating clear priorities and managing capability and performance to deliver value in the long-term.

Role modelling inspirational leadership and system leadership values, a highly visible role where actions and behaviours impact on the culture and performance of teams.

Executive director into chief executive / director general transition

Representative of and accountable at a corporate level for the effectiveness of the organisation and across the system.

A highly exposed position open to scrutiny, demanding exceptional leadership, influence, strategic and delivery capabilities.

Operating within a strategic context, navigating high levels of ambiguity and complexity and a long-term timeframe.

Achieving a long-term impact and value on the whole system and ‘public purse’, setting the agendas, driving performance at individual, team and organisational level to achieve value for money and budget.

The role demands strong leadership and culture across the organisation and beyond.

Engaging in the political arena, building relationships with key stakeholders including DH Permanent Secretary and at senior levels across system and/or executive board.

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