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Talent Management Principles

1. What do we mean by 'Talent'?

Talent consists of those individuals with the performance and potential to make a significant difference to agency performance in the APS now, and in the longer term1.

The concept of high potential is central to the notion of talent. It refers to the capacity of an individual to move into - and succeed in - roles of greater complexity, ambiguity and scale in the future.

Although all people have inherent talents, specific focus is given to those identified as high potential talent.

2. What is Talent Management?

Talent management is the systematic attraction, identification, development, engagement, retention and deployment of those individuals who are of particular value to the APS because of their high potential for the future2.

Talent management is a key business strategy and an investment in the future capability of the APS. Taking a systematic approach to managing the career growth of high potential employees can help ensure the APS has the right people ready for critical roles now and in the future.

3. Benefits of Talent Management

Recent research3 lends support for a focus on talent management. Some of the tangible business outcomes identified in the research include:

  • The creation of a robust leadership bench strength that supports the organisation's succession planning for key positions
  • Improved retention and engagement of high potential employees with business critical skills
  • Greater customer satisfaction and overall better market performance, compared to organisations that do not actively manage talent.

A study by CEB4 in 2014 highlighted the criticality of high potential individuals, finding that these employees are almost twice as valuable to an organisation compared with those who are not found to be high potential. This study also found that only 15% of an organisation's highest performing employees can develop and adapt enough to succeed in more senior, complex roles.

Talent management helps to identify that 15% and ensure they are positioned to take up critical roles. It can also help to ensure the other 85% of high performing employees remain strong contributors to the agency and are in roles which support them to contribute their best.

For the APS, a systematic approach to talent management is critical to building a more agile and responsive institution that is better able to serve government as it makes progress on a range of complex issues for the nation. It makes good business sense to engage the best and brightest individuals in the work of the APS, and, through targeted career development, position them for critical roles in the future. It is the key to sustainable agency performance.

4. Principles of Talent Management

Three principles underpin effective talent management in the APS:

  • Talent management is owned and led by APS leaders, who are actively engaged in the process with a view to the longer term interests of their agency and the wider APS. Senior leaders, as stewards of the APS, have a particular leadership role to play in driving effective talent management in their agency and across the APS.
  • The identification of talent is based on valid and objective assessment, ensuring the right people are receiving the right development and focus at specific times in their career. This is consistent with the notion of merit.
  • Talent management is systematic and dynamic:
    • The process involves regular and active identification, planning and monitoring of high potential individuals: who they are, how they are being developed, the career 'next steps' that will best help them realise their potential.
    • The process also recognises that an assessment of potential may change over time depending on an individual's circumstances or career stage. As such, potential is regularly monitored and reassessed.

5. The Talent Management System

In the APS, corporate and strategic workforce planning processes inform the focus for talent management. Corporate plans set the strategic direction for an agency and its key priorities and objectives5. Workforce planning assesses the workforce requirements to deliver on strategic priorities, including the roles that are critical to successful delivery. These roles may be generic, for example senior management or technical roles (for example chief finance officer roles).

Talent management focuses on individuals with the potential to successfully undertake these critical roles now and in the future. There are four elements to the system:

  1. Talent attraction and identification: Sourcing external talent or identifying internal talent with the capacity to be successful in critical roles in the future.
  2. Talent development: Making a targeted investment in the development of talented employees to build their capability for future roles.
  3. Talent engagement: Maintaining the engagement of talented employees with the APS, and retaining them, through career management, ongoing development and retention strategies.
  4. Talent deployment: Actively drawing on identified talent to fill critical workforce gaps. This involves the placement of talented individuals in either short-term roles (critical projects/taskforces) or in long-term positions in line with career aspirations and business needs.

The full talent management system can be seen in Figure 1. Each step is then covered in more detail in Part B of this guide.

6. Arrangements to Manage Talent

For talent management to work effectively, it is important to have a clearly established mechanism for senior managers to come together regularly to discuss talent. This can be across the APS or within an agency. This mechanism can take the form of:

  • A Talent Council or equivalent talent specific council or group
  • A regular talent agenda item as part of an existing Executive Committee forum.

These types of mechanisms allow for an appropriate level of discussion of talent, ensuring decisions can be made with a view to the strategic directions of the agency, its best long-term interests and the interests of high potential individuals. Decisions about talent can also be made at a level where there is agency support for their implementation, for example, a decision to place a high potential individual in another role to broaden their skills base and experience.

Talent discussions at the senior manager level need to be supported by the Human Resource function. The HR function can provide information and advice on the identification, development, and career progression for high potential individuals. This can be supported by talent tracking and monitoring tools which are available on existing HR systems or can be procured as specialised software. Depending on the size of the talent pool being managed, a simple spreadsheet can also be an effective and low cost monitoring tool.

Further information on the arrangements for managing talent can be found in Part B, section 5 of this guide.


1 Adapted from Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, Talent management: an overview, viewed 29 May 2015, http://www.cipd.co.uk/hr-resources/factsheets/talent-management-overview.aspx


3 Sharkey, L.D & Eccher, P.H. (2011). Optimising Talent. What every leader and manager needs to know to sustain the ultimate workforce. Charlotte, N.C: Information Age Publishing Inc.

4 Burke, Schmidt & Griffin (2014). Improving the Odds of Success for High-Potential Programs – Georgia, USA. Talent Report. CEB SHLL Talent Measurement

5 Section 35, Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013

Last reviewed: 
29 March 2018