Identifying your talents and How to Coach them Unbiasedly.

Jim van Hulst has worked in several leadership functions at EY, ING Bank, ABN AMRO Bank, and Johnson Controls International. His positions have included Director Talent Management, Global Head Professional Development, and Global Learning Technology Leader. Jim has an MSc. in Learning Technology from the University of Sheffield and a Bachelor of Education from the University of Arnhem/Nijmegen. He also holds a diploma in Business Management and Leadership from the Rotterdam School of Management, and he completed his MBA in 2020 from MSM, The Netherlands. He is a frequently asked speaker and author of numerous articles. Jim founded Jignite recently in 2021.

Jim van Hulst, owner Jignite

How to Identify and coach your talents in an unbiased way.


Talent management is a term coined by McKinsey in the late 1990s to describe attracting, developing, and retaining the best people for an organization. It was made famous by the phrase “The War for Talent” and the subsequent book by Michaels.

Talent management is closely linked with effective performance management, which involves setting clear goals, providing feedback, and rewarding achievements. According to a McKinsey survey, organizations with effective talent-management programs have a better chance of outperforming their competitors and generating higher shareholder returns.

Bias and Talent Management

Talent management requires focusing on the right traits, such as potential, learning agility, curiosity, and motivation, rather than relying on past performance or complex skills. These traits are more likely to help employees adapt to changing environments and future challenges (see my earlier articles on this topic). Talent management also involves identifying and developing talent unbiasedly, avoiding common biases affecting hiring and promotion decisions, such as similarity bias, confirmation bias, halo effect, or stereotyping. Organizations can use technology and analytics to mitigate performance management and feedback bias. Let me give you three examples:

  1. One example is to use artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze the language and tone of employee feedback. AI can detect if there are differences in the nature and quality of feedback provided to different groups of employees, such as by gender, race, or age. AI can also suggest alternative words or phrases that are more objective, constructive, and inclusive. This can help managers and employees avoid bias in their communication and feedback. Also, look at the words describing your talent positions, e.g., recruitment.
  2. Another example is to use data visualization to display the distribution and trends of performance ratings, promotions, and rewards across the organization. Data visualization can help managers and employees see patterns or anomalies that indicate bias or favoritism in performance management. Data visualization can also help managers and employees compare their performance and outcomes with their peers and benchmarks. This can help managers and employees identify and address any gaps or discrepancies in performance management.
  3. A third example is calibration to ensure consistency and accuracy in performance evaluation and feedback. Calibration is the process of making data-informed and fact-driven decisions instead of making decisions driven by groupthink or gut instinct. This may be the easiest way to execute if you work in a smaller company. It can be used in any decision-making context, especially in performance reviews and multisource feedback with real-time data to provide continuous developmental and coaching feedback throughout the year. Calibration can help managers and employees reduce bias and increase fairness in performance management.

Talent Management and unbiased Coaching

Coaching talents are one of any leader’s most essential and challenging tasks. You want to help your employees grow and achieve their potential while avoiding bias and favoritism. How can you do that effectively and efficiently?  Coaching can enhance employee engagement, productivity, creativity, and retention. However, coaching is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Different employees may have different needs, preferences, and styles of learning. Therefore, coaches need to tailor their coaching methods to suit each individual. One way to do that is to use the One Page Talent Management (OPTM) framework developed by Marc Effron and Miriam Ort.

OPTM is a simple, powerful, scientifically proven approach to increase your ability to develop better leaders faster. It involves eliminating frustrating complexity, focusing only on those components that add value, and building transparency and accountability into every practice. OPTM consists of two brief statements: one describing where the employee is today (from) and one describing their next big (not ultimate) destination (to). Then it creates a personal experience map that shows which experiences the employee wants to acquire in the next two to five years.

How to use OPTM?

For example, let’s say you have an employee who is a senior analyst now (from) and wants to become a future manager (to). You can use OPTM to help them identify the skills and behaviours they need to develop, such as communication, delegation, feedback, and decision-making. Then you can help them plan how to acquire those experiences, such as taking on a project, leading a team, mentoring a junior colleague, or attending a dedicated training course.

By using OPTM, you can coach your talents in an unbiased way because:

  • You base your assessment and feedback on objective data and criteria, not subjective impressions or opinions.
  • You align your expectations and goals with the employee’s aspirations and motivations, not with your own preferences or assumptions.
  • You provide clear, specific guidance and support for the employee’s development, not vague or generic advice or suggestions.

Why work on this?

In today’s fast-changing and competitive world, talent management is essential for achieving organizational excellence. Talent management is not only about finding and developing the best people for your organization, but also about unleashing their full potential and helping them thrive. By mastering the skills of identifying talent in an unbiased way and coaching highly talented employees effectively, you can boost your own performance as well as your team’s performance. You can learn more about these skills from the scientific references and online resources that I share with you in this article. They will help you improve your own talent management practices and thus enhance the capabilities of your organization.



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