Predicting the Future Success and Failure of Talent: Part II

April 27, 2008 by Ken Nowack

“There’s no such things as coulda, shoulda, or woulda. If you shoulda and coulda, you woulda done it.” Pat Riley

Both talent and jobs are multidimensional.  Performance and success at work is a function of three things:

  1. What talent bring (i.e., what they can do)
  2. What talent are motivated to do (i.e., what they want to do)
  3. What talent have previously done (i.e., past performance)

In research on effective leaders, identifying and then cultivating the right talent seems to be a critical competency for effectiveness and success.  Every mistake an organization makes in hiring and promoting the wrong talent is incredibly costly.  The cost of turnover can range from 100% to 200% of a talent’s total benefit package and every mistake can dramatically affect the morale of the team and negatively impact current customers.

High performers are attracted to other high performers and “lovable stars.”  Each mistake you make in hiring talent means you are missing out on another qualified candidate and possibly increasing turnover with your existing high potential and high performance employees.

If future performance is based on the three factors above, what types of assessments should be used to identify candidates with the greatest potential for future success and performance?


  • Resume/Work History
  • Background Checks
  • Structured Behavioral Interviews
  • Drug Tests
  • References
  • Knowledge Tests


  • Career Interest Inventories
  • Motivational Assessments
  • Organizational Culture/Values Fit Assessments
  • Honesty/Integrity Tests
  • Signature Strengths


  • Cognitive Ability/Intelligence
  • Personality Assessments
  • Aptitudes/Skills Assessments
  • Simulations (e.g., Inbasket, role-plays)

So, know you have an evidenced based approach to talent selection.

Which competencies actually are most predictive of success in leaders?

In a recent 2007 evaluation of 67 competencies in a financial services company by Lawrence P. Clark and Michelle Weitzman, only 6 competencies were significant predictors of individual financial performance goals:

  • Drive for Results
  • Decision Quality
  • Hiring and Staffing
  • Managing Vision and Purpose
  • Developing Direct Reports
  • Time Management

Certain leadership and personal competencies – including Motivating Others, Directing Others, Perseverance, Integrity/Trust, and Ethics/Values were not statistically significant in predicting success.  However, it might be argued that their absence might be highly predictive of failure. These competencies are obviously important within any corporate culture, but they did not appear to be critical for predicting high performance.

Similarly, the absence of some qualities and traits might be better at predicting failure (e.g., emotional intelligence, interpersonal competence, communication skills) but just because a leader has those does not necessarily ensure they will be a success.

Maybe now we can understand why selecting talent has often been more “art” than “science”….Be well….

[tags]pre-employment selection, assessment, interviewing, behavioral interviewing, emotional intelligence, personality inventories, work history, validation, interests, assessment centers, intelligence tests, cognitive ability measures, reference checks, peer ratings, kenneth nowack, ken nowack, nowack[/tags]

Kenneth Nowack, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist (PSY13758) and President & Chief Research Officer/Co-Founder of Envisia Learning, is a member of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations. Ken also serves as the Associate Editor of Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research. His recent book Clueless: Coaching People Who Just Don’t Get It is available for free for a limited time by signing up for free blog updates (Learn more at our website)

Posted in Engagement, Leadership Development, Selection

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