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A Players and 'Talent'

Hi folks

We're currently refreshing our view on Talent in my organisation and I'd be interested if anyone could share their headline or full view on Talent and A-Players (separately or together!) in terms of how you explain each and how they work practically in your organisations. I don't think there is ever going to be a perfect mix but I am keen to learn from others (and I am getting used to being less blunt and navigating the politics as we all do I am sure :)) 

All the best


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  • Thanks Mike, 

    Yes that's right, we conduct Talent Review every 6 months normally and it defines things like development opportunities and succession. 

    We define A positions like critical roles, your organisation would be put at risk without that role (or without the activities that role performs) Not all A Players are in A Positions and vice versa. A Positions are typically Leadership roles but this is something which is fuelling quite animated debate at the moment (!) 

    Because the population we look after is so large (c.20,000) we need a focus to start with (otherwise I think I would melt). 

    The approach at the moment is looking for a way to identify critical or a positions and then also looking at our definition of Talent which is based on Lominger.

    The reason we are looking at definition of Talent is that it doesn't seem to be deployed as well as it could be and we are wondering if it is 'right'; I know you can't just pull something from another organisation and expect it to work but it's good to help me think a bit more widely, you know.

    • Hi Hayley, I'll throw this in to the mix to see if it helps - it's really good that you are looking at talent from 2 dimensions (the position separate to the incumbent) - that's a long way ahead of lots of other talent measurements which are taking place in workplaces at the moment. I wonder if you are also taking it a step further, in looking at the job content, rather than just the position? You have rightly identified that not necessarily do A players sit in A positions, but do A positions contain wholly A jobs? If your organisation is newish, or has undergone very few reorganisations in recent years, the job content and a position title are likely to still be very closely aligned. However, in older orgs, or ones which have had lots of reorgs or change, what tends to happen is that positions do not change (because employees and managers get quite territorial about titles) but when you look at the work being done in each position (the actual job) it does not always all fit any more.

      This is an important distinction, because as you have rightly said, talent management allows the business to keep functioning if a critical player leaves at short notice, but by looking at job content rather than just positions, this allows you to potentially have different people lined up to take different jobs within a position.

      So, to do a really effective talent review, I recommend going right back to look at the work being done by the incumbent of each position - how well matched are their skils, knowledge and behaviours to do the work required of them, rather than just their position.

      • Thanks Phil, I think you are one step ahead of us. This is exactly the thinking my boss and I had started to tiptoe into. So we need a Head of Marketing but what's to say that only 50% of that role is critical, what if the role looked different? Thanks for the advice, I think we have about 100 at top level to get through so that will definitely keep us busy :) 

    • I think it's a great place to raise this Hayley and shows others how you're approaching it and even how you're thinking about it. I'm sure you've seen enough things on talent and Lominger but for anyone who hasn't a quick google search brought up a decent research paper.


      A positions I imagine may need considerable technical knowledge and ability that might not lend themselves greatly to the people aspect of leadership. What we need is more geeks with poms poms he he

      Be great to hear how this develops Hayley and if anyone else can share their Talent approach it would be very interesting

      • 'Geeks with Pom Poms' I like it! Thanks for the paper I will have a read :)

  • Just realised I wrote a ton of HR BS there - what will become of me! 

    Results Agility - could they get results in any market e.g. a turnaround, growth, steady

    Change Agility - how quickly they adapt

    People - emotional intelligence, flexibility in style when dealing with others

    It still sounds BSsy but the best I can do :)

    • That's helpful Hayley thanks and cheers for the interpretation as well lol

      Is the intended progression here for people to be identified at Talent Review time (is this yearly?) and they ideally become A players in senior roles? Are all people in senior /leadership roles A Players - and if not are they not deemed 'Talent'? What are 'A' positions? Sorry for all the questions.

      At RBS we also used a 9 box matrix although the criteria may be different in terms of behaviours & competencies but it's the same principle as any matrix. This was used for succession planning and identifying 'talent' but we didn't have A positions or A players. I'd be interested in hearing how you are approaching this as you mention it's new.


  • Thanks Mike!

    Currently Talent is anyone who is in box 1,2,4 of a typical 9 box grid. These are identified at Talent Review time as people who have Learning agility; results, people and change agility is also assessed. A Players are more people who are talented but in senior roles - I think (!) It is a new thing that is being explored, in addition to A Positions of course. 


  • Hi Hayley

    Interesting discussion thanks for raising it.

    I'd be interested in understanding what the difference is between A Players and 'Talent' and how you currently differentiate between the two?


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