What Exactly Are Talent Calibration Sessions Versus Talent Reviews?






Two major components of a high impact succession management process are talent calibration and talent reviews.  Many organizations are not clear on what these are and how they are different.  The following paragraphs should uncover the mystery.


To begin, there are two kinds of calibration sessions – performance calibration and talent calibration.  The purpose of performance calibration sessions is to assess and rank employees based on their past performance, typically for the prior year.  There are different ways to rank employees. Managers at McDonalds, for example, rank their employees using a recommended distribution approach and managers at WL Gore use a stacked ranking.  The two primary uses of performance data are to differentiate pay by performance and development planning. 


The process of talent calibration, on the other hand, is much more future-focused.  The discussions can be more sophisticated than a performance calibration discussion and we recommend that an HR representative be present to facilitate the meeting.  In addition to performance, managers at United Stationers, for example, also address:

  • specific capability areas that are critical to the business;
  • potential of high performers; and
  • plans for targeted development. 


A talent review is a meeting to engage more senior business leaders in sharing and discussing talent information, often part of an overall succession management process. Compared to talent calibration sessions, talent reviews provide an opportunity to discuss talent at a greater level of depth and focus.  Data and corresponding conversations are focused on a smaller number people within a larger span of the workforce.  At Mercer, for example, discussion is focused on two groups of people – high performers they want to “engage and develop” and high potentials they want to “retain and grow.”

It is a common practice to combine talent calibration and talent review discussions into singular sessions, particularly with smaller companies (less than 10,000 employees). When done separately, talent calibration sessions provide an opportunity for managers to agree on who should and should not be included in the talent review.  Companies are also able to conduct more in depth assessments prior to the talent review. 

Performance and talent calibration meetings help to create a common language and cultural norm.  Managers acquire a whole different view of the workforce and a better understanding of the health of the talent overall.

We welcome direct feedback from you on this critical topic. Please feel free to share your experiences and opinions – and the questions you'd like to see our research uncover. Send me an email at kim.lamoureux@bersin.com.  



Andrea Derler

Leadership & Succession Research Leader / Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP

Andrea leads Bersin’s research execution team and also serves as leadership and succession management research leader for Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP. Focused on the continued evolution of Bersin’s research capabilities, her expertise lies in research on business leadership, leadership development and learning, and related talent topics. Her work about leaders’ ideal employee received widespread media attention in Europe and has been published in the journal Leadership & Organization Development. Andrea has a doctoral degree in economics (leadership and organization) from the FernUniversity Hagen (Germany) and a master’s degree in philosophy from the Karl-Franzens-University in Graz (Austria).

3 thoughts on “What Exactly Are Talent Calibration Sessions Versus Talent Reviews?

  1. Hi Kim,

    For me as leader / driver of the exercise one of the most important issue is to train all involved in order to use same approach everywhere talent review is running, evaluate people with the same mindset regardless of the local culture and have the "same" result.
    It would be intresting to see the "deviation" between venues / geographies in your research.

  2. Great stuff Kim! I’d be interested in your thoughts on regional differences, e.g., are the processes different in the US and Europe and Pacific Rim?

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