Talent development is one of the most important strategic efforts an organization will undertake. Studies have shown that talent development increases employee engagement, job satisfaction, and performance.[i] It also plays an important role in attracting and retaining staff. High-potential talent development is about identifying top talent and helping those individuals reach their full potential. This is important for developing future leaders, but it is also important for keeping top talent engaged, preventing turnover, and optimizing team performance.

Organizations that are ready to start investing in their people can use SIGMA’s 5-stage talent development process to help guide your efforts. These stages provide guidance on the most important steps in talent development. SIGMA has also developed a suite of tools and templates to help you along the way. Check out our complete High-Potential Talent Development Guide or download individual templates below.

The Five Stages of Talent Development

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Stage 1: Create Benchmark

The first step in SIGMA’s 5-stage talent development process is to create a benchmark. A benchmark is a curated list of leadership competencies that are particularly indicative of high potential employees within an organization. While all leadership competencies are important, some will be more relevant and/or critical than others. This may be influenced by industry dynamics, corporate culture, or other factors.

TOOLS/TEMPLATES: High-Potential Benchmark (sample)

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Stage 2: Assess Potential

Now that a benchmark has been created it is time to assess potential. Begin by considering all the employees who show potential, and who may be candidates for a talent development program. Not everyone will be selected to participate in a talent development program, but in order to make good decisions about who to include in the shortlist, you’ll want to use a standardized assessment process. It can also be helpful to consider multiple sources of information when making these decisions. The Talent Review Survey can be completed by leaders to assess employees’ potential, while the Leadership Skills Profile – Revised (LSP-R) is a leadership assessment that employees can complete to identify potential across SIGMA’s Leadership Competency Framework. Taken together, these tools can provide an objective and holistic measure of talent to accurately identify high-potentials.

TOOLS/TEMPLATES: LSP-R, Talent Review Survey

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Stage 3: Shortlist Participants

Upon completing the assessment stage, it is time to shortlist participants for the development program. To create a shortlist, compare each employee’s LSP-R assessment results to the High-Potential Benchmark. Look for employees who show potential in the areas that have been indicated as important in the benchmark. Next, consider each employee’s Talent Review Survey. How do their leaders rate their potential? Use the Talent Potential Overview template to map out each employee’s assessment-rated (LSP-R) vs. leader-rated (Talent Review Survey) potential. This visual representation, or talent map, will help select which individuals to shortlist as participants in the talent development program.

TOOLS/TEMPLATES: Talent Potential Overview

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Stage 4: Develop Talent

Knowing who will participate in the program, the talent development process can begin. This is the most time consuming but also the most important step of the talent development process because it’s where talent development actually happens. The first step is to outline everyone’s strengths and development opportunities using the Talent Profile template. In addition to the Talent Review Survey and LSP-R, consider assessing high-potentials with a 360 degree feedback tool like SIGMARadius. Then, set up one-on-one coaching sessions to guide high-potentials through their individual development journey. Use the Development Actions Form to structure the talent development process, outlining organizational goals and corresponding activities that will be used to help participants get the experience they need.

TOOLS/TEMPLATES: SIGMARadius, Talent Profile, Development Actions Form

Measure Progress

Stage 5: Measure Progress

The last stage is to ensure that the talent development program includes a formal method for tracking and measuring progress. This will be beneficial for a variety of reasons. First, sharing results with key stakeholders demonstrates the value of the professional development program and keeps its importance top of mind. It also creates an accountability system that will help boost participants’ motivation and maintain the program’s momentum. For guidance in this final stage of the process, SIGMA created a Talent Progress Scorecard. Use this scorecard to list indicators of success, then set a calendar reminder to review, compare, and communicate progress on those indicators every six months. Even if only one metric is tracked, it is important to get in the habit of recording it, attaching a dollar value if possible, and conveying that to the organization’s stakeholders.

TOOLS/TEMPLATES: Talent Progress Scorecard

Looking for More?

For additional support in the talent development process, check out SIGMA’s Lunch and Learns. These 1-hour virtual seminars focus on developing a specific leadership competency in a practical, convenient way. Each seminar is taught by one of SIGMA’s expert consultants and includes an introduction to the leadership competency being covered, practical tips on how to develop that competency and apply it in the workplace, as well as access to slides and additional resources following the seminar. Lunch and Learns are built for organizations looking to augment their talent development process, or begin building one from the ground up. Also take a look at SIGMA’s individual and group coaching, and please don’t hesitate to reach out to the team with any questions!

Meet Our Talent Development Team

Erica Sutherland, Ph.D.

Erica Sutherland, Ph.D.


Erica completed her Ph.D. in Industrial-Organizational psychology at Western University. She is a Senior Consultant at SIGMA, where she delivers consulting services and Succession Planning solutions to clients. As a member of SIGMA’s executive coaching team, Erica works one-on-one with leaders to develop talent. She also brings her expertise in measurement and psychometrics to the R&D team, assisting with the development and validation of SIGMA’s many assessments.

Brittney Anderson, Ph.D.

Brittney Anderson, Ph.D.


Brittney is a member of our coaching and consulting team. She brings her expertise in evidence-based practice to provide companies with leadership solutions that meet their needs. Primarily, Brittney helps her clients prepare for their future with succession planning and comprehensive leadership development programs. As an executive coach, she helps leaders hone their skills using a process-based approach to development.

Glen Harrison

Glen Harrison


Glen oversees SIGMA’s sales and marketing activities. As a skilled presenter and trainer, he has designed and delivered engaging and entertaining workshops and webinars to help leaders and HR professionals enhance their understanding of how our products and services can be used to realize potential within their organizations.

[i] CCL. 2022. How to Boost Employee Engagement and Motivation. CCL. Retrieved from https://www.ccl.org/articles/leading-effectively-articles/3-ways-to-boost-employee-motivation/.