Talent Leadership: A Proven Method for Identifying and Developing High-Potential Employees

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What Is Potential?

Great performance is not enough; you must also envision yourself as a senior executive, have the right motives the desire for positive impact , and possess leadership attributes such as the ability to derive insight and engage others. Firms also need to align their candidate selection to their strategy: A low-cost company will not need the same kind of talent as an enterprise bent on global expansion.

This article describes emerging best practices in executing high-potential programs, including the latest thinking on how to nominate and assess participants, design effective job rotations and stretch assignments, provide thoughtful rewards and incentives, and communicate about the program with the rest of the organization. In the war for talent, the most effective weapon is the careful management of candidates for top jobs. Selection criteria are confusing; solid contributors are often demoralized by their exclusion from the process; development programs tend to remove promising managers from day-to-day operations.

They include:. The war for talent shows no signs of letting up, even in sectors experiencing modest growth. Moreover, in the regions where many companies are focusing their growth strategies—emerging markets—the supply of experienced managers is the most limited, and the shortage is expected to continue for another two decades.

How to Identify, Develop & Retain your High Potential Employees (HIPO)?

The appeal is clear for both sides: Promising managers are attracted to companies known for strong development opportunities, and a well-managed talent pipeline dramatically increases the odds that a company will appoint great leaders at the top. The selection criteria are often confusing. Firms risk demoralizing solid contributors who are not anointed as high potentials—the vast majority of managers, the people who keep the trains running on time.

And too often, the programs fail to maintain momentum, leaving companies unsure they have paid off and fueling worker cynicism. There are exceptions, of course. Companies such as GE, Unilever, PepsiCo, and Shell have long been known for their careful attention to talent management. But those companies are not the norm. As far as we know, no one has yet studied the process of managing high potentials from end to end. In order to fill this void, in we launched a joint research project with the executive search firm Egon Zehnder International, conducting a large-scale cross-sectional and longitudinal analysis of how companies assess and manage their rising stars.

We also interviewed executives from 70 companies that have programs for high potentials—firms of all sizes, located around the world. Still, they can provide valuable ideas and inspiration to companies looking to strengthen their talent pipelines. One important finding of our research was that the effective management of the next generation of leaders always encompasses three sets of activities. The first involves the establishment of clear strategic priorities, which shape the way companies groom high-potential leaders. The second involves the careful selection of high-potential candidates—and communicating who they are to others in the organization.

This can be touchy. And the third comprises the management of talent itself—how high potentials are developed, rewarded, and retained.

Define Talent Pools

There is no cookie-cutter method for creating a successful program. Your strategy and your culture influence the nature of the program that will be most effective. Consider a sales vice president who consistently meets her budget forecasts. Could you reasonably expect her to take responsibility for marketing as well? She might be very bright and a highly valued contributor but still not qualify as a high potential.

These range from very difficult to change motives to highly teachable skills. This model shows the elements of potential, with the hardest to change—motives and leadership assets like the ability to engage others—at the core. It has a major impact on whether a manager will use a particular capability. These predict consistent patterns of behavior over time. They tend to be stable, are usually not conscious, and are highly related to what people enjoy and get energized or engaged by.

Why You Should Train Your High Potential Employees Differently

Does the person get satisfaction from seeing others succeed? One form of the last motive, the desire for socialized influence having a positive impact on others for the good of the larger organization , is a predictor of senior executive potential. However, positive work experiences and wise mentorship can help people develop better motives. There are four important assets: A high potential derives insight; she can make sense of a vast range of information and discover and apply new ideas that transform past practices or set new directions.

She also effectively engages others through emotions and logic, communicating a persuasive vision and connecting individuals. She demonstrates resolve and keeps on driving toward goals despite challenges. Finally, and perhaps most important, a high potential seeks understanding; she constantly looks for new experiences, ideas, and knowledge; asks for feedback; and adjusts her behavior accordingly. Good companies push people out of their comfort zones, but never their strength zones.

Some core employees get uncomfortable when asked to go out of their comfort zones. However, high potential employees are hardwired to soar to new heights and see things from a different perspective. Core employees play vital roles and should not be thought of as inferior in any way. Yet they too benefit and grow from interacting with high-potential employees. When high potential employees leave, not only does your top talent leave with them, but also they can no longer help train others to succeed.

You and other leaders in your organization will invest a lot of time dealing with the frustrating fallout of trying to train everyone the same. Natural ability is not a choice. It is a gift. What can you do? When high potential employees are asked what organizations could do to increase their engagement and commitment, the number one answer is to provide a clear career path and support. In short, they want clarity on direction and help to soar to new heights.

ISBN 13: 9780814432396

That support could come in the form of establishing an internal mentoring program that first identifies high potential employees and then matches them with executive leaders. They target next-level skillsets through the creation of new behavior. Rooted in how the brain learns, our plans follow a three-step process:. Our scalable high-potential solutions include options that range from self-service resources to high-touch executive coaching.

Often, only senior leaders are given personalized development. Jumpstart allows high potentials at all levels to reap the benefits of one-on-one coaching. Tailored to the individual, Jumpstart is a six-month virtual program that offers accelerated development. It focuses on developing new habits and learning the process for acquiring them, in order to support success after completion. Jumpstart features:. From the outset, rigorous goals and milestones are clearly defined for high-potential development. Through pulse surveys of stakeholders such as managers and peers, we then track and measure success against those benchmarks.