Rethinking high-potential talent identification

Many organizations do not appropriately define what “potential” means. Assessing talent against key business drivers should be the basis of any HiPo identification process.

Do we have the potential talent to lead the business in the future? This is one of the top questions the executive leadership team always asks. To ensure the bench of talent you need at higher levels of leadership, talent leaders must adopt an integrated and objective process to identify high-potential talent and get objective insights on their development and readiness. 

Studies have long suggested that investing in the right people will maximize organizations’ returns. And despite the great investments organizations make in identifying and developing high-potential talent, the latest “Global Leadership Forecast” revealed only 11 percent of organizations have a strong bench of hi-potentials. In my research toward a new integrated potential talent identification model, one of the key challenges is that many organizations do not appropriately define what “potential” means. 

Context is the missing link

In the new talent eco-system, organizations show growing interest in high-potential identification. But what are the key indicators that signal star potential? Unfortunately, most HiPo interventions focus on individual career success — “potential to move up two roles in five years” is a common definition — but the ability to advance one’s own career does not guarantee that one will make a crucial contribution to the organization.

The majority of the existing HiPo models pay more attention to elements like performance, aspiration and competencies, and ignore the basis – which is the organizational drivers of the business context. HiPo interventions should focus on predicting who is likely to become a key driver of organizational performance. That is, they should define future stars as the people who will “consistently generate exorbitant output levels that influence the success or failure of their organization.”

Assessing talent against the key business drivers should be a key basis in the identification process. Considering the business drivers (e.g., drive profitable growth, drive product/process innovation, build strategic relationships, enter new global markets, enhance organizational strategies, etc.) will contribute toward presenting an integrated image to your stakeholders on the “why” behind selecting specific talent. 

Rethinking high potential talent identification

In the current disruptive business climate, organizations have to rethink their HiPo models. Organizations can no longer select potential talent based on “fit” for the current role. Rather, they must think about “fitness,” which is about identifying and developing potential talent in the light of both skills and the business context.  While the majority of HiPo models miss the dimension of business drivers in identifying top potential talent, the new research-based model “Potential Factors” presents an integrated classification of six potential dimensions highlighting both the organizational and individual potential factors.

The Potential Factors Model capitalizes on both the organizational potential and the individual potential. The Organizational Potential Prospective can predict the extent to which potential talent own the competencies and skills required for the role’s success, show commitment, are aligned to the organization’s vision and values, and most importantly, the extent to which they own the knowledge and capabilities of the organization’s business drivers to manage its context and future.  This aspect is essential to make stakeholders confident about the identification process of potential talent and the extent to which this talent can shape the business context of the organization in the future.

Still, the Individual Potential Prospective is central in the potential-talent identification process. The model presents an integrated prospective to assess the extent to which individuals are potentially qualified to be the future assets of the organization. The model depends on the concept of “potentially qualified” as a basis to examine the individual’s mentality, behaviors and aspirations.

The model presents six angles through which we can measure if our talent has potential and which areas need a development focus. It gives us the analytical reading to predict the future performance of our talent by both context and competencies. Finally, the question “do we have the potential talent to lead the business in the future?” can be answered.