Executive Development Blog

How to Identify High-Potential Talent in the Workplace

Posted by UNC Executive Development on Jan 29, 2015 1:25:09 PM


The ability to recognize high-potential talent builds an organization’s competitive advantage for the future and allows an organization to fill mission-critical roles. Currently, there is a problem with the effectiveness of organizations to identify high-potential employees, and many organizations lack formal, high-potential development programs. The adoption of such programs will help organizations retain these valuable employees.Setting Organizational Goals- UNC Executive Development

What Is a High-Potential Employee?

The first step in identifying and developing high-potential talent is to define what "high-potential" means. High-potential employees can be identified as individuals who have the ability, drive, and aspiration to hold leadership positions in an organization. Once these individuals have been found, they can (and should) be trained to prepare for future leadership positions. These development efforts allow high-potentials to advance and improve within an organization instead of taking their skills and expertise elsewhere. In some instances, it is easy to pick out an employee full of potential, but properly identifying those with high potential in a formal manner can help build consistency and credibility throughout an organization.

How Do You Identify High-Potentials?

When identifying high-potential employees, an organization needs to keep the future in mind. There needs to be a strong grasp of the future needs of an organization when determining what type of leaders should be developed from within. Anticipated roles and positions should be clearly defined, priorities should be set to fill each role and position, and timeframes should be established. Once this structure is in place, the criteria for high-potentials must be defined. The criteria also must be measurable to help narrow down an organization’s talent pool. Of the various assessment procedures used to assess high-potentials, the most sophisticated approach is the “criteria-based approach.” This approach establishes what an organization is looking for in its high-potential employees and these traits and qualities can be assessed using tools such as assessment centers, role-plays, and scenarios. Once the criteria is defined in a way that can be measured, the top talent can be nominated, screened, and assessed based on the criteria and their individual performance. Well-defined criteria also helps determine the difference between an employee's potential and readiness. Potential means that an employee holds the values and attributes required to hold a more senior-level position while readiness means that an employee has the immediate ability to perform given tasks.Identifying High-Potential Employees- UNC Executive Development

Should Hi-Po Identification Be Transparent?

Each organization needs to determine whether to notify an employee of his or her identified potential. There is current debate over whether identified high-potential employees should be notified. There is an argument for each side, but organizations are urged to proceed with caution if detailing such information to employees. Employees may deserve to know that they are excelling and their performance is reaching high standards with the potential for advancement, but in some cases this can lead to inflated egos and increased expectations. If the decision is made to notify employees that they have been identified as high-potential employees, it is important to take action for their development soon after in order to keep employee morale and productivity high. Implementing and communicating a well thought out high-potential identification plan will improve high-potential selection, increase the perception of fairness within an organization, and reduce high-potential drop-out rates.

To read more about this issue, check out the UNC Executive Development white paper Identifying High-Potential Talent in the Workplace.

 Click to Download Full White Paper

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Topics: high-potential talent