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How to Spot High Potential Talent

| December 3, 2013 | 1 Comment

High Potential Talent

With the war for talent continuing to rage on in most external job markets, employers are finding it increasingly difficult to find and secure the talent they are so desperately looking for. In reaction to these difficulties many employers are beginning to take the fight elsewhere, to new a battle ground for talent that they can more effectively compete in, that being their own internal work-force.

Yes, an organization’s work-force is a potential goldmine for high potential talent who could be developed into the leaders of tomorrow. Since this talent is internal to your organization you have a distinct advantage over the external competition, (who will be looking to attract your in house talent too), as you have access and familiarity that the external competition do not have. Yet many employers overlook their own high potential talent and leave positions vacant preferring to try and recruit externally, eventually causing that frustrated, under-utilized talent to leave. This is why it is crucial that employers realize that their internal work-force is their new battleground for high potential talent and that they need to develop effective processes to spot high potentials and to fast track them up the career ladder through training, development, stretch assignments and timely promotions, before they are attracted to a competitor.

But, the key question is, how can you spot a high potential employee? What does a high potential employee look like? Well, one of the most tried and tested indicators of high potential status and which has been backed up by research is known as ‘learning agility’. Individuals with high levels of learning agility are thought to have the potential to progress into future leaders and superstars. And so what does being learning agile consist of?

Learning Agility

Learning agility is an individual’s ability to learn by experience and to be able to use that learning to help them work through different situations. It is the ability to be able to learn, adapt and apply oneself in constantly changing conditions. According to research by Korn Ferry based on information from 1 million assessments, learning agility becomes increasingly important as executives move up the executive ladder because they will be exposed to much more uncertainty and will be required to make decisions and adapt to (and even embrace) this uncertainty

Four X factors of High Potential status.

Learning agility is widely accepted as being one of the key indicators of high potential status. Some other indicators of high potential status that were pointed out in a recent Harvard Business Review article were:

1. Drive to excel

2. Catalytic learning capability

3. Enterprising spirit

4. Dynamic sensors 

These are known as the Four X factors of High Potential status.

Of course you’ll need to build mechanisms in to spot this talent and there are several ways you can do this.

The first and most common way is to have an annual appraisal process where all employees are assessed against your key high potential competencies as mentioned above. You will also need to train your existing leaders on what these high potential indicators are and also train them on how to spot them in staff. Or you could consider relying on a more formal psychometric testing process that allows you to more reliably assess leadership potential in staff. One of the best tools on the market for this is the Lominger Learning Agility Assessment which can be found here.

Another way to spot high potential talent is to give promising employees Stretch Assignments, which are projects or positions which extend the employee and push them out of their comfort zone encouraging them to learn new skills and show their leadership potential. Many major companies, including the likes of Proctor and Gamble, use stretch assignments to identify high potential staff.

As well as skill identification, you’ll need to train your managers to coach and develop these skills by developing targeted career development plans and deploying high potential staff on targeted developmental stretch assignments.

Good luck with spotting high potential employees and winning the internal battle for talent.

Sep Bar is a blogger for skyprep.com, an online tool for companies to train, test and certify employees. Sep regular posts blogs about HR, L&D and corporate training. Read more of his content at http://skyprep.com/blog

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

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Category: Entrepreneurship, Startup Advice

  • Cam

    Good article. Finding the right talent is always a struggle. Having some sort of process that helps identify the appropriate employees is valuable – especially something that makes my job easier!