Engagement is the employee's emotional and rational commitment, discretionary effort and intent to stay.
Here are 7 habits of potential employees:
☛ They take ownership of their career path.
☛ They demonstrate flexibility.
☛ They know how to make friends.
☛ They are collaborators.
☛ They are driven and ambitious.
☛ They are receptive to feedback.
☛ They earn the trust and respect of others.
Potential employees have high expectations for themselves. This applies not only to where they are headed in their career but also to the quality of their work. They demonstrate a strong work ethic and consistent initiative. Proactive in nature, they can see or address needs and concerns without having to be given specific instructions or directions by their manager. In other words, they behave like owners.
Most organizations seeking to develop high-potential employees are looking for common attributes:
☛ Has the respect and trust of supervisors, peers and subordinates.
☛ Maintains a high level of competence in technical or functional discipline.
☛ Consistently produces tangible, measurable results above expectations.
☛ Ensures that team goals are achieved within cultural and ethical guidelines.
☛ Has a bias for action and is a proactive catalyst for change.
☛ Is open to feedback and constructive criticism.
☛ Self-manages in a manner that fosters learning and high-performance.
☛ Thinks and solves problems creatively and from a position of inquiry.
☛ Contributes critical judgment at some level of setting organizational strategy.
☛ Has a broad acumen of the organization's business and his or her role in its goals.
☛ Actively leads and manages teams that create a sense of loyalty and community.
☛ Is intimate with and strives to anticipate and deliver on customer's needs.
☛ Navigates and leverages resources within an increasingly distributed organization.
Reflecting on what we know today about programs to systematically and consistently develop high-performers, a few conclusions have become clear:
☛ While continuing to invest heavily in late stage high potentials, the earlier we start focusing on early stage high potentials the greater their impact on the organization will be.
☛ There are now cost efficient techniques that make it possible to effectively develop large numbers of early stage high potentials with limited internal budgets and resources.
☛ If we want to maintain our growth rate and unique competitive advantage, we can not afford not to implement a formal program for internal high potential development. Now it is time to get the rest of the organization on board.
Companies with forward thinking learning organizations have a far greater impact on overall business performance when compared to their peers. Does this mean that identifying high-potentials and deploying a comprehensive program is a guarantee of success? Not necessarily. Nowhere is it written that a promising 26 year old high-potential matures into a successful 55 year old executive leader. Yet only by combining potential talent with access to and time for learning new skills will an organization consistently and cost efficiently develop its high-potential leaders.
It also is important to note that high-potential programs can be controversial to implement. Lack of transparency in the process of selecting high potential employees has been known to cause serious morale issues. Employees who are passed over or deprived of the progress may even leave. There also are concerns regarding the pressure organizations put on high potentials. If the process is not monitored carefully, high-potentials can burn out. Organizations should provide necessary support mechanisms, such as counseling and mentoring.
Once the organization's goals for the program are clear, the next challenge is how to develop a relatively larger group of early stage high-potentials at a fraction of the budget of late stage candidates for senior management.
Here are some cost and resource efficient best practices that top performing organizations use when implementing a successful early stage high potential program:
Specialized leadership development tracks: In a recent Ninth House Leadership Index study on Fortune 500 organizations, most companies reported having a well-defined leadership curriculum in place. Yet a majority of respondents indicated that the curriculum was more voluntary than mandatory in character. Only a few organizations referenced having specialized, highly customized, mandatory leadership development tracks for their high-potential employees. For those that did, there was a tendency to identify the program as being distinctive and highly effective in elevating the leader potential of their organizations.
Multi-disciplinary rotation program: Another experience-based leadership development tool is the rotation of managers across disciplines, divisions and geographies. The fixed-choice component of the same study found less than half (45 percent) of organizations using rotational or developmental assignments as a regular component of their leadership development package. In contrast, significantly more top-performing development practitioners utilize this technique to provide a more diverse base of experience and perspectives for their future leaders.
Unlimited learning opportunities: Most organizations restrict the number of courses available to all employees. This helps both to control costs and to reserve coveted development opportunities for peak performers later in their careers. While it's important to focus high-potential employees' attention on priority topics and not waste time on the mastery of less relevant knowledge, they tend to seek and absorb behavioral skill building at a much greater pace, and top-performing organizations provide them unlimited access to self-paced learning programs that accelerate their growth.
Leverage technology: Recent studies indicate that technology-enhanced learning is now independently sufficient to improve leadership behavior on the job. The combination of synchronous and asynchronous tools and content, especially when paired with reinforced group application, can not only improve the high-potential employee's performance, but can do so at a fraction of the time and cost of classroom training. (Up to 90 percent reductions were reported CNA in 2005).
Action learning: By taking development initiatives outside of the classroom and putting employees to work solving real-world business issues, action learning is taking over as the classroom trainer's interactive simulation. Groups of high-potentials and mentors are put into a situation and must solve the challenge. Many organizations are migrating to this approach as a way to expand high-potentials' perspectives on how the business operates.
Mentoring: According to a recent study by the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD), approximately 71 percent of the Fortune 500 use internal mentoring programs to develop high-potential employees. Through pairing with internal senior mentors, high-potentials are introduced to years of knowledge and experience.
When planning and implementing an integrated program for early-stage high-potential development, there are many factors to consider. The first step is critical but often overlooked. Holistically, the organization must agree on and then support the goals of the proposed development program. Specifically, the organization must justify the program by answering the following questions:
☛ Why do we need a high-potential program?
☛ How will it support our business strategy and improve our competitive advantage?
☛ How will it benefit the organization, the high-potentials and the rest of our employees?
☛ How will we measure the success of the program, and what dollar value will we place on high-potentials at different stages of development?
There are two distinct categories of high-potential employees. Late-stage high-potentials include experienced managers ready to make their way into the executive ranks. This group is typically identified as middle or senior managers and participates in a wide variety of formal training: specialized mentoring, executive retreats, personal coaching, real-world action learning, global rotation and more. These senior managers are among the top 10 percent of an organization and significant costs are incurred to prepare them for senior executive roles within the organization.
Early stage high-potentials are different. These new managers and individual contributors are at the beginning of their careers and are identified more by their talent and drive than their track record. Early-stage high-potentials are found in the lower ranks of an organizational structure, and their employers are generally not yet ready to invest the same amount in their formal training and development. While historically organizations have focused primarily on their late-stage leaders, more organizations today are adopting an aggressive program for developing bench strength at all levels. Top-performing organizations in particular now recognize that the earlier potential talent is identified and put into the pipeline, the sooner the entire organization reaps the rewards of more productive and effective leadership.
In defining the criteria for selecting high-potential employees, many organizations link the identification of their talent to current job performance rather than using an inventory of ideal attributes. This method is effective but should be coupled with clear criteria that evaluate and measure future potential. This hybrid approach should not only increase the quality of the candidate but also provide a road map for success as they progress through the program. Moreover, by basing assessment on a combination of current and future skills, organizations will have more confidence in their high-potential employees and measure success with greater accuracy.
The motivation for not disclosing high-potential status also is compelling. Organizations risk creating a three-class system of the haves, the almost and the have-nots and create divisive resentment throughout the organization. Either way, high-potential employees tend to know their potential, whether they are officially told or not. Most organizations today are of the opinion that if the high-potential is not told by them, someone else eventually will.
High potentials tend to rise up out of the crowd and achieve stellar results relative to their peers but to identify them formally, managers must communicate, utilize multiple methods of assessment and compare the results with known criteria that are associated with a specific leadership level. The results of these assessments provide guidelines for training and mentoring a high-potential to take on greater leadership responsibilities and build strengths.
Managers play a bigger role in building a pipeline of thriving talent than they may realize and it is increasingly important that you empower them to do this successfully. While employee development is no cakewalk, failure to assess performance versus potential is a very real business problem.
The good news is that it is a solvable problem. It simply takes dedication to identifying your high-potential and high-performing employees, assessing their competencies and attributes and putting them on the path to success. It is time well spent.
As they develop a stronger understanding of the organization and their role in it, test the capabilities of high potentials with more projects to manage, new hires to train, put them in charge of an intern or two or offer cross-training opportunities. If they do well, consider moving them into a different role-perhaps one with more responsibilities-in which they may perform better.
High potentials need constant encouragement and challenging assignments. Recognition is key.
High potentials tend to be lone wolves, working for themselves and their own success. As such, they want something to execute on a bigger scale. Give them the independence and autonomy that allows them to thrive and engage them with projects that they can take full ownership of.
In an ideal world, every employee in your organization would be a high performer with high potential-but that's obviously not realistic. The appropriate question is how to move employees toward the upper-right quadrant or at least to the high-performance tier.
It is not always possible, nor always the desired goal. There is no one size fits all strategy but a general framework is provided below:
☛ High performance or high potential:
1. Keep them where they are or promote
2. Constant encouragement
3. Challenging assignments
4. Soft skill development
5. Provide autonomy
☛ Low performance or low potential:
1. Performance plan
3. Pair with a High Performer
4. New role better aligned with skills
6. Test with more responsibilities
Because employees possess varying degrees performance and potential, you should assess your employees across both dimensions.
☛ High performance or high potential:
1. Regularly exceeds expectations
2. Lacks skills for success at higher level
3. Sets standard of excellence in role
4. Model leadership candidate
☛ Low performance or low potential:
1. Little-to-no aptitude
2. Weak, unsatisfactory performance
3. Above-average aptitude
4. Inconsistent performance
After you have determined which quadrant an employee falls under, you can develop a plan for employee development. Each of these categories requires a specific approach when it comes to discussing development opportunities.
When performance is the only criteria employees are evaluated on, high performers will be the only ones moving up and your high potentials will be moving out.
You should definitely value and reward performance. If your end goal is to build a more robust talent pipeline, though, performance can not be the only point of entry. Advocates working with leadership to profile what constitutes excellence in key roles and communicating that to managers to help them identify high potentials.
Difference between high potential and high performing employees:
☛ High performers stand out in any organization. They consistently exceed expectations and are management's go to people for difficult projects because they have a track record of getting the job done. They are great at their job and take pride in their accomplishments but may not have the potential (or the desire) to succeed in a higher-level role or to tackle more advanced work.
☛ High potentials are birds of a different feather. High potentials have demonstrated initial aptitude for their technical abilities and have future potential to make a big impact. In short, they can do more for the organization-possibly much more-with the caveat that high potentials who are consistently low performers are rarely strong candidates for management roles.
☛ High potentials can be difficult to identify, for two reasons. First, high performance is so blindingly easy to observe that it drowns out the less obvious attributes and behaviors that characterize high potentials like change management or learning capabilities.
☛ Few organizations codify the attributes and competencies they value in their ideal employees which means that managers do not know precisely what to look for to assess potential. As a result, most managers focus exclusively on performance and that can be a problem.
Potential employees are twice as valuable than non-potential employees and organizations with strong leadership benches can deliver twice the profit growth. Unfortunately, today's potential employees programs are failing:
☛ Only one in six human resource professionals is satisfied with their potential employees program.
☛ 50% of identified potential employees will drop out of their program within five years.
☛ Less than half of potential employees are engaged.
Next generation of leaders must understand that no matter how much research they do, no matter how many cost-benefit analyses they conduct, no matter how many market surveys they complete, they will always be deciding under conditions of uncertainty. The information at hand will always be less than the information you wish you had. Leaders need to have the courage to take risks.
Though your leaders need to be driven, they also must be able to form partnerships with others besides you. This attitude goes beyond amiability, it is a pragmatic, tactical skill that allows them to make better more informed decisions. Lone rangers may be creative and ambitious but they make lousy leaders.
Potential employees are not just career-minded, they are ambitious in a focused way. The best way to get a sense of this is to evaluate their commitment to career progression. Look for signs that they long to accumulate new responsibilities, new successes, additional knowledge and for better or worse, additional recognition.
Your staff members, not just you, also have to appreciate how much your high-potentials know. It is not enough that your top people know their stuff. Everyone else has to know they know it.
Potential employees are the ones who have true expertise and keep learning. Their knowledge may be technical or it may be institutional but it is invaluable for the organization. More important, they understand how their activities, their sector and their realm of knowledge is related to the company's goals.
Here are 5 traits of potential employees:
☛ They know the business.
☛ Others respect them.
☛ They are ambitious.
☛ They work well with others.
☛ They have guts.
Potentials earn the trust and respect of others by demonstrating high levels of consistency and professionalism. They can be counted on to keep their word and deliver results. They take their goals and responsibilities seriously without taking themselves too seriously.
While confident and self assured, potentials acknowledge that that they, like all of us, are works in progress. They are open to feedback and strive to apply it toward self improvement. In fact, they often seek out feedback from those around them in order to gain self awareness and further their development. They leverage mistakes and setbacks as learning opportunities and focus on applying lessons to the future rather than dwelling in the past.
Not only do potentials know how to make friends, they know how to collaborate and work with people across and outside of their organizations. They utilize their flexibility and interpersonal skills to work effectively across disciplines. Instead of adopting an us versus them mentality, they focus on involving and communicating with the right people in order to meet goals and solve business problems. They are valued members of their work and project teams and are well liked by their colleagues.
Technical skills can only take you so far in the business world. At a certain point, it is the know-who rather than the know-how that sets high potentials apart. They are capable and confident when it comes to developing and maintaining relationships. They know how to network and understand that networks must be nurtured rather than used. They seek out mentors and advocates who can provide valuable support and speak positively on their behalf. They are aware of others, of their impact on others and take a genuine interest in getting to know people personally.
Instead of becoming pigeon holed as subject matter experts in one area or focusing on a specific skill, potential employees find ways to demonstrate their value and impact across the organization. Their openness to change, their ability to learn quickly and their willingness to teach and train others often leads to new leadership roles and opportunities.
High potential employees are proactive rather than reactive when it comes to career development and mapping out their path. They seek out opportunities and engage their manager and others in discussions about what is next. They understand that new skills and competencies must be obtained in order to reach the next level and they look for ways to expand their experience in order to prepare for future roles.
By engaging potential employees because of their unique characteristics, keeping high-potential employees engaged is more important but also a bit more challenging. They can be easily disillusioned by poor management and a lack of opportunities for growth. And they can also more easily find employment elsewhere should they decide to jump ship.
In essence high potential employees like what they do, want to do more, always go the extra mile and see a future for themselves in your organization.
Emily is a high performer. She has been with her employer for two years and always goes out of her way to ensure customers are happy. Emily enjoys her work but she also has ambitions. She recently informed her manager that she wants to apply for a role in a different part of the company, one that will challenge her and help her develop further.
Emily has a very easy-going personality that makes her a natural when it comes to dealing with customers. Over the years, she is augmented this innate characteristic with learned skills, so she has become adept at managing difficult conversations with customers. Emily is now able to handle customer complaints and difficulties in a calm, responsive manner and deliver exceptional customer service.
Demonstration of aspiration:
Emily might proactively meet with her manager and ask to take on a new assignment that is more challenging than those she typically works on or one that requires more personal responsibility, accountability or decision making. The key is that Emily takes the initiative and identifies herself to her manager as someone ready and willing for more complex challenges.
Ability is a combination of innate characteristics and learned skills for potential employees.
Aspiration is the desire to take on responsibilities, challenges and rewards typically demonstrated by those in more senior roles.
Potential employees need highly challenging development opportunities that allow them advance their career but these opportunities need to be carefully managed. Potential employees also need a supportive work environment to mitigate their risks and drive success.
You should align High positioned and senior leader expectations for compelling High position career paths. High position value fair, diverse and structured career paths, so a standard process to help facilitate their movement across the business may be warranted. Ensure senior leader buy-in to high potential development programs so they do not get derailed.
You require hi position to commit to the organization. Simply telling someone they are a High positioned may not be enough to engage and retain them. Establish a talent deal that provides them with a variety of special opportunities, benefits and commitments but expect organization-defined commitments or responsibilities from them in return.
Equip your managers to surface critical engagement risks.
Many managers do not understand the vast range of reasons that can affect turnover risk. Train your managers on the importance of maintaining a regular, ongoing dialog with employees (and especially high-potential employees), so they can proactively identify and address those risks.
Potential can be defined in many ways, few are given below:
☛ Capable of being but not yet in existence, latent or undeveloped, a potential problem, a substance with many potential uses.
☛ The inherent ability or capacity for growth, development or future success, an investment with a lot of potential, a singer who has the potential to become a major star.
☛ The possibility that something might happen or result from given conditions, a tense situation with the potential to turn into a riot, farming practices that increase the potential for the erosion of topsoil.
Here are 4 things you must do to engage and retain your high potential employees:
☛ Equip your managers to surface critical engagement risks.
☛ Require high position to commit to the organization.
☛ Align High position and senior leader expectations for compelling high position career paths.
☛ Provide high-risk opportunities in a supportive environment.