Identifying high potential employees

What is a high-potential employee?  In our view ‘high potentials’ are employees who not only have the potential and ability but also the motivation to achieve a succession of more senior roles over time.

Most clients seem to employ a version of the ubiquitous McKinsey 9-box grid to compare and contrast performance with potential.  The 9-box grid model has its uses, but does not necessarily echo the theories of Stanford University psychologist and world-renowned guru Carol Dweck on workplace motivation.  Dweck says that some people are motivated by high achievement (e.g. indicated by a hunger for on-the-job feedback, and an eagerness to take on more responsibility), and others are motivated by what she calls ‘performance’ which I take to mean motivated to achieve their targets and individual business goals as defined by/agreed with their employer, maintain friendly relationships with colleagues, and not much more.

What everyone seems to agree is that, like the next great generation of England footballers, high potentials are notoriously flaky beings and can easily evaporate, usually by moving on to another company.  In particular, a lack of transparency in the process of selecting ‘high potential’ employees has a serious impact on employee engagement and motivation.  Those passed over often leave.

The other issue is that to others,’ high potentials’ can seem to be members of an elite secret society.  My own view is that the benefits of informing employees of their high potential status far outweigh the risks of demotivating or creating resentment amongst other, less hungry colleagues.  High potential employees tend to know their potential anyway, whether they’ve been officially informed by HR or not.  So on balance I would conclude that if you don’t tell them that they’re viewed as a ‘high potential’ someone else will!

If you would like to discuss any point raised in this Blog or about some of the challenges you face identifying and retaining talent in your business, please call me, Clive Watkins, on 01306 621600 or email me [email protected]

Posted in Management, Talent.