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A high-potential programme must have a specific timeline

Different high-potential programmes need their own time horizons. For example, you've got to ask yourself: How can I capitalise on my senior staff members' remaining time at my organisation? If you take something like graduate recruitment where ultimately – unless the skills are highly technical and you can match the person into a specific role – you're taking a long-term view of that person's potential. You will start to look at indicators of a longer-term value-add to the organisation, which may only be realised 10 – 15 years down the line. What sort of criteria will you look for in this situation?

In identifying high potentials, says David Conradie: executive head of Top Talent Solutions, you've got to remain forward-looking and identify the growth curves of the business. You must look at issues such as:

  • What does the future for the business look like?
  • What are the kinds of attributes, capabilities and potential indicators that are going to make sense in five to 10 years?

"You still have the challenge of optimising the performance of your current leaders. Some of the skills – which you may need five years down the line - aren't what this current group of leaders actually possess," Conradie said.

You need to ask yourself if you're going to focus on developing the current group of leaders you have or if you're going to start – as part of your recruitment strategy – bringing in leadership talent from outside.

What do you need to take into consideration when identifying high potential?

In a previous article, I talked about the Silzer and Church model for identifying high potential. Conradie proposes a similar, holistic model for identifying this quality:

1. Foundational dimensions:

These are consistent and difficult to change:

  • In adulthood, these dimensions are relatively stable across situations, experiences and timelines.
  • They are unlikely to develop or change much without extraordinary intervention and support from others.
  • This means that these spheres are likely to measure at the same level, or near to that same level, throughout the specific person's adult career. Typical examples include:
    - Cognitive abilities or capabilities, and
    - Range of personality variables, including interpersonal characteristics.

Some attributes are fairly stable and it's unlikely possible to shift or change those. You can start relying on foundational dimensions as an indicator of potential at an introductory level.

2. Growth dimensions

These components can facilitate or hinder a person's growth or development. They are dominant variables in learning and can be good indicators of whether a person will develop further and learn other skills.

They are fairly consistent and stable across situations but might be more significant when a person has a strong personal interest in an area, opportunities to learn more in those areas of interest, and has a supportive and encouraging environment.

The context is vitally important

The context in which all these variables take place needs to be supportive. If this isn't the case, it can derail your high-potential programme.

Line managers can be passive resistors to this process where they can give you their assurance that they do support your high-potential programme, but at every opportunity they undermine it. "You've got to equip them [line managers] to deal with the roles that you expect them to fulfil," says Conradie.

3. Career dimensions

These dimensions are early indicators of the end-states which are needed later in the process in specific areas, e.g. supervisory skills are likely to be an early indicator of potential in an organisational-leadership role.

Specific dimensions of potential may depend on the specific career path being considered. Often, these dimensions can be learned and developed provided the person has some of the growing dimensions that can be leveraged and the work environment provides the right experiences to develop them.

Potential identification approaches are essentially the same approaches for different career stages:

  • What are the foundational dimensions of potential?
  • Identify the stable growth dimensions – e.g. adaptability and energy - and determine if the situation provides an opportunity to identify other situational-dependent growth dimensions, in other words:
    - Learning orientation, and
    - Ambition to progress.

Source: SA Labour News