Think bulb High potentials and high performers are not synonymous. By confusing the two we have set ourselves up for failure. While not an easy problem to solve, technology provides an opportunity to create success in our organizations.

In any organization, employee development and career development are critical to an employee’s engagement. Prepared employees can smoothly transition into vacant leadership roles. Promoting from within means your “new hire” already knows the culture and how your company works, in addition to inspiring other employees to earn the next open spot.

Identifying the right candidate is not simple. According to the Corporate Leadership Council (CLC), nearly 40 percent of internal job moves made by people identified by their companies as “high potentials” end in failure. In order to ensure your leaders are part of the 60 percent, you need to correctly identify qualified employees and ensure they are invested in your organization.

This process takes a lot of assessment and interaction with the potential candidate, but technology is helping us out.

Identifying high potentials 

It takes more than top sales numbers or killer performance ratings to take on the next leadership role. Performance is a good place to start, but when we stop at performance, we might promote people beyond their level of competence and turn a high-performing employee into an unsuccessful manager (or director, or VP). The CLC says only 29 percent of all high-performing employees have what it takes to excel at the next level of the organization.

So what more does it take? The CLC defines high potentials as employees that display ability, engagement, and the aspiration to succeed in more senior critical roles:

  • Ability—The intellectual, technical, and emotional skills (innate and learned) to handle increasingly complex challenges
  • Engagement—The level of personal connection and commitment the employee feels toward the firm and its mission
  • Aspiration—The desire for recognition, advancement, and future rewards, and the degree to which the employee’s desires align with the company’s plans for him or her 

Employees that are weak in or missing any one of these three traits are less likely to be successful when promoted. Only one percent of your organization likely fits this definition of a high potential, so when you do identify these key employees, tracking and encouraging their success is critical.

The engagement challenge 

Of the three traits named by the CLC, organizations can have the largest impact on employee engagement. Top talent is heavily sought after, so avoid losing yours to the competition by nurturing connection and commitment.

  • Make recognition a priority. If your organization does not make recognition a priority, it likely isn’t happening enough. Make sure all employees know their contributions are valued, especially when those contributions are having major business impact.
  • Align individual goals to company goals. Connection to an organization starts with understanding the organization’s business strategy. When individual goals are tied to corporate goals, individual contributions are more meaningful and company goals are more important to the individual.
  • Clearly communicate corporate values. Do your employees know what your organization stands for? Do you? Clearly articulating your organizational values—and living them—is critical to business success.

All together now 

Technology cannot replace your HR and/or business leaders’ assessment of an employee’s potential. What technology can do is provide opportunities to track employee success and engagement and allow employees to share accomplishments. Technology is giving us opportunities to create a more consistent recognition experience—which is a key driver of employee engagement—as well as insight intowhich employees have the necessary attributes to be a high potential. Know who your true high potentials are, and give them the tools to be successful.

Sylvia Klarer is the Director of Client Engagement at Achievers.  She has over 25 years of experience in Human Resources.  Sylvia joined Achievers from Aon Hewitt where she was a Senior Associate in the Talent and Engagement consulting practice.  Her focus was to help organizations improve employee engagement and as a result positively impact business results.  She has also held senior HR roles at Ceridian, Honeywell (formerly Allied Signal), Ernst and Young, and Ontario Hydro. 

Janine Truitt

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