It's often easier to identify the high performing employees amongst us than the high potential. We see performance unfolding in the here and now. It's tangible. We're able to track it, measure it and see the impact of it.
Past performance does not necessarily indicate high potential, particularly if the future holds a significantly different role. The capabilities required to be a good engineer are quite different from those required for success as a regional manager or multi-site leader. In your organisation you may spend more time discussing performance than you do potential, perhaps it comes easier to you.
So how can we bridge our understanding between the two and encourage resilience in our future workforce?
Models like McKinsey's Nine Box Performance-Potential model has supported many talent management discussions since its inception. It's a useful tool to help us recognise the difference between potential and performance - and the different levels that lie between. New approaches to understanding performance and potential challenge the model in favour of more fluid approaches to talent management. They encourage us to consider talent in a more diverse way.
Indeed, we're developing our own concept at Pick Everard. In my research I found the article below (also from McKinsey), useful in demonstrating the need to look deeper within our organisation to find a whole spectrum of new talent that we may not yet have considered as HiPo. Broadening our understanding of best practice performance and potential identification may also help.
When we look at performance we're focusing on what's past and what's happening now. To ensure our performance appraisal process is at its best we need a system that is agile, collaborative and has a sense of continuation throughout the year.
It can be useful to think about the following areas:
- Both line manager and employee need to be clear on expectations. They need to agree what support is available, the process of reaching relevant goals and how progress will be measured.
- Ensuring frequent two-way conversations or check-ins throughout the year so people know more regularly how they're doing. This could be done quarterly for example or through regular one to ones.
- Encouraging employees to self-evaluate and share their own views of their performance. They're often the greatest source of feedback.
- Establishing a culture of feedback, where it is continuous, involves peers and key stakeholders. It's always useful to give people a steer on what you would like to hear about.
High potentials can be more difficult to identify, especially for line managers. Potential is subjective to what a company values, of course, but there are innate attributes that distinguish high potentials from high performers. Spotting high potentials may be something that we're instinctively strong at but it can be useful to have a wider framework of what qualities are important to your organisation.
Useful things to think about may include:
- Identifying the qualities you will need for the future from your people. Who is already demonstrating promise in these areas? Decision-making, adaptability, resilience or a collaborative approach may be important to you for example.
- Assess people. Consider intellect, ambition, commitment and mobility. Who are the motivated fast learners? You could assess through observation, personality profiling or through exposure to new responsibilities.
- Hold a different conversation with them, away from the here and now of performance. Talk to them about their aspirations, their appetite for progression and promotion and their own ideas of how they might get there.
- Invest in their development through coaching or leadership development and engage them through involvement and recognition.
McKinsey's article makes for interesting reading and will hopefully help you broaden your thinking in this area too.
Finding employees with the qualities to be tomorrow’s leaders requires more than harvesting talent and should include what we call “hunting,” “fishing,” and “trawling”. These approaches are more proactive and involve, for example, turning over more stones than usual, encouraging leaders to identify themselves, and finding new ways to tap into the environments where people live and work