Don’t confuse people with high potential with high performers.
A lot has been written about Talent Management these past few years, by myself included, and most articles are written from the perspective that this concept can be the silver bullet HR has been looking for to assist organisations with implementing truly effective people management practices. I however have not read too many articles highlighting some of the pitfalls that could be encountered when embarking on implementing a Talent Management project.
Over the next three articles (click here for part 2, click here for part 3), I want to look at the three items that have been identified as possible pitfalls in any project where organisations are looking at identifying their high performers and those employees who have a high potential.
According to Jacques Quinio, EMEA Leadership Development Solutions Director and UKI Talent Management, there are three specific pitfalls that organisations should be aware of:
Confusing high performance with potential
Here, Jacques Quinio points out that it is easy to confuse these two very different terms or, even worse, assume they mean the same thing. He points out that, although all high potentials are high performers, not all high performers are high potentials.
In fact, research indicates that only about 20% of high performing managers are rightfully considered to have high potential for advancement.
Based on the research referred to above, it is therefore essential that an organisation should take care of the manner in which they will measure and identify these two components as not getting this correct could start the whole Talent Management initiative on the wrong foot. Once this initial phase of identification of the relevant employees is complete, the then difficult discussions will need to be had informing those high performing employees that, although their performance is greatly appreciated, they however do not fall into the category of those identified with high potential.
As you could well guess, irrespective of the employee’s actual level of potential, nobody likes to be referred to as having limited potential – a tricky discussion at best.
So, to avoid the trap of incorrectly identifying employees with high potential, a two-step process is recommended:
1. Engage with the relevant employee’s direct manager(s) in order to get first-hand feedback on the employee’s true potential as exhibited in their workplace and work situations. This feedback should be substantive as opposed to just being a knee-jerk subjective assessment by their line manager; and
2. Take those employees identified by their line managers as having high potential and then put them through a more substantial multi-trait assessment to assure a more accurate selection as well as reaffirming that the selected employees are in fact those employees who truly have a high potential within the organisation.
Although line managers are often pulled towards their gut feelings and intuition when asked to nominate their high potential members in their team, there also needs to be a process in place where these feelings can be quantified and compared to those obtained by the more scientific assessment methodologies, or else the whole project could just end up being a subjective exercise based on line management’s limited knowledge on the identification and growth of high potential employees.
It is therefore essential to understand the difference between a high performer and an employee who has high potential, as they may or not be the same and, as such, it is critical that the identification process is well thought through, and based on sound assessment methodologies.
Next month in Part Two we will look at another pitfall – the failure to create a credible, trustworthy and structured development programme for employees.
Rob Bothma is an HR Systems Industry Specialist at NGA Africa, a non-executive director, Fellow and Vice President of the Institute of People Management and co-author of the 4th Edition of Contemporary Issues in HRM and member of the Executive Board for HR Pulse.
Jacques Quinio, EMEA Leadership Development Solutions Director & UKI Talent Management Principal Consultant.
This article appeared in the November 2015 issue of HR Future magazine.