But alarmingly, our global research on Talent Management shows that only 13% of HR and business leaders have confidence in their leadership pipelines.
Through our more than 34 years of advising CEOs and HR executives on leadership transitions, our consultation begins with addressing the following three most common myths about high-potential development:
Myth #1: High performance equals high potential. All high potentials are high performers, but not all high performers are high potentials. Both are important, yet there are differences in how and where to make investments to engage and develop them. Research indicates that only 20% of high-performing managers are rightfully considered to have high potential for advancement. Organizations can often invest in the wrong people by basing their expectations on past required capabilities for leadership roles, mistaking high performers for high potentials.
We advise organizations to first identify high-potential talent—those individuals who can become future leaders—and determine the criteria that makes that talent valuable to them. Past performance is an important indicator, but it’s not the only criteria. Identifying high potential requires a two-step process of: 1) soliciting management input to identify an initial list of candidates; and 2) confirming with a multi-trait assessment of the individuals to assure accurate selection. Gut feelings, likability and intuition must be reinforced by proven methodologies that measure leadership traits such as career drive, aspiration, agility, flexibility and organizational confidence.
Myth #2: One-size development fits all. High-potential candidates can lose interest when development programs miss the mark, are irrelevant to business needs or fail to engage them intellectually and emotionally. To build a leadership pipeline that is both deep and wide, we advise companies to take an individualized approach to nurturing, engaging and retaining high-potential talent. Using our “4E” (Education, Exposure, Experience, Evaluation) approach and best-in-class peer-to-peer learning frameworks, we help high potentials build relevant skills that link learning with business outcomes.
Myth #3: Developing high potentials is an HR issue. Clearly, HR leaders play a key role in creating a high-potential program; however high-potential identification and development is an issue that must be embraced by the entire senior leadership team. Together, HR and the C-suite must financially and culturally commit to investing in a high-potential program to identify and develop their next generation of leaders. To move forward, organizations need a sustained, strategic approach—crossing all departments—to develop their future executive teams.
The Path Forward
Take a systematic approach to talent management and the development of high-potential leaders. Leveraging proven methodology can build a strong pipeline of leadership talent. Assess talent to identify a high-potential leader line-up that is aligned to your business strategy. Develop and enrich the best and brightest within your organization, and activate and engage high-potential leaders to build their loyalty and retention.
By following these guidelines, you will have a solid pipeline of high-potential executives and employees.