Data Driven High Potential Identification

It’s long been established that for future success, organisations need to understand the attributes of their workforce, identify top talent and implement processes to develop these people. Yet, many executives still find they have an insufficient grasp on what type of talent they need to drive business success.

20th September 2018

Alex Davda

Where do you start?

Start from the top. Senior executives should discuss how confident they feel (or not) that their organisation has the capability to meet future challenges and whether they are able to identify talent in the business to support this. In many organisations, there is a noticeable perceived gap between the current pipeline of internal leaders and the future requirements of the business.  Think of a national football team that is unable to find new talent as their current stars approach retirement.

What can you do about the talent gap?

Consider prioritising internal talent development over reactive mass recruitment campaigns. Uncertainty around your talent pipeline doesn’t necessarily require mass external recruitment as many companies recognise that growing leaders from within is more sustainable for achieving key business goals. Focus can often usefully shift from a short-term reactive recruitment campaign to a long-term proactive development strategy for internal talent, making high potential development a hot topic on the executive agenda. Once the priority has been established, it is then HR & Talent’s responsibility to identify (typically through assessment) and nurture (typically through development) the organisation’s future leaders.  The first step is to have a clear organisational view of what it means to be a high potential.

Why should you have a clear view of potential?

At Cubiks we define potential as the ability to be successful in a role that goes beyond a person’s current responsibilities. Rather than simply looking at those who will move up at speed. Consideration needs to be given to those who can grow into critical roles (technical or expert). Performance is a measure of an individual’s ability to deliver results in their existing role, whereas potential is very much about the future.
With this in mind, it is important to define crucial qualities and attributes that indicate potential and measure these in objective and reliable way. Additionally, talent assessment and development must be an embedded part of a broader talent management strategy, focused on future-proofing the business for tomorrow’s challenges by creating a steady pipeline of talent. This is why executive support is fundamental as these senior leaders must act as the guardians of an organisation’s direction.  

How can People Data help Identify Potential?

The effective use of data through people analytics that draws upon behavioural (personality and competency), ability (cognitive ability) and performance data (KPIs, sales targets, performance appraisals, promotions) collected consistently over time gives an organisation a much richer view of their talent landscape. Although most organisations know that finding talent from within is key to success, many still apply traditionally unscientific methods when doing so, even when data is an integral part of their core business. Take a reputable marketing firm working with data every day to understand consumer behaviour and communicate this to their clients. The executives in this marketing firm still rely on opinion and gut instinct when making critical people decisions. From our experience, when it comes to people, data still can be perceived as something negative that takes away the human element from decisions.
While opinions and gut instincts matter, to identify potential they must be used alongside valid and reliable people and performance metrics collected over time and analysed objectively. This will not only improve your people decisions, but also grow your people’s respect and trust in your objectivity and make your decisions legally defensible.

Which behaviours link to potential?

Identifying the behavioural characteristics (personality and/or competency) that are common amongst successful leaders is one way that companies can start to apply data in talent decision-making processes. Cubiks’ Model of Potential helps take this a step further as it provides four dimensions (Bridge, Grasp, Reach and Flex) as validated indicators of general potential which are relevant across roles, organisations and regions. Gaining a clear view of these critical factors in your talent is a useful starting point.
To dive deeper, organisations must invest in the accurate collection and analysis of data on the behaviours which are required to meet the pressing challenges of the business today and tomorrow. This could be viewed as assessing an employee’s specific potential to perform in contextually relevant situations. For example, during times of growth, innovation and self-confidence may be characteristics required of your talent pool. Yet during times of austerity; conscientiousness and a strong attention to detail may be more important. These detailed attributes are normally measured by robust and contextually-specific assessment and development centres.

How do you combine performance with potential?

Typically, talent management professionals try to identify potential (for a defined level or a specific role) through behavioural assessment against a competency framework or talent profile. The quality of this data can be greatly enhanced by combining it with performance data (past and present).  This is where people analytics comes in, to translate this data into measurable insights for the organisation.  As a result, an organisation can begin to make clear data-driven decisions. By doing this, they can ensure they are more informed about who they will prepare for critical roles, what types of development is required for their talent pool or if the organisation is lacking capability in certain key areas of the business.
Once an organisation combines data in a different way, trends can be identified between those selected as high potentials and those who subsequently go on to perform effectively over the short and long term. It may be that the high potential process is missing key people, e.g. insufficient representation in certain regions or functions. By incorporating an ongoing sequence of people analytics, you will start to see these trends and improve your talent management cycle based on facts rather than assumptions. These insights can also be used to make better informed decisions when recruiting external HiPos.

Key considerations for HR and talent management

•    Identify high potentials by assessing an employee’s capability and their drive to deal with increasingly complex challenges in the future.
•    Get a clear understanding of both general and specific potential in the workforce.  
•    Compare potential data with performance data to get a holistic view of the talent landscape.
•    Consider using people analytics to monitor the progress of a talent pool and draw insights about future performance.

By doing the above, HR and TM are better equipped to provide senior executives with a clear talent strategy to drive the business forward.  

If you’d like to find out more about our Potential Assessment Solution, get in touch with your local Cubiks team or email and we’ll get back to you.


About Alex

Alex Davda is a Business Psychologist based in Cubiks Dubai office. He works with organisations to identify, assess and develop overall capability; from high potential talent to senior executives.

Alex’s approach combines best practice in psychology with a practical approach to helping organisations address real business challenges.

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