Our latest thinking: Potential – monthly thought leadership from Talent Toolbox

This article in brief: Potential is not just about skills and attributes. Identifying potential can no longer be a top-down affair. People’s aspirations and personal circumstances are a vital part of the mix, which is why self-assessment is vital. This can only happen fairly, consistently and easily with the right digital system in place with robust analytics to back it up.

The term ‘potential’ has historically been used to indicate that an individual has certain qualities, such as behavioural characteristics, motivation, skills, abilities, experience and so on to effectively perform and contribute in broader or different roles in the future organisation. This has generally been an employer-led exercise where someone decides who has potential and who doesn’t. This is wrong.

If you think about it, everyone has potential, it’s up to you, the employer to support people to have the confidence and aspiration to realise their potential and then enable the environment for them to do it – though only if they want to.

This means the traditional ‘talent pool’ becomes obsolete in favour of a more consultative, collaborative approach. In talent pools, a chosen population of the workforce deemed as ‘high potentials’ are developed, nurtured, cosseted. Whereas the rest are left to ‘just get on with their jobs’. Today’s smart organisation realises that everyone has potential. The skill is in unlocking and defining what form that takes and, crucially, when it’s the right time to progress it.

It’s therefore vital to understand personal aspirations and circumstances as well as ability, attributes and development needs. In an ever-changing world, this can only be achieved via frequent information exchange which is why we advocate a combination of ongoing dialogue and periodic career conversations. If you have the right system, and therefore robust analytics, in place, this is not difficult to do and becomes part of the fabric of the organisation. It’s business critical and definitely not just a ‘nice to have’. Remember though, even if a person has the inherent potential to lead, not everyone wants to. This survey by Manpower claims that whilst today’s employee wants to make money and a contribution only 6% want to lead and only 4% aspire to manage others.

Potential is dependent on specific roles and environments though is also inextricably linked to a person’s ‘whole-self’ capacity to handle the change in circumstances that progressing might involve. Just because someone is a brilliant salesperson, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll make a brilliant sales manager. Or indeed want to take on that responsibility. Even if they do theoretically, if, in practice, they’re not in the right ‘place’ when it comes to external factors, the time may well not be right.

So how can you find out who has potential and the desire to progress now in the current circumstances; who’s adaptable, agile and equipped to do more?

This is where the modern, digital version of the traditional nine-box grid comes in. If the digital tools are in place to enable people to, in effect, place themselves on such a grid then it becomes an invaluable tool both for planning future development and progression as well as people being able to move around as their life circumstances dictate.

Suppose for instance, through a combination of self-assessment and performance evaluation, Tom appears in the top right high-performance/high potential spot on the grid. Then his wife falls pregnant with triplets and he chooses to take a career break to help with childcare. Tom has no less potential today than he did yesterday though he has chosen not to progress that potential until his personal life has become more manageable. This is the vital information companies need to engage and retain talented people. And to safeguard stress levels and wellbeing. In today’s world where transparency and choice are so valued by employees, they are no longer going to put up with being moved around like chess pieces.

The only way to identify potential fairly, consistently and thoroughly is to put a system in place where people can assess their own potential based not only on ability though, critically, also on personal circumstances and aspirations.

Traditional roles are going to be challenged and will change significantly in the future. Having the tools in place now to make assessing true potential part of the fabric of what you do is going to be essential to any organisation’s ability to survive and thrive in 2020 and beyond…

More about us

We offer expertise and award-winning technology for organisations that want to improve business results and growth through their people. Our approach is contemporary, pragmatic and strategic which has given us a strong track record of positioning businesses as ‘amazing places to work’, thus helping them overcome the people and delivery challenges they face so they can:

  • Engage and retain talented people
  • Create committed and productive teams
  • Enhance reputation, win awards, become a talent magnet
2019-11-06T10:10:52+00:00 November 5th, 2019|