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How do you Identify Talent?

‘High potentials’ is a term frequently used to describe individuals who have attributes that are seen as desirable for the future leadership of the organisation. It is hugely beneficial to identify such high potentials, but it is not always seen as an easy task.

Establish criteria

Before you can identify your high potentials from your good performers, you need to establish criteria against which to measure your employees. You may have a gut feel about who your key players are, but without hard evidence your high potential decisions could be biased and result in incorrect choices.

Kip Kelly from Kenan-Flagler Business School, suggests three main criteria to identify high potentials:

  • Review relevant research

This means gaining an understanding of what is meant by high potentials. What are their core qualities and how do these qualities contribute to business success?

The specific criteria for identifying high potentials in your organisation will be shaped to the needs of your company and where it’s headed, but there are some key behaviours and skills that are shared.

  • Define terminology such as potential, performance, readiness, and fit

To ensure that all levels of the organisation can identify and nurture high potentials, it is important to develop consistent definitions that apply across the organisation.

  • Specify high-potential criteria and attributes for the organisation as a whole, and for specific roles and positions

In essence, we need to create competency frameworks that define and describe the skills and behaviours that reflect the profiles of high potentials. This can be done at both the enterprise-wide level and for particular roles.

Is it measurable?

When defining your high potential criteria, ensure that it is measurable. This makes it easier for people to identify who is a high potential and who is not, without muddying the decision making process with emotion. People can be measured against the behaviours and skills defined in the high potential framework by using tailored assessment programmes.

Be clear about what high potential means

High potential isn’t whether someone is ready for a role now; it’s whether they have the potential to be ready in the future. The task is establishing whether someone can be nurtured so that they can develop into that role. For example in a leadership role this may be the ability to think strategically. The individual may not currently have the knowledge to think about the problems they might need to address in a future leadership position, but they display the skills needed to think about a problem in a strategic manner.

Be open to change

The needs of organisations frequently change, which means the desirable skills and behaviours of high potentials, will also change. Keep up to date with the changing needs and adapt the high potential criteria accordingly.

Once you have a high potential employee, how do you nurture their talent?

  • Give them ongoing feedback about their performance.
  • Bring high potentials together to learn from each other, and assign them to projects that allow them to develop the desirable skills.
  • Be transparent. Grossman, 2011, quoted in an Insights of the Centre for Creative Leadership article, said; “the Center for Creative Leadership found that of high-potentials not informed of their status, one-third said they were looking for another job. Of those who knew their status, only 14 percent said they were looking (Grossman, 2011).”

Understand what motivates your high potentials

When people are motivated, they perform better and are more open to learning and growing with the organisation. In an article for SHRM Roland Smith, lead researcher at the Center for Creative Leadership in Colorado Springs, suggests that people are not necessarily looking for monetary rewards. “What they’re looking for instead are the things that truly differentiate employers. These include opportunities to more directly influence and direct their careers and more-challenging assignments with real risks and rewards.”

Final thoughts

Identifying high potentials is not a one-time process. It’s an ongoing activity that takes deep dives into the needs of the business, reviews the talent that already exists, and assesses the skills and behaviours that are required to take the organisation to the next level.

Come and find out how we can help you with your talent strategy at Psyence.



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Culture and the Selection of Ethical Leaders

Over the last decade many organisations have featured in news stories due to the exposure of unethical practices in their business dealings.

Only last month, FIFA officials were questioned following mistrust in the methods used to decide who would host the 2018 and 2022 world cups. Back in 2013, the NHS – in particular, the Mid Staffordshire trust – uncovered malpractice and sparked a national outcry.

These cases are not uncommon and shockingly arose only a few years after the 2008 banking crisis which led to a global recession and huge distrust in banking operations.

Now, unethical practice is once again at the forefront. The recent Volkswagen scandal has exposed Volkswagen’s cover-up about the emissions from their diesel engines. This has resulted in the company losing 1/3 of its share value overnight, the likelihood of an unprecedented level of lawsuits, and refusal from the European Central Bank to underwrite its car leasing schemes.

Why is unethical practice rife?

In each of the above situations, the unethical business dealings have been appropriated to the leaders of the organisations. Leaders were, or are currently being investigated for malpractice in each of these cases.

How ethical leaders drive ethical behaviour

Leaders’ impact culture and culture is the foundation of organisational behaviour. Schein’s (1985) ‘Leadership Culture Change Actions’ provide some of the psychological reasoning behind why unethical leaders result in unethical organisational practices.

  • Allocation of rewards. Leaders who breathe ethical practices will put processes in place to reward ethical behaviours, and eradicate unethical ones.
  • Role modeling. Ethical leaders believe in ethical practices, and, therefore, practice what they preach. People see what leaders do and how they act, and they recognise that these are the things that they should do if they want to be well regarded in this environment.
  • Reactions to crises. In difficult times, human nature dictates that it’s more difficult for us to hold our guard. When the going gets tough people tend to show their true colours. In leadership positions, the going often gets tough, and the way this is displayed to the rest of the organisation dictates what is important to that leader.
  • Attention. A leader focuses their attention on things they believe are most important. When employees see where the focus lies, they believe this is where they should also focus.
  • Selection and dismissal. People tend to hire people that emulate their values and ideals. If a leader is unethical, they are likely to attract and hire employees with similar beliefs. Of course, it is also the responsibility of employees on the front line to speak up if they see malpractice, but this can be difficult if it could jeopardise a person’s job.

Ethical leaders build ethical behaviours

Ethical leaders build ethical cultures, and ethical cultures result in ethical behaviours. By recruiting leaders that operate with ethical dealings at the forefront of their practice, these will filter into the organisation and build ethical behaviours across it.

Do you want to know more about creating a framework to recruit the right leaders into your organization who will drive your culture? Contact us today.