High Potential Identification Made Simple

How firms identify high-potential talent varies largely by the size and nature of the business. But to John Azzara, president and CEO of talent review software provider People Talent Solutions Corp., there are five simple approaches to high potential assessment.

The Buddy Approach: This involves people in decision-making roles identifying high potentials based on who their “buddies” are, Azzara said. “Employees may have a collegial relationship with their boss or some kind of decision maker, and there’s still sort of, ‘Hey, I like that guy … we talked at some point,’ something like that.”

The Tenure Approach: This is when people are identified as high potential because they’ve been with the company for a long time. The general theory is that the person has paid his or her dues and therefore should be promoted.

The Manager Appraisal Approach: With this type of approach, an employee’s manager might identify him or her to a decision maker for special development based on a performance assessment. This approach, however, generally means identification depends on independent judgment.

The Decision Makers’ Consensus Approach: Here key decision makers discuss an employee’s profile toward high-potential development. “They look at specific talent, they run calibration, [they] look at it from a nine-box perspective,” Azzara said. “[It’s more] let’s look at our talent, let’s get some understanding on who these people are. It’s no longer one person controlling.”

The Criteria-Based Approach: The most sophisticated of the five, this approach involves criteria that articulate how a high-potential employee behaves, Azzara said. Assessment tools — personality, cognitive, behavioral, 360-degree and others — are then used to help measure the criteria.