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High Potential Identification   | 4 Min Read

High Potential Employee Identification: An Actionable Strategy [Process & Tools]

Written By Bhuvi Kathpalia

With a growing demand for employees who can traverse their way through the current volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) business environment and a limited supply of qualified talent, organizations are looking inwards to tap into the existing workforce potential. This development has heightened the importance of the high potential identification process for creating a future pipeline of well-equipped talent.

Organizations need to undertake a two-fold approach for HiPo identification programs - one that enables them to reflect inwards on their business vision and goals, and the second that measures the prevailing business environment. Much like the meaning of HiPo, the process of HiPo identification can be different for organizations. 

How Can Organizations Identify High Potential Employees: The Process

Mercer | Mettl’s solution helps organizations recognize high potential employees through a structured and accurate process:

0_Sensing Exercise- The strategy before the actioni) Sensing Exercise: The Strategy Before the Action

We recently surveyed over 150 organizations to understand the workings of the high potential identification program (Mercer | Mettl, 2020 HiPo Identification Survey). We discovered that more than 30% of organizations lacked a future-forward set of competencies and a clear definition of ‘high potential’ to even embark on the high potential employee identification journey.

Thus, the first step towards a coherent high potential identification process is a sensing exercise that involves understanding the building blocks of the program, the roles, the levels, and the competencies under consideration. Focused group discussions and visionary workshops are integral to the sensing exercise to identify essential competencies, reach a shared understanding and, based on it, choose the tool composition.

0_Employee Evaluation- Finding the right toolii) Employee Evaluation: Finding the Right Tool

In the survey mentioned above, more than 20% of organizations believed that the organizational expertise needed to choose and execute the right tools and carry out an efficient HiPo identification process were unavailable to them.

Our subject matter experts map the defined competencies to a suite of tools best suited to the organization’s needs based on complexity and cost. Mercer | Mettl’s customizable and scalable tools can be used independently, or in conjunction, to identify the untapped potential.

0_Talent Pool Finalization- Results are out!iii) Talent Pool Finalization: The Results Are Out!

The swift and automated reports generated by our tools help organizations identify the accelerated talent pool, initiate talent mobility, and implement developmental strategies.

0_Organizational _ Individual Developmental Plans iv) Developmental Plans: The Way Forward

It is established that the greater challenge lies in executing the high potential identification program. But a whopping 80% of organizations affirmed that they didn’t have a systematic plan to track the post-identification developmental journey of the identified employees. 22% of them admitted to having insufficient expertise in devising action plans and developmental strategies.

Given that potential cannot be equated with readiness, Mercer | Mettl equips organizations with development plans that pronounce the way forward. The company provides individual development plans that help bridge the gaps identified by employee evaluations. We help organizations with post-program assessments to determine the need for any intervention, further ensuring that the designated high potential employees are on the desired track.

0_Result Validation-1v) Result Validation

Our end-to-end solution, specially designed for high potential identification of employees, helps organizations validate results through predictive modeling and correlation exercises. We, at Mercer | Mettl, don’t believe in the one-size-fits-all approach, and thus our subject matter experts, researchers, and account executives handhold you at every step of the process to ensure a successful partnership.

0_Tools to Identify HiPo EmployeesTools to Identify HiPo Employees

Talent assessments have now advanced to enable organizations to make data-backed decisions. Ranging from physical assessment centers to job simulations, from roleplays to personality tests, high potential identification tools, today, are designed to meet the demands of the present-day business environment.

The foremost requirement for selecting an efficient tool is to have the right competency framework based on current and future business needs on which to assess employees. It is followed by having a clear vision of the desired result from the high potential identification program. 

Here is a list of most suitable tools to identify high potential employees:  

i) Assessment/Development Centers (ACDC) & Simulations

Assessment and development centers bring together roleplays, situational judgment tests, group discussions, presentations, interviews, simulations, psychometric and aptitude tests, and similar such activities to take crucial people’s decisions. 

Often confused with one another, assessment and development centers both use assessments and interactive activities to evaluate and develop the workforce. Assessment centers primarily match an employee to a particular role through a detailed analysis of various aspects required to succeed on the job. In contrast, development centers are used to develop employees by identifying their strengths and skill gaps. Together, they make excellent tools to identify high potential employees.

According to the ‘Guidelines and Ethical Considerations for Assessment Center Operations,’ published in the Journal of Management, the ten essential elements of assessment centers are:

ten_essential_elements_of_assessment_centers_high_potential_employee_identification_tools_and_process

Assessment and Development Centers enable assessors to objectively evaluate candidates using multiple tools through situations that imitate real-life workplace scenarios and observe skills and behaviors specific to pre-defined competencies. 

ACDC is a tool that has garnered significant interest among industry stakeholders recently. However, only 17% of organizations responding to our survey professed to use ACDCs for high potential identification due to the lack of existing expertise or knowledge in an organization.

Mercer | Mettl’s ACDC toolkit helps in systematic assessment of an employee’s potential through hassle-free, end-to-end process management. It allows organizations to identify strengths and developmental needs and chalk out a systematic action plan to work on the developmental needs of the identified high potentials. It provides an excellent opportunity to reflect on leadership behavior in a simulated environment. 

Mercer | Mettl’s ACDC toolkit consists of virtual as well as blended ACDCs.

0_Virtual ACDC-2Virtual ACDC

Mercer | Mettl’s complete suite of online programs primarily simulates traditional ACDCs for a holistic understanding of employees. Extremely time and cost-efficient, without any logistical hassles, they are best suited for mid-level managers and individual contributors. The most significant USP of virtual ACDCs is their instant and automated reports, along with reduced overhead expenses. 

Mercer | Mettl’s Virtual ACDC toolkit consists of:

Personality Inventory

The Mettl Personality Profiler measures an individual’s strengths and growth opportunities based on underlying personality traits and work style preferences. It is based on the “Big Five” personality traits:

  1. Extraversion
  2. Openness to experience
  3. Emotional stability
  4. Agreeableness
  5. Conscientiousness

Collectively, these factors can predict job-related outcomes, such as performance, job satisfaction, trainability, burnout, etc. 

Mercer | Mettl’s team of experts have developed 26 sub-constructs that span a vast domain of personality traits and can be mapped to an organization’s or job role’s specific requirements.

Cognitive Ability Test

The Cognitive Ability Test measures a person’s ability to think fast, make meaning of ambiguity, reach meaningful conclusions, and formulate new concepts and strategies for innovation. Often essential for roles that involve decision making and strategic thinking, the test evaluates two of the most critical competencies required to thrive in a position - abstract reasoning and critical thinking. 

Situational Judgement Test

Situational judgment tests mimic real life problems to a large extent and are a highly effective exercise to witness candidates react to specific situations - when put in a spot, faced with a challenge, or during conflict resolution. Responses are captured based on the most appropriate choice or course of action. This exercise helps assessees display behavioral competencies that are important for the organization. Due to its proximity to the real setup, it often has a higher correlation with the role’s required skills and behaviors.

Case Study Simulator

It comprises of offline case studies on real business-related problems and dynamics. Candidates can step out of their typical job and examine more critical business problems with a comprehensive perspective. Candidates Can experience critical interdependencies, execute best practices, and explore alternatives for a strategy, etc. They are asked to study the problem statement extensively and devise a structured approach to tackle the problem.

Other activities that can be designed to measure time management, sound decision making, delegation, interpersonal relationships, workload organization, etc. include caselets and inbox prioritization (in-tray exercises).

These virtual tasks result in immediate, easy to decipher reports after the assessments, thereby allowing employees to analyze their performance promptly.

0_Blended ACDC-2Blended ACDC

A better alternative to traditional assessment centers, blended ACDCs combine the best of technology and human touch by bringing together on-field programs and online assessments for an integrated approach to talent management. Blended ACDCs are best suited for mid to senior-level leadership profiles.

In addition to VADC’s online tools, Mercer Mettl’s Blended ACDC toolkit consists of the following: 

  • Group Discussion
  • Case Study Presentation
  • One-To-One Roleplay
  • Competency-Based Interview

Blended ACDC reports provide scores based on both physical and online assessments. Assessor ratings from blended ACDC, as well as automated ratings from virtual ACDC, are combined for a holistic view of the candidate. An in-person feedback session typically follows.

ii) Assessment Battery

A comprehensive battery of assessments can easily help organizations zero in on their high potential employees by evaluating employees on their skill, personality, and behavior. Assessments can be administered independently or as part of ACDCs.

iii) 360-Degree Feedback

A holistic process where an employee’s superiors, peers, direct reports, and sometimes even clients come together to evaluate his/her performance. An accepted use-case of 360-degree feedback is to gauge an employee’s performance by analyzing multisource feedback, then applying it to decide on promotions and appraisals. 

However, it is increasingly being seen as a reliable tool with broader implementations. It helps employees develop a better perspective of their standing, skills level, performance, and behavior within the organization. It enables employees to chart their future course in tandem with organizational growth. The feedback creates an opportunity for employees to work on their personal growth and development by analyzing the feedback received from multiple stakeholders. A 360-degree feedback report often promotes self-awareness with its detailed observations. 

More recently, it has emerged as a great tool to identify high potentials in the organization. According to our survey, more than 30% of organizations have used a structured 360 degree feedback tool for their HiPo identification process. It is because organizations already using 360-degree reviews for promotions find its adoption easier for measuring potential in addition to performance when combined with a versatile tool like ACDC. An increasing number of subject matter experts believe high potential identification should be measured using more than one tool, considering it accounts for leadership competencies, behavioral factors, personality attributes, and cognitive skills, etc., along with an underlying component of performance.

A clear definition of “high potential” by your organization is a prerequisite to the success of any tool. However, stakeholders can also be trained to pay attention to the additional criteria of potential. The questions and competencies can be customized to suit an organization’s definition of potential, and reports can provide a composite score pointing to specific skills and competencies indicating high potential. 

Performance vs. Potential 9-Box Model

Performance_vs_Potential_9_Box_Model_high_potential_employee_identification_tools_and_process

The results of HiPo tools are mapped to a 9-box model. An employee development plan can follow after each employee has been assigned a section in the 9-box grid model. 

A high potential program feeds into the future of the business. In the present landscape, where technology is ever-evolving, the correct HiPo strategy can steer your business in the right direction. A detailed process, along with an efficient tool or group of tools, is necessary to identify the high potential employees of the organization. 

High potential identification, thus, is an essential component of the transforming global work environment under constant change and churn. It contributes to the future readiness of your organization, which underlines the significance of finding a high potential identification solution suite that fits your business strategy and helps you identify, develop, and retain future potentials.

Topics: High Potential Identification

Originally published May 26 2020,updated May 27 2020

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