Before organizations can identify and develop high-potential employees, they have to define potential in a manner that works across all departments and job levels. And, in attempting to do so, many organizations end up with a complex concept of potential that satisfies no one. The Hogan High Potential Model is based on Leadership Foundations, Leadership Emergence, and Leadership Effectiveness. For more information, check out the infographic below or visit hoganhipo.com.
Topics: high potential
When it comes to who we want to work for, everyone thinks they want the same thing: a charismatic leader whose engaging personality and sweeping oratory inspires his or her followers to greatness, like every coach in every sports movie ever made, ever. Including this one by Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday.
“Charisma has long prevailed as one of the most celebrated attributes of leadership,” Hogan CEO Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic wrote in a post in Fast Company. “A global survey evaluating everyday perceptions of leadership across 62 countries identified ‘charismatic’ and ‘inspirational’ as two of the most recurrent attributes linked to leadership.
For all it’s assumed importance, “There’s actually little evidence that charisma helps leaders be more effective,” Chamorro-Premuzic continued. “When leaders are charismatic but lack good judgment, vision, or the ability to build effective teams, they can be pretty destructive.”
Sound like anybody you know? If you’re like most organizations, your pipeline of high potential candidates is likely clogged with individuals matching this description. That’s because most organizations still rely on supervisor nominations (68.5%) and performance appraisals (74%) to identify potential in their talent pools. And, unfortunately, performance reviews and supervisor nominations tend to be good at identifying the people in an organization who “look” like leaders — individuals who seem smart, confident, charismatic, and who excel at self-promotion.
To be sure, these characteristics are critical to help individuals climb the corporate ladder. But they aren’t enough to succeed at the top, which is why 46% of leaders fail to meet business objectives in a new role.
How can you keep charismatic but ultimately unfit individuals out of your leadership pipeline? The reason most high potential programs struggle to produce viable high potential candidates is that they’re missing one thing: science. Hogan’s model of high potential is built on 30 years of independent research and validated on more than 21,000 global managers across every industry.
Want to know more? Check out our free ebook “The Politics of Potential” to read more about putting the Science of Personality to work in your high potential program.
Coaching high potential employees to find impact, challenge and meaningful relationships at work can help create stronger motivation, commitment, and retention.If identifying high potential employees is the most important talent management challenge that companies face, it’s arguable that creating a compelling career for high potentials comes in at a close second. With so many dollars spent on programs to develop leadership succession and capability, it’s important to get a good return on your investment. Keeping top talent learning, motivated, and committed is critical to doing that.
Many organizations understand this but the basic assumption seems to be that the expanded opportunities afforded to someone who has been identified as top talent should be enough – this most often includes increased access to senior leaders, special projects, and extra training. However, with so much passive job seeking these days (thanks to sites like LinkedIn) and an increasingly diverse workforce to deal with, leaders often find that their programs are not helping to create the “stickiness” they need. Indeed, in Sirota's own projects we find that top talent is rarely more positive about their organization than the average employee.
So how can programs be designed to boost success? Once the science of talent and personality assessments help you make good decisions about what candidates to pick, the science of engagement should help you to get them to stay. Here are three key issues that you should consider:
- Give them the right feedback. Tagging someone as top talent usually means directing more investment and attention to them. This can be a double-edged sword as colleagues can notice the imbalance of resources that are being used for their development. Highly confident and ambitious characters, who get themselves noticed easily, might even start to act in more self-centered and entitled ways. As the fascinating research into toxic employees shows, there’s no point having a superstar if they suck performance from other members of their team. Although it’s tempting to want top talent to feel they are special, it’s rarely helpful if they start to act like it. If you want your high potentials to have productive careers then they need to learn how to get along with others, as well as get ahead in their jobs. That means ensuring they get feedback to understand the impact they have on colleagues and providing coaching to help them adapt to it. The benefit of this is that it will help to strengthen the relationships they form at work, boosting their sense of belonging.
- Challenge them in the right way. Many high potentials are given special assignments to stretch them into new areas. This can be a great way to engage them with impactful and challenging projects. However, there is some nuance to this and research shows that while some work demands actually help to boost motivation and focus (challenges - like complex problem solving or tight deadlines), others are draining and exhausting no matter what (barriers to performance - like interpersonal conflict or highly ambiguous goals, leading to uncertainty). In a recent survey, many high potentials also said they feel significant additional pressure to get things right more often. We should remember that burnout and exhaustion is a substantial risk for high potential employees who ambitiously pursue the extra projects that they are given, while at the same time being exposed to the watchful eye of senior leaders who are constantly judging their performance. Ensuring that development programs and projects are built around the balance of resources and demands facing the participants is an important part of keeping them engaged. And remember, just because someone is able to handle a tremendous amount of pressure, that doesn’t mean they are always a good fit for more senior roles – particularly if they need to be able to empathize with overwhelmed subordinates.
- Meaning and purpose. Although it has become rather cliché to talk about the importance of meaning and impact in the workplace, there should be no doubt that it makes a difference. People will often use the pursuit of higher-level purpose or vision to buffer against the shorter-term impact of stressful or boring work on their motivation. So, while many high potential programs might emphasize the increased influence, development, and even reward that high potentials have access to, it’s important that a clear connection is also made to achieving a broader career impact and purpose. This means ensuring that leaders and managers understand that their role in developing top talent isn’t only to talk to them about their performance, but also to help them think through their development toward their broader career goals.
While the additional investment that high potential employees receive is a privilege, the market for talented individuals means that competition is fierce. Helping high potentials to design their careers in a way that brings stronger impact, rewarding challenges, and better relationships can help boost engagement and retention.
To learn more about how the personality of high potential employees influences engagement of team members, check out The Engaging Leader.
Lewis Garrad, a chartered organizational psychologist, is the Growth Markets leader at Mercer|Sirota. He specializes in the design and deployment of employee attitude research programs, feedback interventions, and talent strategy. Follow him on Twitter.
Identifying and developing high potentials — employees ready to take the leadership reins when someone gets promoted, steps down, or gets fired — is the single greatest talent management challenge organizations face today. The problem is, most organizations are really, really bad at it. Practitioners rate themselves as effective at identifying high potentials only about 50% of the time. That means many high-potential identification systems in place today could achieve the same level of accuracy by flipping a coin.
If your organization is like most, its high-potential identification program focuses — sometimes exclusively — on current performance. A recent survey found 74% of companies identify high-potential employees based on performance appraisals, and 68.5% based on recommendations from management. A separate study by Corporate Research Forum estimated that 73% of organizations currently identifying high potentials using one single data point — a rating or nomination by the individual’s direct supervisor.
“This is problematic for two reasons,” Hogan CEO Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic wrote in a post for Forbes. “First, organizations are not very good at measuring performance (once you eliminate subjective ratings, there are very few reliable metrics left). Second, even when they measure performance well, many top performers will fail to perform well at the next level.”
Performance measures tend to be subjective and biased by politics. Performance appraisals often reflect how much supervisors like their employees, and over-inflate ratings of actual job performance. As a result, individuals designated as high performers are often actually the best politicians, or what we call emergent leaders — the people who are great at building relationships, exerting social influence, and standing out enough to get ahead. The problem is that the qualities it takes to climb the corporate ladder aren’t enough to be effective as a leader.
Second, organizations tend to overestimate current performance as a predictor of future potential. The idea of leaning on performance reviews is that the best predictor of future performance is past performance. But as ClearCompany Co-founder Andre Lavoie points out in an article on Entrepreneur, although all high-potential employees are high performers, not all high-performing employees are high potentials. Research shows that only 30% of current high performers are actually high-potential employees, and most employees (more than 90%) would have trouble at the next level.
“When you transition employees from individual contributors to managers, or from managers to leaders, the pivotal qualities or competencies that drive high performance change,” Chamorro-Premuzic wrote. “Furthermore, many strong individual contributors are not even interested in managing or leading others, preferring instead to focus on independent problem-solving or being a team-player. The result is a paradoxical system that removes people from a job they are rather good at, and re-positions them in a role they are neither able nor willing to do.”
At the very least, wrongly designating a high performer as a high potential means you lose an excellent individual contributor. More than half of high-potential employees drop out of development programs or leave their employer within five years, and studies estimate losing a high-potential employee costs the organization 3.5 times his or her annual compensation.
At worst, promoting the wrong people can cause major engagement problems within your organization. Leadership directly impacts employee engagement. Good leadership creates engaged employees; bad leadership leaves employees alienated and demoralized. Engaged employees are energized, proud, enthusiastic, and have positive attitudes at work. Companies whose employees are engaged show higher returns on assets, are more profitable, and yield nearly twice the value to their shareholders compared to companies characterized by low employee engagement. Disengagement, on the other hand, results in an estimated $550 billion in lost productivity in the U.S. each year.
Put simply, performance is what you do. Potential is what you could do. Until organizations learn to differentiate between the two, it’s unlikely their success identifying high potential individuals will improve.Want to know more about how to tell potential from performance? Check out our ebook, The Politics of Potential.
Leading up to the launch of the Hogan High Potential Talent Report, our CEO, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, authored numerous articles addressing human potential and how to assess it. Writing for Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Forbes, and others, here’s a comprehensive list of Tomas’s articles on the subject.
Summary: Despite all the talk about the war for talent, most organizations already have the supply of talent they need. The problem is, many employers are unable to either identify or engage those high-potential individuals.
Summary: Although there are no reasons to expect the fascination with strengths-based coaching to wane any time soon, organizations – and people – would be better off it did. This article outlines five reasons to be skeptical of a leadership development approach that focuses only on strengths.
Summary: It’s the job of every manager to size up their team members and evaluate their potential. That means understanding not just their current talents, but also their likelihood of developing them for higher-impact roles.
Summary: In an ideal world, your pipeline would be brimming with future high fliers, who will one day push your organization to new heights. Unfortunately, life’s rarely that kind. Here are five tips to help you find and develop your future stars.
Summary: Although the scientific study of leadership is well established, its key discoveries are unfamiliar to most people, including an alarmingly large proportion of those in charge of evaluating and selecting leaders.
Summary: It’s unsurprising that organizations devote an increasing amount of time and resources to the identification and development of future leaders. This explains the recent proliferation of interventions targeting HIPOs: the individuals who show the biggest promise for leading the organization in the future.
Summary: There are four common mistakes organizations tend to make in their HIPO programs, namely mistaking performance for potential, and emergence for effectiveness; undermining the importance of development, and ignoring the dark side of personality.
Summary: “Inborn talent” is something of an oxymoron. Nobody is born with talent, as we typically understand the term, and we all differ in our potential to develop the skills and attributes that later lead others to call us talented. So why are some people better at developing their potential than others?
Summary: We may think we know what qualities we value in those who lead us – and why – but companies and entire countries keep pushing less than stellar leaders into positions of power. How come?
Summary: Managing the tension between getting along and getting ahead is particularly important if you have leadership aspirations. Psychologist Robert Hogan defined leadership as “getting along to get ahead,” and he put forward a Darwinian framework for understanding why some people are more successful than others.
Summary: A global survey evaluating everyday perceptions of leadership across 62 countries identified “charismatic” and “inspirational” as two of the most recurrent attributes linked to leadership. Yet there’s actually little evidence that charisma helps leaders be more effective. In fact, it often has the reverse effect.
Summary: With a bit of self-awareness – understanding how you differ from others and especially what others think of you – you can turn your personality from a heavy roadblock to a killer career weapon.
Summary: Clearly, some people are both talented and hard-working, but there is often a tension between the two. Talent can make people lazy because they need to rely less on hard work to achieve the same goal. Hard work helps people compensate for lower levels of talent, which is why it’s quite helpful to be aware of one’s limitations. But how much does talent really matter?
Summary: In the corporate world, most organizations seem to have developed – involuntarily, of course – quite effective mechanisms for stopping nice employees from advancing to management positions.
Summary: The idea that science can be used to quantify our future performance is unpopular. The main reason is that it tastes of determinism and questions the strong lay conviction that we are completely free to decide our destiny, a conviction that is obviously irrational.
For more information about the Hogan High Potential Talent Report, visit hoganhipo.com.
We’re excited to announce the launch of the Hogan High Potential (HIPO) Talent Report, a new product that simplifies the way organizations evaluate and develop talented people. The comprehensive report makes it easier to make informed talent decisions, groom and develop employee leadership competencies, and achieve positive business outcomes.
Most organizations make it a top priority to identify, develop and prepare successful leaders for roles with expanded scope and responsibility. However, organizations large and small have struggled to find an accurate, useful and sustainable way to develop the leaders with the highest potential for future success.
“One of the main reasons high potential programs fail is that they focus too much on performance, which organizations are historically poor at measuring,” says Hogan CEO Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic. “And, even if organizations do measure performance well, many top performers will fail to perform well at the next level. So it’s important to focus less on performance, which is what you have done in the past, and more on potential, which is what you will probably do in the future.”
The Hogan model identifies and defines three elements that are important for HIPO success. The first, leadership foundation, describes the degree to which individuals are able to effectively manage their career, how rewarding they are to deal with, and how strong they are as organizational citizens. The second, leadership emergence, predicts the likelihood that someone will be noticed in the organization, emerge and be labeled as a leader. The third, leadership effectiveness, predicts one’s ability to lead teams successfully toward productive outcomes.
All three components of the Hogan HIPO model are strongly linked to personality. The new report identifies strengths and gaps related to each of these critical elements, and suggests specific, targeted developmental actions to address them.
“Potential is not solely based on the absolute value of your skills and abilities – it is powerfully influenced by the extent to which others perceive you as a leader,” says Chamorro-Premuzic. “Effective leaders are able to attract, retain and develop strong talent, achieve business goals, secure resources and remove barriers to success. This new report can accurately assess leadership potential at all levels regardless of the size and scope of the organization.”
For more information about the Hogan HIPO Talent Report, visit hoganhipo.com.
In this edition of Drinks with Hogan, Managing Partner Ryan Ross explains why narrowing the definition of potential, in order to coach and develop people to a very specific thing, is necessary for success. Additionally, Ross discusses the leadership characteristics of a high potential employee.
Competent leadership is crucial for a company’s success. Recent studies indicate that businesses with strong leadership are 13 times more likely to outperform their competition, and three times more likely to retain their most talented employees.
Yet, only 44% of HR professionals report having formal processes for identifying employees with leadership potential, and only 18% report having enough bench strength to meet the future requirements of the company.
“From Potential to Performance” examines how organizations can use personality assessment to identify, develop, and retain talented employees.