Why You Should Look Beyond Performance to See and Invest in Potential

A study from a talent evaluation solutions provider found that high-potential employees are 91 percent more valuable to an organization than other employees. By adding a high-potential employee to your team, you can automatically increase the performance of other team members by 5 percent to 15 percent. 

This data supports what is widely known – that the top talent in any organization is responsible for most organizational output. But how do you find these star performers? If you rely strictly on past performance and track record, you’ll have to pay top dollar to attract and retain the best talent. Ideally, you would devote company resources to developing your entire workforce, but few organizations have the budget for employee development on such a large scale.

The key is to identify employees with the greatest potentialto deliver the greatest value to the organization. High-potential employees can be groomed faster, easier and more cost-effectively to take on more complex leadership roles. Organizations should prioritize the development of these high-potential employees and invest money and resources accordingly.

Keep in mind that there’s a difference between high potential and high performance. For example, the next sales superstar will generate a lot of revenue, but will that person’s positive influence on the organization extend beyond those numbers? A sales superstar will reach individual goals and make a lot of money, but they might not have the attributes and behaviors of employees who have the potentialto make a larger, organization-wide impact. 

These attributes are more difficult to spot and evaluate, which is why organizations tend to focus on performance. While performance is also an important part of organizational success, failing to recognize the potential in employees can lead to missed opportunities. Do you want a high-potential employee to get recruited by a competitor who sees that potential and enables that employee to thrive?

Finding high-potential employees begins with knowing the traits they typically have. They say, “You can’t teach talent,” and people who have the ability to thrive tend to have great potential. Of course, many talented people in all walks of life have flamed out because they didn’t have other characteristics required to succeed.

For example, they may have talent, but do they have the curiosity and drive to learn new skills and gain expertise in different areas? Do they have the vision to see beyond what is in front of them and understand the big-picture impact of their activities and decisions? 

Do they have the communication and collaboration skills to build relationships, motivate others, and lead projects to the finish line? Are they willing to request feedback, listen to new ideas, and use that information to benefit the organization? Can they deal with pressure, manage and resolve conflict, and reach a compromise?

Identifying and nurturing high-potential employees should begin during the hiring process. Look beyond bullet-pointed skills and achievements on a resume to determine if candidates have the qualities of high-potential employees. Instead of relying solely on an individual’s talent and potential to drive their success on their own, be proactive about ongoing development. Offer training and coaching and monitor their activity, and continuously evaluate their performance and growth.

Performance is relatively easy to see, but the ability to look deeper and recognize and cultivate potential is a clear competitive advantage. Make it a priority to find high-potential employees and invest in their development.

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