In our experience, there are however some key “best practices” to have in mind when developing a high potential process and set of criteria for identification.
A Fortune 500 was falling behind its growth targets in emerging markets. Local competitors were in a better position to grab local consumers and resources. They had a better understanding of local market needs despite our client superior technologies. In many countries, the best and brightest local talents – especially women – left our client to local companies as they did not see positive career opportunities and did not feel adequately rewarded.
A fact-based process
A process integrating all managers early on and avoiding creating “points of no return”
Corporations that have achieved the strongest diversity at the highest level usually consider that anyone joining the company with the right set of initial core skills has the potential to reach the highest levels. Potential is often evaluated early on with a large vision. For example, one airline company, which is currently perceived as having the most diverse pool of High Potentials of its industry, integrates in the High Potential pool any manager capable of moving two ranks higher than its current position. Therefore, as long as a manager displays the potential to reach two positions above his/her current position, he/she will benefit from development opportunities to reach such levels.
In contrast, corporations which are investing heavily in very few “stars” often create a system where the right opportunity for career progression will be given to a handful few. Someone who has not been provided such an opportunity from the start will therefore not ever be in a position to be recognized as a high potential.
Recent benchmarks also show that “diverse talents” often have a slower career start than their Caucasian counterparts, with a lower performance. Their full potential is more generally surfaced after five to seven years of tenure vs one or two for white men. Had these corporations created a go/no go system, diverse managers would never been able to reach the highest positions. The same patterns often apply to women. Potential is often evaluated between 30-35 years old, at the time where women have children and are usually out of their jobs more frequently than their male colleagues. Keeping such stringent time frames with no opportunity for reconsideration would thus also eliminate many women from the pool.
In order to best refine and adapt the High Potential identification process and criteria for evaluation, the following steps should be performed: