Developing High-Potentials

A study finds organizations with advanced high-potential strategies are 12 times more effective at improving business results. It also finds formal efforts to foster hi-po talent helps retain key leaders.

Monday, April 2, 2012
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This article accompanies Perfecting the Hi-Pos.

Companies with advanced, formal strategies for identifying and developing high-potential talent are 12 times more likely to positively impact business growth and bottom-line results than organizations with immature or disorganized strategies, according to a recent research study by Bersin & Associates.

The Art and Science of Building a High-Potential Strategy study -- which was sponsored by PDI Ninth House, a global leadership solutions firm -- aimed to determine how strategies specifically focused on developing high-potential employees affect business performance.

"This research demonstrates that organizations operating at much higher maturity levels drive improved business results and therefore are more satisfied with their high-potential programs," says Laci Loew, author of the study and senior analyst at Oakland, Calif.-based Bersin & Associates.

"Through this research with PDI Ninth House, we are enabling more organizations to learn about best practices that drive effective high potential talent development strategies," she says.

In addition to helping improve business growth, the study revealed that advanced high-potential talent-development strategies can also benefit the following business areas:

Key leader retention: When an organization has an advanced high-potential development strategy, it is three times better at improving its ability to retain key positions, as compared to organizations with less mature strategies.

Bench strength: A high-potential talent-development strategy can help build an organization's bench strength. Organizations with advanced strategies were more than twice as likely to have a ready and capable bench of potential employees ready for next-level positions.

Global business management: Organizations with more advanced strategies demonstrated they are nearly twice as likely to be able to address global business needs.

"This research validates the potential rewards for a company that chooses to invest in high-potential talent development strategies," says Cori Hill, director of high-potential leadership development at Minneapolis-based PDI Ninth House. "When companies make a concerted effort to identify, cultivate and promote high-potential leaders, the business results will follow."

PDI Ninth House recommends companies adopt best practices displayed by organizations that have realized business gains from high-potential talent investment. According to the research, organizations that leverage advanced high-potential talent-development strategies for business success feature several common characteristics, including:

* Use of a systematic, organization-wide process for identifying and developing high-potential leaders that differentiates current performance, long-term potential and readiness for next-level assignments;

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* Long-term planning (two or more years in advance) to fill critical positions and forecasting talent needs and requirements for each position;

* Use of established criteria to identify, calibrate, select and engage high-potential talent;

* Consistent, organization-wide implementation of targeted, individualized development plans that include coaching, mentoring and action learning, as well as experiential and stretch assignments -- and match with the business needs of the organization;


* Support of talent through all career transitions and promotions to prevent derailment and ensure acclimation at each level of career development;

* Full executive engagement in developing high-potential talent; and

* Close tracking and evaluating of the business impact of high-potential talent development to keep it on track.

The study was based on a quantitative survey of 295 talent managers from four global regions to identify best practices, process design, roles and responsibilities, business challenges and trends in high-potential development strategies. From a qualitative perspective, the study also drew information from in-depth interviews with five senior business leaders and HR managers.

See the full study (registration required).

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