Human Resources
Hungry for Hi-Pos

Hungry for Hi-Pos


Dec 7, 2016 | by Rafi Prager

It’s no secret that having a strong bench of high potential talent provides organizations with a strategic and competitive advantage. But the competition for talent has only increased in recent years, and the shortage of high-quality talent is one of an organizations’ greatest concerns.  Deploying effective high potential talent assessment and development initiatives is one way organizations can optimize efficiency and accuracy in building their talent bench strength. If deployed poorly, however, these programs and initiatives could pose a huge cost to the organization.

Talent Management experts Rob Silzer and Sandra Davis note that assessing for potential is more complex than assessing for selection and development because long-term business objectives, strategy, and role requirements often change or are unknown.  Also, the competencies and skills required for current performance may not be indicators of performance in future roles.  As a result, there’s a greater need to define and measure potential across roles and levels rather than narrowly focusing on specific roles. The question that should drive organizations’ assessment and development initiatives is “potential for what?”

As a result of differences within and across companies with respect to the purpose of high potential assessment, it’s not surprising that there have been multiple definitions, models, and tools used to assess high potential. Further, companies often rely on subjective, expensive, and time-consuming practices such as 9-Box calibration sessions.  While the purpose of the 9-Box is to tease out potential from past performance, the two are often confounded, especially if potential is poorly defined within the organization.

Other organizations use performance track records as sole indicators of performance. But, contrary to what you may have learned in Psych101, past performance is not always indicative of future performance, especially when predicting multiple levels beyond the current role. More concerning, a recent survey by the Talent Strategy Group in 2015 found that even among top companies, the average reported accuracy of potential prediction across different methods was only 52%.

There are multiple models and approaches available to assess high potential talent, but there’s little guidance available to practitioners. For this reason, we gathered a panel of experts at the Annual SIOP Conference in Anaheim, CA, for a session titled “Identifying High Potential: From Bad HR to Good Behavioral Science”. The purpose of the session was to provide the latest in high potential theory, best practices in measurement and implementation of High potential assessment initiatives, and data-based research on cutting-edge models and tools.

This panel included I/O psychologists and practitioners who are known for their research on high potential models and assessment as well as their experience in implementing high potential programs.  Each panelist provided a brief overview reflecting their “point-of-view” on various aspects high potential assessment, followed by a panel discussion on key questions, and then questions from the audience.

For information about this session and/or assessment of high potential talent, contact our assessment team.

Panel Members

Rob Silzer, PhD., a pioneer in High potential theory and measurement, discussed key concepts regarding "potential" based on a literature review and extensive experience.  He also provided a framework for defining and assessing potential in leadership talent.

Laura Heaton, M.A., and Charles Handler, PhD. presented a case study describing the mandate for the development of leadership potential model and practical applications using a High potential tool, validation work, and key insights from the study.

Rafi Prager, M.Phil. described Aon Hewitt’s High potential identification model and presented data to support its use across contexts.

Alan Colquitt, PhD. discussed the process for talent identification and assessment at Eli Lilly that uses objective assessment tools, is based on rigorous validation, and is used for both administrative leadership and technical leadership potential.

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