How DO You Measure Potential?

 In Blog

By: Meredith Masse

Since I started working in the world of talent management and organizational development and effectiveness, I have asked leaders in a variety of roles this question: “How DO you determine potential?”

My curiosity stems from that mysterious “potential” axis on the nine-box and other charts companies often use to start their conversations around determining who is a “high potential” ripe for development and who is next in line to succeed a particular leader. I’ve asked the smartest, highly experienced, most professional people I know, because I truly want to know how various companies measure this.  And by measure, I ask for the specific metrics they look for.

I’ve never really received a straight answer. Lots of skilled experts talk around a response, which typically includes a cloudy collection of characteristics, often containing answers that are more fit for the performance axis: “Well, she’s hitting her numbers and everyone likes her… so she’s our natural choice for that management role.” Or, “He seems like he’d be great in that role and we’re on the same bowling team, so let’s promote him!”

Admittedly, these examples seem silly, but I promise they are not far from some of the answers I’ve heard. To be clear, I truly believe the lack of a direct answer is not out of a wish to hide a super secret organizational recipe or other suspicious reason. I think even the most experienced professionals tend to follow a “gut reason” as to why someone has more potential than another versus identifying specific metrics that will pinpoint who has more potential than the next employee.

NOW for the best news. We’ve finally found a tool that we at ICC believe is the first ever to have pinpointed the right metrics to be able to accurately measure potential.  We’ve recently partnered with Pinsight, a company that has developed a real-time, virtual assessment center experience that eliminates the biases of a 360 and takes out the “what I think you want to hear” preconceptions in a multiple-choice, self-report index.  The employee first completes a highly valid personality index and then is placed in a live simulation situation assuming a role in a fictitious company.  Their behaviors in the moment are recorded and assessed, so there’s little arguing from the employee later about how they actually performed in the moment.

Pinsight has nailed it, looking at specific personality markers, level of learning agility and more isolating the metrics to measure a person’s potential to take on strategies that mean business success! The four telling metrics that measure an employee’s potential:

Current Skills – what skills does the employee have?

Motivation – is the employee motivated by the requirements of the strategy the company will be asking them to achieve in the role?

Learning Agility – does the employee have the propensity to learn the skills necessary?

Ease of Development – how easy is each “missing” skill to develop? How long will it take?

So if it’s a skill that aligns with an employee’s strengths, she’s motivated to do it, she’s ready to learn and the skill is one known through Pinsight’s scads of research to be “easier” to develop… she rates high on potential. Of course!

If it’s a skill that doesn’t align with an employee’s strengths, he’s not motivated to do it, he’s not ready and willing to learn and it’s a skill that is much more difficult to develop… he’s probably not your guy. Well, naturally!

Finally! The equation is solved.  If I may… BOOM.  “Potential” metrics defined.

 

Want to learn more? Join us for a complimentary webinar on March 16, 2016, that will look at measuring potential as it relates to succession planning.  Click here for more information and to register.

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