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Insights Into Results-Oriented Human Resources Solutions
Aon Consulting FORUM
February 2004
Talent Solutions Article
Identifying and Developing High Potential Talent

Leading edge organizations succeed by leveraging their best talent. In fact, talent management is now a core
business process in many organizations seeking to maximize the value of their human capital. However,
identifying and developing the right leaders to handle today\u2019s increasingly complex business environment
requires organizations to make challenging decisions about an employee\u2019s long-term potential. These
decisions are often made on little more than one manager\u2019s opinion. Unfortunately, the term \u201cpotential\u201d often
lacks definition beyond considering the number of levels to which an employee is likely to be promoted.

Potential leaders emerge and develop their talents by taking
on high impact roles in organizations\u2013\u2013roles where failure
costs dearly and success is essential. Consequently,
choosing the right leaders to invest in offers tremendous
returns if done well and risks tremendous costs if done
poorly. This means true leaders emerge and hone their
talents over time and through the crucible of real world
experience. It also means that an insufficient or inaccurate
definition of what it means to \u201chave potential\u201d will lead to
costly executive derailments and missed opportunities to
invest in true talent.

Potential leaders emerge
and develop their talents
by taking on high impact
roles in organizations\u2013\u2013roles
where failure costs dearly
and success is essential.

Interestingly, organizations will put more effort into providing guidelines for how to fire an employee than defining how to identify high potential employees. The following best practices have been implemented by organizations to improve the management of high potentials:


Establish a clear definition of what it means to be high potential. Identify measurable criteria, not just high
potential for a given role. At a minimum, this involves establishing different criteria for general
management and technical career tracks and often extends to identifying high potential profiles for
different business segments or functions.
Implement a leadership competency model to guide the identification, development, performance
management, and rewards for high potential and other employees.
Conduct meaningful debate and reach consensus of multiple managers to identify and refine who is
considered high potential.
Rely on objective measures (e.g., assessment centers) to provide additional insight into an employee\u2019s true
potential for the long-term as well as his or her key development priorities.
Establish and get consensus on talent profile templates to provide a common framework for discussing and
determining opportunities for high potential employees.

Responding to our clients\u2019 need for best practice tools and processes in these areas, Aon has developed a series of cutting-edge talent solutions. For example, our LEADeR\u2122 assessment and development programs make it possible for organizations to be more systematic in the process of identifying and developing leaders rather than relying on outdated assessment and development strategies. Organizations such as American Express, Toyota, Sprint, Aon, Motorola, and others are leveraging the LEADeR\u2122 approach to identify and develop their high potential talent.

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