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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’s increasingly complex business environment requires organizations to make challenging decisions about an employee’s long-term potential. These decisions are often made on little more than one manager’s opinion. Unfortunately, the term “potential” 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––roles 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 “have potential” 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––roles 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’s 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.

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Responding to our clients’ need for best practice tools and processes in these areas, Aon has developed a series of cutting-edge talent solutions. For example, our LEADeR™ 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™ approach to identify and develop their high potential talent.

Aon Consulting FORUM

February 2004

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In addition, Aon’s Performance Pathfinder™ Web-based employee development portal includes easy-to-use modules for talent management, performance management, multi-rater surveys, and numerous development resources. Performance Pathfinder™ is currently supporting the talent and performance management needs of organizations such as Toyota, Avnet, Underwriter Laboratories, Aon, and many others. Making the right people decisions is incredibly difficult. Best practice tools and processes can strengthen the odds that organizations will develop and place the right people in the right positions to lead them into the future. ####

Aon Consulting FORUM

February 2004