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Seven traits that mark out high-potential employees

JO Dunne and Dr Amanda Potter | People Management | 24 JULY 2017

This article was first published in People Management

PA Consulting Group’s Jo Dunne, a people and talent expert, and Dr Amanda Potter, CEO of BeTalent, discuss how to identify the people who could transform your organisation.

The article looks at how businesses need to invest in their future survival and growth by developing their existing employees – especially in the wake of Brexit and the resulting talent shortages. The key is in spotting those employees who are most likely to succeed.

Jo and Amanda suggest that employers need to know what they are looking for. Many talk about ‘talent’, ‘readiness’ and ‘potential’ interchangeably but they are very different and should be understood in their differentiated way.

They then go on to discuss the seven key traits that will help employers spot high-potential employees, which are estimated to account for only between 3 and 5 per cent of companies’ high-performing staff:

Behaviours – High-potential employees typically know how to learn, work well with others, are creative and, most importantly, are capable in unusual as well as familiar circumstances.

Expertise – High-potential should display the skills that fit well with the future requirements of the organisation. They are people who are more likely to be productive and engaged over the longer term, and help the business to grow.

Strengths – High-potential individuals have a clear understanding of what energises and excites them at work. If employees’ strengths are identified and aligned to what the business needs, their engagement, passion and belief in the company is likely to positively affect productivity.

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What talent wants?

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Tenets – High-potential employees will have personal values that broadly match the corporate values of the company. The degree to which an individual identifies with an organisation has a large impact on work motivation, performance and longevity.

Aspirations – Organisations need to look for individuals with a clear understanding of their long-term goals and ideas for the future. These aspirations should have some common ground with the long-term goals of the organisation.

Engagement – Current high potential employees are already likely to display high levels of engagement, and Amanda suggests that, based on BeTalent’s research, high performers tend to be more committed and engaged when they have a clear career pathway.

Intelligence – High potential employees will excel in cognitive, emotional and social intelligence. High-potential individuals are emotionally intelligent in several ways, including having an awareness of their strengths and weaknesses; and social intelligence is shown through trust in themselves and others. For cognitive intelligence employees possess creative problem solving skills.

Jo and Amanda conclude that high-potential employees need to be treated as individuals and a personalised approach to development should not be overlooked. PA’s recent report on what talent wants suggests that high-potential employees should be grouped into segments based on their motivations and aspirations and that this investment is likely to pay dividends in the future.

Jo Dunne is a people and talent expert at PA Consulting Group and Dr Amanda Potter is CEO of BeTalent

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