More than one-quarter of U.S. employers not trying to spot high potentials: Survey

Many using informal approach
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 08/11/2011

More than one-quarter of large organizations in the United States make virtually no attempt to identify their high-potential employees, according to a survey of more than 500 senior managers and executives conducted by AMA Enterprise.

Twenty-seven per cent of respondents said their organization makes minimal or no effort to identify high-performing contributors, while 48 per cent said their endeavors are adequate. Just one in five (21 per cent) said their organization’s program to spot future leaders is extensive.

“At a time when organizations are struggling to build their leadership pipeline, retain top performers and plan for management succession, it’s ironic that so many are ineffective at the first step, which is to find the most promising employees,” said Sandi Edwards, senior vice-president for AMA Enterprise. “The most striking finding, in my view, is that half of organizations don’t seem really committed to holding onto their best talent and developing these people to contribute at higher levels of performance.”

The survey also explored how organizations approach the high-potential employee challenge. Forty-four per cent of respondents said they approach it informally, eight per cent said they use a systematic approach and 42 per cent said a combination of informal and systematic.

“When we learn that so many companies rely on informal methods, the alarm bell should sound,” said Edwards. “Informal is often just explaining away a lack of rigor.”

Organizations use a variety of methods, typically more than one, in order to discover their promising leaders, found the survey. Performance appraisals are the most common method used, according to 74 per cent of survey respondents, followed by recommendation of senior managers (69 per cent), innovative contribution to the business (42 per cent), talent assessment (35 per cent) and input from peers (35 per cent).

Finding and developing promising employees should be at the core of every company’s talent management strategy, said Edwards.

“There are obvious reasons, but the key one may be the messages management sends to its workers… that they’re valued, that they have a future, and that the organization has a stake in their career. If employees don’t understand the key roles they play, how can management expect to have an engaged workforce or be surprised when the best employees decide to leave?”

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