As high potential employees grow and develop, the organization experiences stronger employee engagement and opportunities to implement strategic initiatives.  Before investing in strategies to develop high potential employees, organizations should have a process for defining employees with high potential and determining the appropriate investment for those employees.

Most of our clients do not have a specific process for assessing which employees are high potential.  In our experience, high potential employees have the following characteristics:

Ability to Think Strategically: Strategic thinking skills are typically innate abilities that individuals possess and have developed through their personal experiences.

Dealing with Ambiguity: Employees who seek significant structure and prefer to have clear expectations for their work typically have more difficulty working in ambiguous roles.  A leader can provide an employee with a project with little instruction and undefined outcomes to evaluate the individual’s ability to deal with ambiguity.

Personal Initiative: To identify an employee’s initiative, a leader should provide “safe” opportunities for employees to take initiative.  Help employees understand that they will not be punished for failure and they will be given the support and tools needed to succeed.

Leadership Qualities: Compassion, integrity, stress tolerance, positivity, innovation, and personal accountability are just a few of the traits that are difficult to develop.  Consider the leadership qualities that are most critical in the organization and the employee’s core personality when evaluating their ability to be a future leader.

Willingness to Fail: Individuals who are open to failure are typically more comfortable taking risk, have a positive outlook towards change and continually seek challenging assignments.

Intellectual Curiosity: Assess an individual’s intellectual curiosity by providing capacity for them to understand new tasks or areas of the organization.  Evaluate what they do with that time – are they staying in their comfort zone or breaking into new areas to gain greater knowledge?

Before investing in an employee’s development, evaluating their ability to become a future leader is critical.