Developing a High Potential Talent Pipeline? Don’t be Blinded by Likeability

Want your organization to succeed in today’s business environment? Leverage these tips to ensure you’re developing the right high potential talent to fill your talent pipeline.

I have been fascinated by the growing use of baseball analytics and how players are evaluated in the new paradigm and science of baseball. This is the most evident in how teams are progressing players through the minor leagues quickly and how effectively this young “high potential” talent is performing at the major league level. The parallels to businesses outside of professional baseball are intriguing. The science of assessing high potentials has grown considerably in the past decade, but a key part of that evaluation must be performance —and what we’re learning from baseball metrics can be helpful.

Accelerating high potential talent is a desire voiced by almost all Right Management clients. The changing generational dynamics, the rise of more independents, and the entrepreneurial spirit of GenXers and Millennials are creating a pain point of considerable acuity for companies. The business need to build an internal talent pipeline has never been more urgent than it is today. The question then becomes: in whom are you going to invest?

Back in the day, candidates were generally chosen based on performance and often, unfortunately, favoritism. But, the pendulum has swung the other way and today the emphasis is overly focused on potential and not enough on performance. As one executive recently said to me, “How do we know who we want you to assess and develop? We can’t afford any mistakes.” The answer is to move towards a balanced evaluation that incorporates relevant performance criteria.

In the race to complete succession planning charts, fill talent pipelines, and populate high potential (HiPo) programs, many organizations have forgotten about performance and are nominating people based on “likeability.” Sure, we all want future leaders who are likeable, but is that a priority selection criteria? It is even more pronounced when new talent to the organization (less than two years on board) is nominated into HiPo programs. In those instances companies too often base nominations on likeability, first impressions, and short term results and observations. They have not yet seen how the person performs under duress or viewed leadership or project performance with a lens to future sustainability. A wise CHRO once said to me the toughest areas to gauge new talent and potential are in sales and in marketing. In those fields likeability is in the forefront and often promotions or nominations to high potential programs happen before the mettle has been tested.

Here are some key areas to focus on when evaluating performance as criteria for high potential nomination. An underlying theme to all is business acumen which is best judged through monitoring performance. Does the person:



Developing high potential talent is an essential element to succeeding in today’s business environment. That starts with nominating the right people and not being blinded by the aura of the new “golden” employee who has yet to be tested and proven as a solid performer over a two year period. Balancing the scorecard to make sure the performance element is incorporated into your nomination process can help you select optimal candidates and avoid likable, but costly, mistakes.

Related Articles:
How to Unleash the High Potential Talent in Your Organization
Stocking the High Potential Talent Pool: Are You Selective Enough?
High Potential Talent: Identifying and Turning Potential into Reality