Last year I wrote a post entitled Who Do You Love that examined how 70% of the high potentials identified at any given company are 'false positives,' either because they aren't committed to the company or because they're unable to succeed at the next level.
That's a lot of false positives, especially when you consider the investment (some) companies make to develop and engage top talent. Or when you consider a company that makes similarly poor investment decisions in other areas of the business will soon be out of business.
Talent investmentment decisions are tricky because if you invest based on performance alone, you may not be developing people who are committed to the organization or have the skills to perform at the next level. Whereas if you try to base your decision on potential, you run the risk of alienating skilled workers who may start looking for a more appreciative company to work for.
No one said it was easy.
It's also something of a catch 22 because most people will work harder to achieve their own goals than they will to achieve company goals, which is why most companies tend to develop people who are passionate about their own success. Unfortunately, this leads us into 'false positive' territory because people who are passionate about their own success are also prone to leave for greener pastures.
They're not bad people, they just happen to be in a better position to negotiate a superior deal for themselves thanks to your company's generous investment in their development.
Ideally, companies want to develop people who are skilled, ambitious without being completely self-centered and not likely to jump ship at the first opportunity. Which leaves several choices: 1) Be prepared to outbid the other guy in terms of rewards and development; 2) Have such a great company culture that no one wants to leave; and 3) Develop people who either require less development or are unlikely to leave for other reasons.
Since it's not always possible or desirable to outbid the other guy and enough has been said about company culture to fill thousands of recycling bins let's focus on 3). Here goes:
Companies tend to overlook a fair amount of ready talent when developing their list of high potentials. They either skip a generation, assuming people who didn't make the fast track five or ten years ago aren't worth developing today, or they dismiss people who don't fit the standard mold such as remote and part-time employees.
Take a closer look at your workforce. Maybe Barbara's kids just left for college and she's ready to apply her impressive multi-tasking and organizational skills to a new role. Or maybe over the last few years Frank has developed deep expertise in his role. As experienced professionals Barbara and Frank require less formal development than typical hi pos and if you ignore them you may lose them. Literally or just mentally.
Also be on the lookout for high performers who have as many reasons as possible to stick around after you've invested in their development. Working mothers spring to mind here because in addition to all the criteria the average employee must consider when deciding on an offer, working mothers – or fathers, if they are the primary care giver - must also factor in commuting time and work flexibility.
As an added bonus, they tend to cost less because changing jobs for a higher salary typically means a longer commute and less flexibility.
Bottom line: When it comes to workforce development, look for the hidden gems in your organization, the people who have unexpected skills and experience, are ready for a new challenge and are more likely to remain with your organization.
Laura Schroeder is a global talent specialist at Workday, headquartered in Pleasanton, CA. She has nearly fifteen years of experience envisioning, designing, developing, implementing and evangelizing global Human Capital Management (HCM) solutions and holds a certificate in Strategic Human Resources Practices from Cornell University.
Thanks to Laura Schroeder / Compensation Café