Recognising top talent

A common HRM (Human Resource Management) practice adopted by companies is to map their human assets on a performance vs. potential matrix. Typically referred to as the 9-box matrix, this continually updated map, relied upon as a readily implementable tool, is frequently deployed to actively manage the talent pipeline, including succession planning, and capacity building. People, who are categorised as high potential – high performers, are categorised as top talent.

In order to be considered top talent in your organisation, and by association, be labelled as a star player within your industry, it is important that you pay attention to your performance as well as the potential you hold and display. Mapping people on the basis of performance is relatively easier than on the basis of potential. This is the reason why most people who have been good performers but failed to meet the standards set for potential, often find themselves relegated to the backwoods of the HR pool.

So let’s have a look at the performance and potential denoting factors that combine to evidence a star player. If we were to start with performance first (because it’s quite simple and straightforward in most cases), star players would let “their numbers do the talking”. Simply put, you would find that they almost always over deliver on targets or expectations. These players do not put up numbers for the sake of numbers. Their work output is always timely, usually flawless and seldom requiring any rework. Star performers are technically skilled, have a deep subject matter understanding and usually have a strong network of support both within the organisation and outside from customers.

So, with performance addressed, let us now examine the more “elusive” measure of potential. Potential, from an HR perspective is defined as a perceived capacity to successfully perform a certain task to completion. Potential is usually “perceived” or “felt”, because it is a measure of forecasting a person’s capacity to do a certain job. Perceptions are based on much more than what meets the eye. Like the tip of an iceberg, a person’s real potential may be hidden from open view like the rest of an iceberg under water. This could be for a multitude of reasons, which we shall discuss at some other occasion.

Today, we are concerned with how to manage perceptions given the circumstances at hand, rather than working to alter the circumstances. When it comes to perception building and evidencing potential, it is important that talent, potential and capacity is displayed in physical presentation, demeanour, ideas, and actions. These are the four most distinguishing factors that define potential.

Why begin with physical presentation, if what we are actually trying to assess is potential you ask? Well the answer is simple and clichéd. Appearance is important. It is outward and obvious. It is the first thing people would notice about any person or object; the starting point for perception building. Star performers are careful to manage their appearance in line with the requirements of the task at hand or the job role they are in.

When it comes to demeanour, star performers are not simply just extroverts or introverts. They are what you might call ambiverts. They have a marked ability to adjust their approach in interacting with people, enabling them to have more deeper and fruitful relationships, with a much wider variety of people. They are highly focused when the times call for it and all-encompassing when they feel it is necessary to work within a wider net. Needless to say they are very approachable, usually polite and often quite helpful and supportive. However the most important and distinguishing factor you would detect in a true high potential is that they would never be heard berating their team or whining about circumstances.

Which brings us to the third factor…ideas. High potentials have the uncanny knack of looking at challenges as opportunities, for making the best out of the worst and for making sure that those around them are motivated despite the odds. They exude enthusiasm for innovation, a drive to excel and an above average urge to outperform themselves. Above all they display an awe inspiring capability to learn more and more, a trait that is unmatched by their peers.

Last (but certainly not because it is the least important), we will come to actions displayed by high potential. High potentials “always” act swiftly and with grace. They are quick to celebrate their achievement inwardly and express gratitude to the team & stakeholders. They act with a sense of purpose and they act do get things done, not highlight or pin point issues and bottle necks that you see is most evident in low potential resources. They will let you know what challenges they face if you ask them, they will approach their network for support, but they will decide and they will act to get the best outcome possible. Fear of a negative outcome doesn’t usually hold them back, because they have failed and they take failure as a part of life not the end of it. They don’t just take initiative when faced with a tough situation; they take initiative whenever they have the time. This is what sets them apart from the rest of people who have ideas and thoughts but lack the courage to act.

Our team at Vector Partners Pvt. Ltd. is passionate about equipping the youth of Pakistan with the tools they need to hit the ground running fresh out of school, colleges and universities and provide them with insights into the trappings they would have to possess, to be a sought-after human asset for any enterprise. Feel free to contact us for information on coaching, mentoring & capacity building programs.

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