Did you know that managing your high potential talent can be made easier simply by using a trusted work measurement methodology?

High potential employees represent both a challenge and a risk for businesses. Having a healthy pipeline of highly skilled individuals with potential, prepares an organisation for change and increases its ability to take advantage of new opportunities for growth, new ventures and mergers and acquisitions. However high potential employees often set their sights on an accelerated career movement that they might not be ready for or might not come as quickly as they would like. Unfortunately, the speed of these two events may not meet either parties’ needs, resulting in understaffing for critical roles and turnover of the employees that an organisation wants (and needs) to keep.

Balancing business with individual needs

So why is this so difficult to get right? To put it simply, HR and Talent Managers are struggling to identify the critical next steps that challenge their high potentials. In a period of a flat economy and slow growth, managers are looking for the most experienced and safest candidate rather than taking a risk on a high potential employee. Similarly, large complex organisations with many different brands and customer groups often only look within their own silo for talent. Getting a broader view of opportunities across the organisation is needed, but it can be difficult for HR and employees to identify the potential growth positions. In addition, the delayering of organisations means there are now even greater gaps in the required experience and capabilities between roles at different levels. Too much ‘stretch’ between roles can lead to people failing or burning out.

Lastly the biggest risk to the high potential, as well as the business, is the situation where a high potential employee is put into a role that they are unprepared for. For example, giving a brilliant marketing person a role managing both sales and marketing teams without critical leadership or management skills or experience. Failure here can mean increased turnover of the team, poor business results and a high potential individual completely devastated and defeated.

The key is in measuring work

The GFC and the current flat economy has led to organisations stripping out roles that would represent smaller career steps for high potentials. This means that reaching the next step is now much harder and requires more skills, knowledge and experience to make that move. But here is how work measurement can help. Using a proven methodology like ’s job evaluation, the capability gaps in roles can be identified in the critical areas of technical knowledge, breadth of management, problem solving and the impact of the role on the business. These assessments can help HR to identify where a new role might be created to provide a career step for the high potential, or to identify moves across the organisation that might represent a stretching but not an overwhelming step for a high potential. By understanding the work performed and what type of person will succeed in each particular role, high potentials can have a clear career path.

For example, a large Australian retailer developed a career framework to evaluate and understand work across its brands and customer groups. Their career map based on a broadband methodology provides a roadmap across their many divisions for employees to plot their career journey and access information about the role. This can help both managers and employees to identify and share talent across the business. An additional benefit is the cross fertilisation of innovative business practices across the organisation.

In another FMCG organisation, examining the evaluation of their roles showed a huge gap in the levels of management. Rapid growth over the last five years had expanded the senior executive roles to a point where spans of control are large and there were no roles in between that represent a stepping stone to the more senior roles. Matching this evaluation to the assessment of a group of identified high potentials in the business made this issue even more apparent, as very few in the group could manage a promotion to a senior level without more significant experiences locally and internationally and additional technical and leadership development.   Without this analysis and the development of several ‘stepping stone’ roles, the organisation would have continued to overstretch their lean executive team, frustrate their group of identified high potentials and fail to prepare their organisation for future growth.

Here are the key steps organisations need to take to manage their high potential talent:

  1. Use work measurement to identify where there are gaps in the levels of the organisation.
  2. Identify where new roles can be created, or where side moves can be made across the organisation.
  3. Create accurate job descriptions for these roles, including the skills, knowledge and capabilities required to succeed in them.
  4. Discuss with each high potential employee their current role and plot their career journey.
  5. Provide tailored training and development to ensure high potential talent are on track to make that next step.

Companies spend much time and energy making strategic business plans and decisions, however less time is spent studying the effectiveness of the current structure and the potential talent that they will need to deliver these plans. Using tools such as job evaluation and assessment processes can provide significant insight into the organisation as it is today and on the roles and capabilities it will need to deliver in the future.

Comparing the work that needs to be done with the capabilities of your people can take the risk out of key talent management decisions. Preparing for the future doesn’t need to be risky business for either the organisation or the high potential employee. Work measurement combined with assessment tools will help you to understand how best to develop talent, and how best to design jobs ensuring that high potentials stay motivated and committed.

For the majority of our clients, work measurement and reward go hand in hand. In fact for some organisations, it has only ever been used for this purpose – assigning a level of pay to a role. The reality is that work measurement is far more powerful: it provides our clients with a great foundation for talent management, career-pathing, succession planning, and organisation design, and helps to answer questions around the fit between the role and the individual.

We hope these articles broaden your view of the role that work measurement can play in your organisation. With just a small amount of effort, a framework that you might already have in place can deliver greater value and insights than you ever imagined.

Work measurement explained: Watch 'A question of job evaluation'


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