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A High Potential Future (Episode 3)

Authored by: Roger Pearman

Toward a Bold Future (Episode 3)Ten months into her exploration about employee learning needs and her thinking about succession planning, Lillian asked, “What if we have some really special people here who have been missed—people who have extra special capabilities that we are missing because we are not looking for that? Isn’t it likely that we have some people who could learn to run this company years ahead who are in the mix?”

Like all executives thinking about the future, Lillian wanted to know if there was a way to identify the talent she already had. When she was introduced to KSAP—the Knowledge Skills Attributes of Potentials library—to identify those with exceptional capabilities, she came out of her chair and said, “Tell me more!”

There had never been any real systematic approach to talent development in Lillian’s company, and as she implemented parts of a talent management system, she reported greater comfort in the future of the company. When the “talent talk” process was introduced, she expressed that perhaps her company was too small; however, she agreed to give it a try. Once explained to her what the ideal process would be, she asked her Chief People Promoter (Lillian refused to call it HR) to create a talent development committee that would develop and manage the process.

Talent talk conversations need to be about identifying the capabilities of employees and identifying the kinds of experiences they needed to further their development and enrich the abilities to run the business more completely. We (TeamTelligent) explained that talent conversations need to be tightly held and managed discussions that look both at evidence about the capabilities of identified future key players and identifying the assignment that would further the agenda of their growth. The supervising manager(s) would be informed that the employees they supervise need particular kinds of assignments to strengthen the employees’ capabilities.

It was explained that KSAP (Knowledge, Skills, and Attributes of Potential) has two levels of use. The first is to use the Career Path Report, in which managers who have worked with individuals rate 12 markers of performance and 25 practices of individuals with potential. The report that is generated uses a formula to produce a score. Further, the report provides a direct look at key drivers of behavior and asks three additional key questions about employee mobility, alignment with company culture and company values. This report goes to the manager of the talent conversation process and NOT to the managers who completed it or to the individual about whom it was completed. The goal is to have one person organize the data and plan the conversation about those employees who initially were identified as potential key players.

A second use of the KSAP library is to do a traditional 360, which produces a report for the individual to see and to use in personal developmental planning. This is the Career Development Report, and while no special report is generated using an algorithm to produce a score, it is useful to have individuals prioritize what needs to be addressed to strengthen their overall development. It is recommended to use this report several months after the Career Path Report has been utilized, and to use it only on those who have made it into the high potential pool.

The evidence from multiple companies has shown that using all 12 markers and 25 drivers of the KSAP library greatly increases the correct identification of strong talent and allows for a clear plan on the experience they need. We were able to show the link between assignments and capability development, which needed to be monitored and measured as the individual worked through the assignments.

Lillian understood why the use of terms like “high potential” could be a challenge in the business, and she knew that doing this was going to be essential to build the succession needed for business sustainability. She carefully launched the talent management team. The processes that are going to be put into place had to be understood and actively managed by this team. The CPP was going to be the central organizer and manager of the talent development initiative. Lillian said, “why not initially assess everybody? We may have a somewhat undemonstrative individual contributor who could run this place in 20 years. The more I think about it, that is just what I want you to do. Have a Career Path Survey completed on everyone below the senior managers on down.”

All of the managers were informed that they were going to be asked to rate a number of employees on some career-related factors. The reports were going to be useful in planning additional training and to foster conversations about career opportunities. They were asked to complete the surveys on the individuals they were asked to rate. A group and summary report would be available to prompt discussion on general developmental needs.

Lillian announced in one of her townhall meetings that she wanted to launch a new focus on talent development. After the first few surveys, people started asking, “What is this about?” Lillian shared with all of the employees that, through the advice of various experts, she was using a process for talent development that meant looking long-term at the kinds of learning experiences folks need to help run the business. Some she said might never want to run aspects of the business and others might want the kinds of experiences that would prepare them. She explained that she was excited about the initiatives so far and the improvements she had seen, and she believed this new process might add to that growth and sustainability of the enterprise.

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