Are you overlooking your company’s next great leaders?

By Victoria Miller

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Learn How to Identify Your Organization's High-Potential Employees with Future Leadership Potential


Identifying future leadership talent is common practice for most global enterprises, but far too often, the criteria for what makes someone a "high potential" or "hi-po" is fuzzy at best, and deeply biased at worse.  

More often than not, organizations end up identifying and investing in the wrong people, while overlooking employees who possess the core foundational abilities that predict whether someone has the potential to grow into and succeed in leadership positions.   

According to the Harvard Business Review, more than 40% of individuals in high potential programs do not actually have strong leadership potential, and only 13% of senior executives have confidence in the rising leaders at their firms.  

Is it any wonder then that 50% of HR professionals lack confidence in their HiPo programs? 

Does that sound like you?   

As an HR professional focused on building the leadership bench at your organization, you might be feeling that same frustration, and you’ve likely run into these common pitfalls when identifying top talent: 

  • Frustrating 9-box exercises with no clear criteria for what potential really looks like  
  • Calibration sessions driven by gut feel and subjective opinion 
  • High-potential nominations from leaders based on like-me bias  
  • The idea that if someone is a great performer, they must have the potential to be a great leader   

It's all getting in the way of having a fair and objective view of whether someone is capable of developing into and succeeding in a leadership role. 

And it means that your organization is likely only investing in the development of a select group of people who are already visible to you when you could be missing out on hidden gems within your workforce of all races, genders, and backgrounds. 

It’s also risky from a retention standpoint, because if your organization can’t spot and start investing in employees with true potential, these overlooked and talented people may head to other companies – even competitors – and hit their stride. And that’s bad for business since organizations with stronger leaders can show twice the revenue and twice the profit growth. 

So, how do you ensure that you’re not overlooking your company’s next great leaders?  

Here are 3 ways to guarantee that your company doesn’t miss out on valuable high-potential talent:


1. Use science to reveal potential 

An organization’s ability to effectively identify high-potential employees starts with one key question: How do you know if someone has leadership potential? 

While you’ve undoubtedly heard many opinions on the subject, the real answer lies in science – drawing from decades of proven industrial/organizational (I/O) psychology research.   

Plum’s team of I/O psychologists, in conjunction with renowned researchers at Central Michigan University, developed a comprehensive leadership model that lays out six dimensions that predict whether someone has the potential to grow into and perform well in leadership roles:  

  • Drive: The motivation to advance through one’s career and perform well despite challenges. 
  • Empowerment: The ability to inspire high performance by communicating a vision, developing others, and promoting social support. 
  • Learning Agility: The ability to learn from experience and use that knowledge to excel in new situations. 
  • Presence: The tendency to emerge as a leader because of social skills that make one feel comfortable taking charge. 
  • Composure: The ability to demonstrate emotional self-control and steadiness, particularly in stressful situations. 
  • Self-Confidence: The belief that one can succeed in a variety of work, interpersonal, and leadership situations. 

With its robust and proven set of criteria, Plum’s Leadership Potential solution brings accuracy and consistency to how organizations identify high-potential talent, while stripping away bias.   

By assessing employees against one model, organizations gain an objective and fair picture of leadership potential that is highly predictive and legally defensible.   

What’s more, Plum’s research has found that there are no meaningful differences in results based on gender, ethnicity or region, meaning that an individual’s true potential shines through, no matter who they are or where they’re from. 


2. Leverage technology to dig deep into your workforce  

A scientifically robust leadership model is critical to accurately identifying high-potential talent, but it’s often limited by how well it can scale across an organization.  

In many companies, employees are given lengthy and expensive assessments to support their development only after they’ve already been identified as high-potential, which only perpetuates the problem of promising talent being overlooked because of subjectivity and bias, and feeds a lack of diversity on leadership teams. 

The secret to ensuring that no potential leader gets overlooked is to assess every employee for leadership potential – quickly, easily, and cost-effectively.   

Sound impossible? It’s not.  

Plum combines proven science and powerful technology to enable organizations to look deep into their workforces to objectively identify, retain and start developing future leaders earlier in their careers.   

Leveraging the results of Plum’s single assessment, you can instantly assess each employee against the Plum Leadership Potential Model and create an objective dataset that you can use to inform calibration discussions, build succession plans, and prioritize employee development. 


3. Follow through on development 

Objectively identifying high potential employees is critical, but it means nothing if companies aren’t taking meaningful action to develop those individuals for future leadership roles.  

Not following through on developing high-potentials is more common than you might think. Many organizations are guilty of tracking high-potentials on clumsy spreadsheets that they pull out once a year to review without taking any meaningful action, and only 11% of companies that currently have a high potential program are very satisfied with its performance.  

There is a better way.  

What if you could map the ideal career path for each of those people and supercharge their growth by predicting where they’ll be successful in promotions, stretch assignments and other developmental opportunities?  

Plum empowers you to follow through on developing your high potential employees, by quantifying job fit to match them to the right roles and offering them personalized insights that will help them grow into the great leaders that they are destined to become.  


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