Once the team is in place, it is generally up to the managers to continue to monitor members’ development. They seek to identify those individuals likely to contribute most to the company. Especially in a smaller startup, it is helpful to recognize exceptional competency while the operation is still in its early stages. With an eye on the future, management can lay the groundwork for optimal performance later.
Different characteristics drive success
Your star employees may exhibit diverse qualities and traits, depending on the company, the business or even the department. In some cases, doers who deliver results may be the key to the firm’s success; in other businesses or industries, creativity and innovation set the firm apart. The first challenge is to realize the components vital for a company’s success.
You first need to define talent in a business context. Many organizations benefit from a combination of skill sets. Maybe 80% of the workforce is made up of dependable, productive performers, with the other 20% providing that extra spark of brilliance. A company needs more than a collection of elite superstars. Therefore, HR focuses on the variety of roles and which people can match those needs. For example, a sales business requires employees with an ability to persuade and cultivate relationships, while hospitality employees need to solve operational problems quickly and attend to details rigorously.
It is also important to distinguish between today’s performance and tomorrow’s potential. Every employee does not come fully fledged, and a company must clarify the connection between current and prospective performance in its field. A truly effective manager will observe behaviors and project to envisage how an employee might develop.
The ultimate goals are broader than immediate promotions. The whole organization benefits when it can retain its long-term A team by steadily progressing the team into more senior roles. Incorporating available talent into the long-term plan can galvanize engagement and leadership across the ranks.
After you have decided how you will measure potential, you will need to monitor progress among those identified as high-potential individuals. Many companies simply rely on the instincts of management and look to ad hoc observations for predicting the paths their most dynamic workers are destined to follow.
There are also some tools available to help quantify a range of elusive personality traits. The High Potential Trait Indicator, created in 2006 by Adrian Furnham and Ian McRae, predicates its model on theoretically optimal characteristics for a given job. The model scores appropriate levels for:
- Openness to risk.
On the cultural side, there may be fewer official tests, but managers should also watch for signs of common values among their workforce. Members who share the organization’s mission and values will be more receptive to camaraderie and more likely to remain loyal. A strong employee value proposition acts as a recruiting magnet too. If you provide promotion opportunities for a variety of positions, you may pick up clues as to who in the group is keen to keep moving ahead within the ranks.
How does an innately talented team member behave, and what features distinguish them from their colleagues? You will probably recognize the signs of a self-starter who:
- Is comfortable taking initiative and does not need micromanagement.
- Is team oriented.
- Is cooperative and collaborative with others.
- Has a strong work ethic.
- Is trusted by peers.
- Has high personal standards for performance.
- Has a proactive drive toward continuous improvement.
- Demonstrates expertise, competency and craftsmanship.
- Thinks creatively, bringing fresh perspectives to challenges.
- Exudes positive energy.
- Is adaptable and flexible — they can accept being wrong and value feedback.
- Thrives under pressure.
- Has superior decision-making ability, sorting through complexity and ambiguity, making patterns and drawing connections.
- Asks insightful questions.
There is another key quality that sometimes trumps all these capabilities: In the end, you want someone on your team who stays cool and collected under fire. Emotional intelligence is the gift of self-awareness — the sensitivity to read situations and react appropriately.