Despite high unemployment, the war for talent rages on. Only 15% of companies in North America and Asia feel they have enough qualified potential successors to fill their top jobs, and the picture is only slightly better in Europe. The best weapon companies can wield are programs that develop their “high potentials”—the people they hope to develop into their future leaders.
In a large-scale study of how companies assess and manage their rising stars, the authors have identified some guiding principles for developing high potentials. To begin with, all talent programs should clearly define what “high potential” means to them. Great performance is not enough; you must also envision yourself as a senior executive, have the right motives (the desire for positive impact), and possess leadership attributes such as the ability to derive insight and engage others. Firms also need to align their candidate selection to their strategy: A low-cost company will not need the same kind of talent as an enterprise bent on global expansion.
This article describes emerging best practices in executing high-potential programs, including the latest thinking on how to nominate and assess participants, design effective job rotations and stretch assignments, provide thoughtful rewards and incentives, and communicate about the program with the rest of the organization.
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