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The article emphasises on the scarcity of qualified successors for key positions in a company.
The war for talent continues and the shortage is expected to continue for next two decades.
One popular strategy used by companies to retain and grow their talent pool is by
implementing programs aimed at high potentials. But these programs suffer from the
drawback of execution, confusing selection criteria, lack of transparency and attrition of
the trained employees. These failure causes risk of emerging resentment among people who
are solid performers and also fuelling distrust among workers. The author focuses on 4 key
elements for developing an effective employee development program.

Aligning development with strategy: Keeping in mind the situational nature of

potential, the author suggests that there is no one-size-fits-all approach and the nature
of effective programs is highly specific to the companys strategy and culture. Also,
the involvement of senior management in the process is crucial as it may motivate the
employees in the program. Hence, the matter should not be left to HR alone.
Selecting candidates carefully: Identifying promising candidates is extremely critical
as wrong selection not only it excludes strong potential candidates from the
development process but also undermines employee morale and credibility of the
program. Since performance and cannot be used as a proxy for potential, the best way
to select high potential employees is to use annual appraisal along with reference and
behavioural interviews. External assessment also decreases the chances of biases. The
person conducting the assessment is as important as the method adopted.
Communicate wisely: Most of the companies hesitate to inform openly because their
processes are perceived as subjective and faulty. However, it is no secret to employees
as most of them know it without official information. The author suggests that
transparency is the best method. It will enhance the retention and productivity of the
talent. This can be done directly through private meetings or indirectly by suggesting
enrolment in special programs.
Develop and reward thoughtfully: The program needs to go beyond the formal
educational training format. Its useful to involve senior management as teachers, as
they act as role model for the potential talents. Author says that on-job-training are
more effective for development and hence most common methods used by companies
are job rotation. The change in scope and responsibility provides a greater learning
experience. The author disregards very high financial incentives as it surely
demotivates the other employees.

The article also talks about the essentials of executive potential and claims that potential
is situational. The potential for executives contain 5 elements as depicted in the figure
below. With attributes like motive, leadership assets and identity being harder to change
and skills and knowledge being highly teachable. Hence, the three qualities become
essential for high potential.


The article not just includes various practices happening currently, but also contains
various further suggestions which authors provide for a better process. For e.g.
currently companies use annual appraisals along with personality test to select new
talents but authors dont support this practice. They believe that personality test have
low validity and suggest to use behavioural interviews instead.
Authors also give strong emphasis on adopting transparency while declaring the high
potentials but the reason for this assumption is not strongly supported in the text. The
article ends on the note that these practices are not full-proof or time tested and
hence its upon the discretion of the reader how to absorb it and make use of it for
their own benefit.
Authors argue that transparency wins over secrecy but in any real life situation it is
an uncomfortable job for a manager to distinguish between its employees. Practicing
the act of transparency is much more complex than in theory.
Authors emphasize on the contextual nature of potential and suggest ways of
developing effective programs for retaining the high potentials. Although the methods
suggested by the author are not time tested and some may be difficult to implement in
real life.