Key Factors for Developing High-Potential Employees

Strategies for developing future talent continue to focus on the capacity of the individual to be agile and adaptable to change. Key to understanding this ability for growth is the concept of Learning Agility. We live in a dynamic, constantly evolving world where organizational agility is critical. It requires that businesses be adaptable and with systems and processes that are responsive. It calls for leaders to be “learning agile” to support the organizational design and culture.The challenge for healthcare organizations is discovering what types of programs accelerate executive development and build learning agility. Programs that extend over multiple years provide an opportunity to see if developing talent in a multi-faceted manner improves the learner’s capacity to adapt and respond to the complexity of today’s healthcare challenges.

Many organizations are using learning agility as an identifier of an individual’s high potential. Research has shown that more than half the top talent companies use learning agility to identify high-potentials and to select senior executives (Church, A. H., Rotolo, C. T., Ginther, N. M., & Levine, R., 2015). The importance of learning agility has grown significantly throughout the business world since it helps identify future capabilities. A recent survey by the New Talent Management Network (2015) of the top talent-focused companies found that learning agility was the most frequently used criterion (62%) for measuring leadership potential.So, what is Learning Agility exactly? The definition of the term is “the ability and willingness to learn quickly, and then apply those lessons to perform well in new and challenging leadership situations.” (De Meuse, K. P., & Feng, S. (2015). A basic model of learning agility (De Meuse, K. P., & Feng, S., 2015) includes the core factors of Results Agility, People Agility, Mental Agility, Change Agility, and Self-Awareness as seen below:

Figure 1: The Learning Agility Model

These core factors determined the high potential’s capacity for agility and learning. Designing a leadership development program around each of these factors can assist the organization to strengthen the skills of the current high potential group, but also prepare for future succession and talent gaps. As the following model of professional development shows, it is important to develop leaders as they move through the organization. High potentials will exist throughout the entity. Depending on where they are today or plan to be in the future, learning agility assessment and development can improve their capacity to lead and grow. As the model indicates, as potential leaders move up in the organization, there will be more demand on their skills and ability to deliver. Additionally, as they advance, the level of complexity will also increase and the needs for agility and adaptability.

Figure 2: Model of Professional Development

Suggestions for Talent Development Professionals:

  1. Align assessments with your own unique leadership competency model. Communicate and reinforce comprehensive behaviors that make leaders successful in your company, so they find the assessment data relevant to their level in the organization.
  2. Don’t rely on the past. Learning is a dynamic process requiring new skills to meet new challenges. Keep the education fresh and up to date with the current needs of the organization.
  3. Provide continuous feedback that is behaviorally based so the high potentials can get the reinforcement they need, and the new behaviors will become part of how they do business daily. Don’t rely on annual reviews; make this process ongoing throughout the year.
  4. Identify and measure data that is both quantitative and qualitative. Allow for reflection time and journaling of progress. Initiate a development plan with action steps that are behaviorally based to measure progress and involving the boss as an integral member of their development.
  5. Share this methodology throughout the organization so all functions can participate in the learning process. Establish this model as the leadership development template for the up and comers as well as those leaders who wish to fine-tune their skills and keep current. Maintain continuous feedback.

References:Church, A. H., Rotolo, C. T., Ginther, N. M., & Levine, R. (2015). How are top companies designing and managing their high-potential programs? A follow-up talent management benchmark study. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 67(1), 17-47.Potential: Who’s doing what to identify their best? (2015). New York: New Talent Management Network.De Meuse, K. P., & Feng, S. (2015). The development and validation of the TALENTx7 Assessment™: A psychological measure of learning agility. Shanghai: Leader’s Gene Consulting, page 3.De Meuse, K. P., & Feng, S. (2015). The development and validation of the TALENTx7 Assessment™: A psychological measure of learning agility. Shanghai: Leader’s Gene Consulting.

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