At a recent professional conference I attended there was a lot of talk about high potentials. Specifically, how to best measure potential versus actual performance (good luck getting managers to understand the difference). The idea of identifying high potentials (HiPos) is critical for a couple of reasons:
- If you are going to do good succession planning, you need to look at people based on their potential to be leaders at the next level (or for the first time) and not just how well they are doing in the current position.
- Investing training dollars in HiPos will give you a much better return than the investment in lower performers. High performers got that way because they are continuous learners who welcome feedback.
But, do companies really do a good job of identifying HiPos? This article suggests that they do not. Using 360 feedback as a metric, the authors conclude that many of those selected into HiPo programs are not rated well on important leadership dimensions. How does this happen?
- Companies use the wrong data to identify HiPos. Our tendency is to use current performance to determine future performance. And, if looking at a person’s potential in that job, this would be the best predictor. But, it is not a good predictor if you’re trying to determine if a great individual contributor will be a good manager, or if a good manager will be a good executive. The skill sets are too different.
- I allude to it above, but companies place too much weight on factors that are not related to potential. I understand that it is hard to put blinders on and only focus on those attributes that would indicate success in another role (e.g., strategic thinking), but it is critical to do so in identifying HiPos.
The best way to combat this is to identify future success factors, such as strategic thinking and developing effective followers, in your organization. If succession planners are presented with only this type of relevant data (as opposed to everything that might come out of a 360 or assessment center), it is more likely that those with the highest potential will be put into the HiPo pool.
When a consumer brand, especially a national one, looks for new hires, they are doing more than acquiring talent. They are making an impression on their customer base as much as any other piece of advertising. That in and of itself is not a revelation (or, at least it shouldn’t be). Rather, consider how much that information has been used in designing recruiting tools or assessments.
This is important because some of these companies will come in contact with a million or more potential candidates and customers. While HR may loathe the idea of working with marketing (data vs. feelings) on recruitment and selection, there are some inherent advantages, including:
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- Using language that will attract the target audience. The marketing department probably knows more about reaching those who are attracted to the company than HR does. This can increase the effectiveness or your recruitment outreach.
- Making Awesome Realistic Job Previews. At the risk of over-generalizing, most HR departments are much better at describing a job than getting people excited about one. Sure, an RJP should discourage those who would not be a good fit, but it should also grab the attention of those who maybe would not have considered the job to increase the talent pool from which you are drawing. A marketing perspective is likely to help design RJPs to attract job seekers.
- Following-up With Non-Selected Candidates. Let’s face it, you are likely to reject more candidates than you hire. Not following up with them hurts your brand. And you want to keep them as (potential) customers, right? Marketing can likely help you craft messages in a way that leave the person with a positive feeling about the brand so that they will become customers (or stay that way).
HR has an important job to do when recruiting and selecting talent. Yet, it should be mindful that its messaging can have as much impact on customers as anything that comes out of the marketing department. Reaching across departments can add some expertise that will make recruitment and selection more effective. And, who knows, maybe they will ask for your advice in the future.
I am going to write about an issue with political ramifications while doing my best not to be political, so please accept these thoughts in that light.
One thread going through the proposed ban on legal immigration to the U.S. is the effect it will have on the tech industry. Those companies are concerned that some of the talent they need from other countries will be unable to either enter the U.S. on an H-1 visa or be allowed to immigrate here.
Another issue that the tech industry has struggled with is hiring a diverse workforce in the U.S. Much has been made of the lack of women and (domestic) minorities in the tech field.
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However, there are more programs to teach tech skills to minorities and girls than you can shake a stick at. A Google search of “minority tech training” garnered almost 18 million hits and “girls tech training” got 198 million. So, there is not a shortage of opportunities to obtain coding or other tech skills in the U.S. and these programs have created a pipeline of talent. Likewise, there are specific tech incubator programs for women and minorities who want to start their own companies.
Why is all of this important? Primarily because for a company to be innovative it needs to look at the world through a window and not a straw. There are more tech users outside of the U.S. than inside, so to be successful internationally companies need foreign talent. Shutting our borders and wanting our companies to compete overseas is a difficult problem to solve. Women and minorities outnumber white males in the U.S., so the companies that harness those perspectives are likely to be the most successful ones.
So, what might be the barriers to connecting talent to opportunity?
- Hiring like us. I’ve written before about the built in bias we all have of wanting to be with others who have a similar background. This is very prevalent when it comes to which schools the person attended, which sports s/he played, etc. This can be alleviated by:
- Removing names from resumes.
- Removing schools and extra-curricular activities from resumes, unless you have data supporting their use (and the literature on the validity of training and experience measures is not encouraging).
- Recruiting where you have never recruited before. For instance, go to schools that are not currently represented in your workforce.
- Candidates being unfamiliar with the hiring process. In our bubbles we think that every step of the hiring process is normal. But, to use a tech example, if I come from an area without many tech companies, I might not be familiar with “whiteboarding” code problems as part of an interview. Being transparent about the steps and letting people know what to expect removes a potential barrier between you and a qualified candidate.
- Hiring processes that invite bias. Whether it is how you score your interviews or evaluate resumes, having an evaluation rubric will reduce bias.
- Echo chambers on interview panels. Have diverse points of view (e.g., people from different departments) on your interview panel. This is likely to encourage meaningful follow-up questions, even within a structured interview.
I do not think that lowering standards is an appropriate response to creating a more diverse and innovative workforce. Building walls (metaphorical or otherwise) makes the problem worse. Rather, companies need to build more bridges to find qualified candidates to bring different perspectives to their organizations. Yeah, I get that it is more work, but a competitive marketplace demands it.