There is a Chinese proverb which says, “If you want one year of prosperity, grow grain. If you want 10 years of prosperity, grow trees. If you want 100 years of prosperity, grow people.” For long-term, sustainable success, organizations need to “grow people.” Talent succession is a task that is rapidly moving up the to-do list as talent shortages grow more pressing and competition for qualified, high-potential and high-performing people increases. How can organizations make sure they are preparing today for tomorrow?
If there are people in your organization who continually meet and exceed expectations, who prove that they can lead and influence, who are just good at what they do and continually strive to do better – do you let them know they are “high-potential” or “high-performing”? There is a big debate around this with sound points on each side. What are the pros and cons of letting your rising stars know they are on your radar?
One school of thought is that if you tell your high-potential people they have this status in the eyes of the organization, their heads will swell immediately, and their performance will be overshadowed by their ego. They will stop trying to prove themselves because they think their eminence is imminent. According to a large-scale Towers Watson survey, 72 percent of companies reported that they did not tell their employees if they have been labeled as “high-potential.” I tend to err on the side of telling these individuals – with a caveat. If you tell an individual that he/she is “high-potential,” you have to follow it up.
As we continue to work our way through the economic crisis, we hear much about dismal unemployment statistics. But we also face an equally troubling dilemma. There is not enough talent to fill key positions for many companies. Making the problem more urgent is that, by 2030, a third of Canada’s workforce will be retiring. The need to have the right people in place to help organizations navigate global competition, the economy, increased regulation, and other challenges is pressing. To ensure that talent is in place for tomorrow is one of today’s most important tasks.
In the early days of my career, I worked as a waitress. This is not always an easy job, but nor is it a complex one. A guest ordered a pizza from the menu. I gave the cooks the order, they made it, and I delivered it to the guest. There is not a great deal of complexity in this process though I could never manage to tell the difference between all-dressed and supremes and house specials! It was a very linear transaction. As we grow within our jobs and professions, often we are called on to make more complex decisions. Our ability to do so is a key factor in building a successful career, as well as contributing to the success of the organization.