Companies refuse to acknowledge high potentials, top talents

MUMBAI: High-potential development is a growing priority for organisations in India, but nearly 49% of them don’t inform high potentials about their status, according to a recent survey by Harvard Business Publishing.

The survey was conducted among 37 public and private sector companies in India, including multinationals across sectors such as technology, BPO, pharmaceutical, consumer goods. The survey asked companies about high-potential programmes, needs, and trends.

“Many people are afraid that by acknowledging top talent they may not be able to retain them. There are several risks about doing it,” said Ray Carvey, executive vice-president – corporate learning and international, Harvard Business Publishing. It also depends on local issues, culture of the company, people who run it, among other factors, he said. Companies that raise concern about the identification of high potential employees argue that while open acknowledgement can lead to a greater motivation among employees, it can also potentially disengage others in the team.

“We believe that it is more productive to say yes in acknowledging top talent… the transparency helps in greater engagement,” said Carvey, adding that several companies do it in a subtle and disguised way in the form of incentives, opportunities and other things rather than overtly expressing it.

To create a sustainable pipeline strategy, the organisation has to inform high potentials that they are considered so, the survey said. Though there are obvious fears that stop organisations from doing that, in the long run, it will help develop better leaders in a transparent way.

For 69.4% of the organisations, development of top-notch talent and leadership pipeline within the organisation was one of the biggest three HR priorities for next year, while a mere 2.8% did not see it as a top priority. However, 22% of organisations do not yet have a high-potential programme in place.

The survey also showed a shift in skills that high potentials need to be developed on, with a greater focus on strategic thinking and execution. Most companies use a combination of performance reviews and manager-led assessment to identify high potentials.

Whereas any involvement by a leader in grooming an organisation’s high potential is welcome, India is still far away from ‘Leader as Teacher’ culture, the survey said. Effective high-potential programmes have leaders conducting workshops, the report said.

Companies can develop high potentials and create a leadership pipeline through a mix of innovative action learning, assessments and blended learning methodologies, says Carvey.

More than 50% of organisations are expecting 20% to 60 % of their leadership pipeline being built internally, while about 38% organisations expect 60% or more.

Best practice suggests that a robust high-potential programme comprises 100-plus hours of learning per person and by using blended learning, these hours can be covered without taking too much time away from work, the survey report said.

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