How to spot the most promising employees

Look for three key traits, say management experts

Look for three key traits, say management experts

Writing for Harvard Business Review, three established voices in the crowded world of management consulting attempt to simplify the daunting task of employee development by encouraging a focus on three clear indicators of potential.

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Seymour Adler and Robert B. Kaiser outline the identifiers that employers should home in on to best identify employee growth potential. If resources played no role, companies would invest in everyone. However, with the ever-present constraints of profit margins and cost analyses, businesses have to be more creative, identifying employees can be developed faster and most cost-efficiently.

To maximize an organization’s output, the trio suggest that three key factors should be integral to development plans: ability, drive and social skills:

1. Ability, both strategic and creative, clearly identifies those with the greatest inclination to garner new knowledge and apply their talents to personal development. Cognitive ability is an obvious marker, but the report argues that so is creative ability. After all, true vision for a bigger future often relies on fresh thought.

2. Social skills are also highlighted, with relationship challenges declared the top reason for hiccups and catastrophes at the management level. It seems simple, but emotional intelligence remains an elusive talent for many. The ability to manage one’s self and manage within a team environment drives cohesive working relationships and, ultimately, the success of the whole.

3. Drive: a strong work ethic, a desire to accomplish tasks and rack up successes, is crucial. “Ability and social skill may be considered talent; but potential is talent multiplied by drive as this will determine how much ability and social skills get put to use,” the trio writes.

While cognitive and standardized testing can help organizations identify high potential employees, the process of gathering and fostering talent can be simplified with a focus on these three markers. They conclude, “Investing in those individuals will produce the highest return on investment.”