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Identifying High-Potential Employees

What percentage of employees should be considered high potential?
In a perfect world, all employees would be classified as possessing high potential with superior leadership abilities. However, we know this not to be the case. On average, 5% to 15% of an IT shop's staff should be considered high potential. Of course, improved recruiting processes that provide a better fit between a candidate and an employer can drive this number higher.

On the other hand, the percentage of employees designated as critical is a function of the projects in progress and the strategic projects in the pipeline. Certainly a handful of roles are vital to the functioning of the IT department, including the CIO, project managers, programmers, and analysts. Depending on the technology infrastructure, other functions (including database administrators, data warehouse analysts, network engineers, and help-desk staff) can be considered critical. The point here is that each company is vastly different in terms of its critical functions. As a result, putting a percentage on such an activity is a difficult task.

The same holds true for high-potential employees. From a retention standpoint, promotion of internal staff is a key factor in reducing turnover. If the promotions are conducted in conjunction with a "fast-track" program, one that provides fully rounded experiences to those qualifying as high potential, then the organization has a winner on its hands.

Critical Position Identification
A variety of criteria are used to identify critical positions. Critical position identification and capability growth are closely linked, and many of the activities begin with a planning process. Planning involves a variety of steps and issues. Here is a brief synopsis of each item:

  • Identify employees' predominant skill sets. You can do this by using existing resum?s, creating an in-house skills inventory database, or, barring the existence of these items, developing a skills-management program.
  • Identify the team players. It's critical to understand the distinction between implicit leaders and explicit leaders. Explicit leaders are the formal managers within a hierarchy. Implicit leaders are those individuals who set the tone of the IT shop. These are the thought influencers and direction drivers who are looked upon for their technical agility or personal skills.
  • Know who on your staff is ready for retirement or advancement. Completion of this task requires an understanding of existing annual reviews, peer feedback, and other human-resources-related activities.
  • Forecast your company's future staff needs. This complex step involves a determination of the projects to be initiated during the next 12 to 18 months. The skills required to complete these projects must be juxtaposed against the core skills available in-house.
  • Critical Function Identification
    The identification of critical functions must start with a coverage matrix, showing where systems or functions match with the individuals covering them. Your goal in this endeavor is to see where exposure is greatest. Higher-risk areas should be addressed immediately via a recruiting and retention effort.

    Capability growth can also be considered the operations upshot of a succession planning effort. This stage represents the core output, as well as the aspect of the effort that will require the greatest amount of continuous updating.