How to Measure the Impact of Your High Potential Strategy

So you’ve gone through a rigorous process to locate those “high potentials” – that critical talent pool that has demonstrated the ability to step into your organization’s most critical roles when the time comes.

Now you’re doing what the most successful company’s do, you’re investing in the development of those high potentials. You’ve got managed stretch assignments, coaching, mentoring, and leadership development programs. Good for you!

Now, how do you know if any of it is working? Do you have any measures in place?

Some would argue that you don’t have to. That is, you could make a strong argument that it’s just smart business and common sense to manage your talent like you’d manage any other important asset. Others would say what’s important gets measured, or it doesn’t get done.

I’d say metrics are an important part of a high potential strategy, but just don’t waste your time measuring meaningless minutia or conducting complicated ROI studies that are impossible to prove.

According to research conducted by PDI Ninth House and Bersin & Associates, the organizations with the most “mature” talent management strategies use the following measures to track the effectiveness of their high potential strategies:

1. Number of “key positions” (usually succession planning positions). Not actually a success measure, but you’ll need this number for the percentage calculations below.

2. Number of HiPos (high potentials) ready to fill those positions. “Ready” is the key word here, that is, they could step in if one of those incumbents in a “key position” won the lottery and decided to retire. I suppose you could count the number of high potentials in your pool as well – which would be a measure of your assessment efforts – but “readiness” is the true measure of your development efforts.

3. Percentage of key positions filled by HiPos.

4. HiPo promotion rate.

5. Percentage of HiPos with Development Plans. I’d suggest taking this one a step further, and track % of completed development plans, or completion progress. Learning Management Systems can automate this for you.

6. Turnover rate of HiPos.

7. Success rate of HiPos promoted to new roles.

8. Engagement levels of HiPos (though surveys). As much as we like to believe that human beings are rationale, we’re not. Your organization may be following and measuring all of the most proven best practices, but if the participants themselves are not feeling good about where they are in their development, then you’ll still vulnerable to turnover and vacant key positions.

There’s a boatload of other measures you could use – I’ve been collecting them like seashells over the last 20 years. Each organization is different, and may have its own unique nuance that needs special attention. However, the PDI/Bersin list looks like a darn good place to get started.