Talent Development Program For High Potential Employees

In Malaysia, talent development program for the high potential is on the rise right now. In a forum Talent Development and Succession Planning that I attended recently (April 2014), it was clear that many organizations and companies are now revving up talent program for the high potentials. But why? The obvious reason is to make sure their organizations possess the right people  and at the right place to continue what the present leaders do and take it steps ahead. For business organization it is for growth and for the government for national development.


Most organizations (businesses and government) do this program either through retaining the existing talents by providing them developmental “wings” so that they can fly or by attracting external talents to meet the business needs. In general, most organizations use a hybrid of the two methods to ensure steady talent pipelines. Most organizations also noticed the limited information about high potentials program locally. Each organization rely heavily on international external expertise for some ideas. Slowly we generate our own variation of high potentials program to meet our business needs. That’s what I saw recently that the time is ripe for the next trajectory to truly understand what’s best for the talents here and based on what we already know from our past experiences in high potentials programs, what should we do next? We should have a good reference from a comprehensive research of what have been done and implemented, what are their impact, what is the link to the business, how could we do it better and how much did we spend for high potentials program.

High potentials program = Corporate athletes. They need to be identified, nurtured and supported to achieve better performance.

In a 2013 report by a survey done University of North Carolina (UNC) Chapel Hill, around 56% organizations now have a formal process to identify high potential employees, whilst almost 40% have no formal process and the rest discontinued their high potential talent development programs. Let me share a little bit more about the findings in this report. Somehow I could related some of it to the forum. In the talent forum where I attended (April 2014), I could see that there are many program of variations on how organizations implement high potentials development program. In most companies, high potential talent makes about 10% of the employees’ populations. The largest employee population is the average (fort holders) around 80% and the remaining 10% is the low performers. Some companies with deeper pocket have luxurious high potentials program, whilst some have rule of thumbs and empower the managers to engage the talents continuously as part of the overall high potentials programs. Each method has its own merit.


More about UNC report. The report from UNC highlighted that as many as 83% companies identify the high potentials to meet the increased demand for leaders as well as to retain key talents. Additional reason to identify high potentials are to improve overall organizational performance (76%) and to adapt to changing business conditions (57%). Whilst we could see the strong and valid for organization to find out their high potentials, only 2% of the organizations are extremely satisfied with their current process of talents identification, very satisfied (27%) and moderately satisfied (52%). This is an interesting insight because more than 50% think there is a better way to do it. This is what I mean of sharing best practices among the companies could help all of make better talent decision in the future.


Another interesting insight is almost half (47%) of the current talent pool doesn’t meet anticipated future needs of the organization. This is similar to the quote by someone in marketing, “I know that I lose 50% of my budget in marketing, but I don’t know which half.” On the other hand, as many as 84% organization admitted that the demand for high potentials has changed in the past 5 years.

Internal employees should be given opportunity to be identified as high potentials. Some are reluctant leaders for various reasons including access and educational qualification. Strong sense of purpose is key in a thriving organizations for a successful talent development program.

The same report also indicated several key reasons and key drivers of high potentials. They are growth (74%), competitive pressure (61%), dynamic business models (50%), globalization (44%), attrition/turnover (39%) and technological advancement (36%). On the other hand, organizations also conveyed that the primary reasons why the decrease of high potentials programs are lack of attrition/turnover (61%) and lack of business growth (50%). I could infer that whilst organizations agreed that ideally growth, competitive pressures and dynamic business model would inject better needs for them to embark on high potential programs, however, the lack of staffs turnover and slowed growth can’t afford them to go full swing as it involves huge investment.


In conclusion, there are several contradiction answers from the organizations participating in this survey but it certainly provide a good baseline information for further understanding of high potential programs. You could see the constraint of organizations, bearish business conditions, highly demanded talents but not enough resources to bring them in as well as challenges of high potentials to be integrated in the current company culture.


I would like to offer some suggestions that could help business leaders and their HR leaders to make better decision when it comes to high potentials program. These suggestions are my personal view from what I know and I observe.


1. Have a good baseline study through a comprehensive internal data collection on all talent development and leadership initiatives and the impact to the business. They can do this by bringing in good researcher with adequate business experiences that can talk “business sense”. Let the organization and HR do what they do best and work with the researcher by providing data.


2. Have a good chat with the business leaders to get a good sense of where the business is heading and what are the challenges they see coming in 3-5 years. With hyper-competition and long tail economy, things are likely to change faster than expected.


3. Develop a good and integrated identification program to get internal employees offer themselves as part of high potentials. This provide opportunity for current employees to get full understanding of high potentials program and they would understand better if you need to bring in external talents to be part of the team later.


4. For internal employees that become high potentials, you must design and develop a strong program to renovate the way they think and redesign their job roles to fit in the high potentials track. After some time in the previous, they need a strong program to undo certain departmental beliefs and increased expectations.


5. Demand performance in all areas for all high potentials and at the same time show sincerity and authenticity to support their personal development. Try to get independent counselor or coach once a while and let them have a private chat. This helps the high potentials to have a different “talks” and get different views on matters that is important to them and the organizations they serve.

Business leaders and HR leaders should be transparent of their future needs and pain points. These leaders must be honest with each other in fair minded discussion with shared interest of the organizations.

I will be sharing more in my next post on types of programs that are currently being done in some organizations and what are the top competencies needed from high potentials. Stay tune.


Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com


Project Management – Modern Workforce Imperative

While many business philosophers claimed that we are living in the best times of the world, unfortunately modern workforce has been seeing the worse in the last few years. Data from various sources also predicting a bleak outlook and across the ocean ahead. That’s just a general feel, but if you are familiar with things on the ground there’s lots of hope to make it work especially for those in the modern workforce. You may have started to do something about it, but if you haven’t I would suggest you to seriously consider my suggestion – find a way to learn project management because it is the modern workforce imperative.

Most of today’s organization do not rely so much on new information or new knowledge to thrive or grow their business. Most of us rely on doing more of the same as long as the customers don’t complain. Once a while, we add new things but that will only means new price increased and most customers don’t like it. Sometimes, in business we add new services by combining other services for example in an executive program I bundled together the premium access to library and journals as well as library membership. By bundling I give my client more services but if you look closely, I don’t change anything on the service. I just make it available right on time and deliver it just the way my customers want it. Well, this is only a simple example how one ways product features can be enhanced (not necessarily innovated).

The buzz word of today’s organization including government, is innovation. What innovation means? Briefly, it means making new improvements from something current to satisfy new needs and new customers. If you are in a technology company, you may need to explore new ideas and technology frontiers, where real innovation is your everyday thing. Nonetheless, most innovations are either in incubation period, infancy stage or progressing stage that requires years of testing and trial before actually making it to the market and make a difference financially and impacting the bottom line. Hence, to keep the business afloat we need to learn to use and utilize our current resources and maximize the productivity and yield as much as possible. This require an impeccable project management skills and this can be learned; almost overnight.


Project Management skill is one of modern workforce must-have skills.
Project Management skill is one of modern workforce must-have skills.

There are several paths to project management. The usual path is to take up proper certification programs from Project Management Institute (PMI) where you are likely to see PMP or APMG International where you are likely to see PRINCE2 certification. Lately there has been an influx of project management certification from Australia, IPMA and several more which I lost count. Secondly, you may choose to attend and participate in your own local provider to learn the fundamentals of project management. I think this is a good idea because in a 3-4 days you will get good overview and get to try out the hands on of building your project paper.

Thirdly, you may opt to buy or print some books online and read them. Jot some notes and do some graphics for you to remember. Finally, which also a cheap way to get access to project management knowledge is by searching for online videos on project management. By all means, you must find a way to get yourself enrolled in either way.

Project management mindset will take you very far in your career. I haven’t mentioned project leadership where you are taking charge of the project and lead your team including your project sponsor, user, director, and also opposition to achieve project goals. It is amazing that project management has developed to become an imperative skills in modern workforce but as someone who is growing up in organization and observing this phenomenon in fresh eyes, I have this to tell you, once again; do sign up for project management (choose one or two of the methods above). While it may take you a while, to get the hang of using the project management tools, you will get used to it after managing 2-3 real projects.

The very reason I say this because a lot of times in organization including in government find difficulties in implementation and executing the projects they have discussed. Often it gets stuck in the middle and then lost in vacuum because they are no takers who can pick this up and manage it in a manner that is both satisfying for the stakeholders. As a project manager, our role is to ensure we achieve the projects’ objectives and we do this by working through and with other people. It is an interesting role and it is still in high growth stage. I don’t want to bore you with the statistics, but if you are looking for one just Google them because there are plenty of them the last 2-3 years.

You also can learn some hands on experience by organizing events for your company or friend’s, involve yourself in social programs where you volunteer to become the committee member, actively seek for internship, enroll in dinner & dance party or simply create a project of your own and get others to join you. There are many ways, but the point is to get yourself learn the project management skills.

I recently had a project management session with my client, and I have been seeing this development where organizations are in dire state looking for more project managers. Not necessarily with certification, by all means if you have the funds go get the certification but if you don’t, never stop your learning there. Find other ways.

I hope you really going to consider this and please share this information for those who will benefit in your circle. Hope this note help improve the awareness of project management skills and inspire those middle managers to learn project management and become life long learners. 🙂

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com