It was John’s fourth appraisal in the same grade and as expected he had scored an above average rating for his performance and an average rating on his potential. In the last four years, John had been consistently doing well in his current executive position, which was essentially an individual contributor role with a technical orientation. All he wanted to do was to move to the next level and get into a managerial profile that could give him exposure to team management and leadership attributes. He had the required business acumen, technical knowhow and was quite well-versed with company’s systems and processes.
So what was stopping the organisation from promoting him to a people oriented role? No doubt, John had been a great fit in the current role but as per the potential assessment findings, he lacked expertise in essential managerial traits like influencing skills, networking skills, negotiation skills, conflict handling ability and presentation skills.
Every individual has a unique DNA resulting in a certain personality type which gets evolved and refined with environment and experience over a period of time. There is no doubt that most of the skills can be learnt, developed and honed with right set of tools and techniques. However, there are certain specific attributes congenitally inherited and deeply rooted in one’s personality. These attributes too can be inculcated and enhanced with right exposure but only to an extent and only over a period of time. There is a limit to which these traits can be modified or overhauled in a limited timeframe. For example, an introvert person can probably go on to become less introvert but cannot transform into a completely extrovert person. Someone who easily buckles under stress can definitely increase his endurance level and improve his resilience to pressure with practice and time but would that prepare him for a job primarily involving fire-fighting and crisis management in near future is a question mark. The process of up skilling or imparting new skills takes time. It has a gestation period during which supervisor and organization need to work closely with employee in order to help him bridge the gap areas. During this developmental phase, employees generally show signs of impatience, restlessness and volatility. It becomes a challenge to keep them engaged in the same role and bonded with the company.
Coming back to the situation, John had the same question which he had been raising for last three years. He wanted to know when he was moving to the next level or so called managerial grade. He expressed his frustration and anxiety while trying to seek a clear response from his supervisor who was the appraiser at the moment.
Not contrary to his assumption, he got the same response that he had been getting that still there were few developmental areas where he needs to work on in order to take up a higher order role and this is going to take some more time. Not to his surprise, the developmental plan again threw those specific competency gaps which he had been encountering year on year. In-fact, John and the organization had rigorously worked on these gap areas through varied training and non training developmental interventions as a result of which there had been some improvement. Still there was some journey to be made and he was not ready for promotion.
A robust developmental plan was again put in place but it was too late by now, John had already made up his mind to explore options outside which could provide him immediate career advancement. And eventually, as it commonly happens, he moved out citing career growth as the reason. The organization lost a good performer who could not stick any longer during the development phase.
Organizations today are competing to acquire and incorporate best of the class Talent Management systems which can take care of their so called futuristic talent or Hi Potential talent. Fast track career paths for this deserving and aspiring have become a norm in order to grow and retain them.
Following GEs footsteps, in today’s competitive scenario, companies are enforcing forced ranking performance measurement scale to weed out the bottom rung of talent. Normalisation or relative ranking method is no more a controversial performance measurement concept in corporate world because it helps companies categorize the internal talent and treat them accordingly.
There is nothing wrong with these practices because it is understood that high potential talent has to grow and low performance talent has to go.
In case of Low performing-high potential talent, the environment or the job skill mismatch could possibly be the reasons for sub optimal performance. This can be corrected by reassigning the employee to a higher fitment job where his skills and interests are aligned to work. Once his strengths have been leveraged in line with the job expectations, the problem of performance is taken care of and employee moves to the performance trajectory.
The real challenge lies in dealing with talent which neither falls in the high potential category nor can be bucketed in the low performance segment.
The question is how to keep a high performing low potential associate engaged, engrossed and involved while he is on a developmental plan which is going to take time and there is no certainty that this plan would upgrade his competencies to the desired level in the defined timeline. What should be done until employee is ready for vertical movement?
Along with the developmental plan progress, organization should also look at following ways and means of keeping the employee charged up in the current role during the transition phase:
- Enrich the existing role by adding more variables and dimensions to it. A high performer would get motivated by the challenges of added complexity & newness.
- Enlarge the existing role by widening the scope. Increase the span and widen the area of influence.
- Facilitate Role Rotations by provide alternate horizontal roles in related and non related functional areas.
- Increase role empowerment by adding decision making opportunities as part of the KRAs.
- Assign SPOC (Single Point of Contact) responsibilities to the employee respecting his seniority so that he can coordinate with other team members.
- Leverage his experience and nominate him as a mentor for new joinees or other employees who require functional advice and handholding.
- Make him a part of important task groups so that he feels himself an integral part of important organizational projects.
- If possible, assign him a subordinate as a helping hand. This will increase his confidence required for people management skills required at higher level.
- Ask him to make functional presentations in important forums and meetings. This will get him more visibility and make him feel important.
- In absence of a manager, you may want to look at the possibility of deputing the executive to carry out the managerial responsibilities which will increase his confidence level.
At no point in time should such an employee feel that he is only capable for current level and there is little scope for him to move up or that company is not serious about investing and developing him for higher order roles.
From a company’s perspective, it is important that talent at every level moves up the ladder so that employees at lower levels get a chance to move up otherwise this will lead to clogging at certain levels.
In conclusion, don’t lose sight of the Hi-Pots as they are critical for higher order roles but at the same time don’t ignore the High Performing-Low Potential talent which can prove to be future ready talent for higher order roles in times to come. Sit up now and take a notice of them before it is too late!!