Can 360 help to spot potential?

Posted on August 02, 2016 at 08:11 AM

Last week we looked at how, by using 360 at the start and end of key L&D interventions, progress can be tracked and ultimately help to show a return on the investment in 360 degree feedback.

talent potentialThis week we look at how 360 can be used to spot potential.

Identifying high potential among the existing workforce is a priority for many organisations.  Some key skills are in high demand and short supply in the market, and it is often cost effective (and can lead to higher engagement among staff) to grow and promote your leaders from within.

But it is important here to do the groundwork; potential for what? 

Just leadership, or more complex roles?

Or for innovative and creative roles?

For project management, or change leadership, or internal champions of some kind?

Define what ‘potential’ is for, what it looks like (at an early stage in an individual’s career) through a combination of internal and external research.  But, once you know what you’re looking for (and what you’re going to do with it when you find it!), then you can write those early indicators of potential into 360s.

This lessens the reliance on line managers ‘knowing it when they see it’ (and we know how that is fraught with biases and you limit the diversity of the talent rising within the organisation if it’s only line managers who are detecting it) and allows the net to be cast more wide.

It makes sense if you are looking for future star leaders who can inspire, motivate, engage and mobilise their staff behind a vision, that you seek the views of those who will be on the receiving end of those sorts of behaviours.  Usually, that’s not an individual’s line manager – it’s their team, their peers, their direct reports.  360 allows you to tap into potential as seen by a wide range of people.  It’s got to be a fairer way of doing it!

You need to manage the process carefully – don’t make it too obvious by saying "These are things that those with high potential do. Does this person do it?"  Indicators of high potential usually come from a range of competencies, values and behaviours and they should be embedded within your questionnaires in the places that make sense.

We find in our work with clients, that a useful analytic in our Talent 360 tool, is our ‘top and bottom scoring items’ combined with ‘top and bottom differences'.  When viewed together, these two charts can reveal how an individual might stand out from their peers.

They may have areas of common strength with others at their level, but on some areas they may stand out and show greater potential than their peers in certain areas and so help you to spot that potential.

Case study:
One client has embedded high potential indicators in 360s (e.g., in emotional intelligence, resilience, strategic thinking and influencing).  They use 360 data to challenge decisions at talent review meetings, when promotions and succession planning are discussed.  They look at how individuals are rated by different groups on items which highlight high potential, and how the list of those showing most potential changes as you change the respondent group.  In many cases, a more diverse list is generated in terms of experience, background and gender when you look at potential as seen by direct reports, peers and external partners – than when you sort people according to how they are viewed by their boss.

If you'd like to talk through this with us then do get in touch.

Read more about how to spot high potential and future leaders.

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