How can you spot high-potential employees? Hint: Look for these 3 traits

In order to receive a return on your investment in human capital, you must be able to spot talent and have a process for doing so, writes Tess Taylor in Education Dive.

Taylor interviewed Jim Donohue, a partner and manager of leadership, organization, and talent at Aon Hewitt, a human resources consulting firm, about how organizations can assess "high-potential" employees and a recent report the firm completed on the matter.

Donohue distinguishes between "high-potential" and "high-performing" employees. He says the latter includes individuals who have demonstrated that they can do well in the future, despite how they may have performed previously. He says such employees simply need to be given opportunities that allow them to do well.

The 4 'M's of transitioning to management

Donohue says there are three traits that organizations should look for in their search for a high-potential employee: ability, agility, and aspiration.

In its report, Aon Hewitt defines ability as demonstrating leadership qualities across a variety of competencies, including both technical and behavioral skills. Agility means being adaptable to change, which includes the capacity to quickly learn new skills. And aspiration means that person not only has leadership ability, but also actually wants to take on more responsibility, shows a high level of engagement, and necessary personal values .

In order to measure an employee's potential, Donohue recommends well-rounded assessments. He says the best ones measure "personality, cognitive ability, leadership and more." However, Donohue recommends supplementing assessments with career-focused interviews and "simulated business situations." These will give you a clearer picture of employees' potential, he says (Aon Hewitt report, May 2017; Taylor, HR Dive, 6/23).

Also see: To find the right new hire, ask candidates to "show you" what they can do

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