Senior Executives Responsible for Spotting High-Potentials


By SHRM Online staff February 1, 2012

Senior executives play the biggest role in identifying high-potential employees for leadership development, according to a January 2012 survey of 562 senior managers and executives by AMA Enterprise.

Fifty-five percent of survey respondents named senior executives as most responsible for identifying high-potential employees. Among others identified in the survey as responsible for identifying high-potential employees were managers (52 percent) and directors (44 percent). HR staffs were identified by 33 percent of respondents as playing a role in spotting high-potential employees; training and development (T&D) staffs (11 percent) play a relatively minor role, according to the findings.

“Senior executives and line managers are usually the best positioned to recognize rising talent,” said Sandi Edwards, senior vice president for AMA Enterprise, a specialized division of American Management Association, in a statement about the survey findings. “They’re the ones directly involved with prospective leaders at all levels and, on a day-to-day basis, are most able to judge the abilities and attributes linked to current and future success.”

But Edwards cautioned that for such programs to work well, all parties must agree on the selection criteria, communication methods and development options.

“Senior executives, managers and directors have to be on the same page as HR and T&D with respect to the criteria needed for organization success,” she said. “Otherwise, it’s too easy for senior people just to select high-potentials who mirror themselves. Instead, it’s much more effective for the program to be transparent to all employees and coupled to the organization’s business objectives.”

Edwards noted she was encouraged to see that 70 percent of survey respondents said their senior management plays such a role in finding and developing future leadership. “In the great majority of companies top management is focused on attracting and retaining top talent. In the end, developing high-potentials is among the CEO’s top concerns.”

Only a minority of organizations place the whole responsibility in the hands of human resources.

“For a high-potential program to turn out well everything has to come together … senior-level support, clear criteria for prospective participants, transparency that minimizes any perception of politics and real rewards for successes achieved,” said Edwards.

AMA Enterprise conducted the online survey in order to explore policies and attitudes regarding high-potential programs. The survey population consisted primarily of senior-level business, human resources and management professional contacts drawn from the AMA database of contacts.


Job Finder

Find an HR Job Near You
Search Jobs


Find the Right Vendor for Your HR Needs

SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 10,000 companies

Search & Connect