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If you want the best out of your employees, make sure you’re investing in the ones with the highest potential for return. Here’s how to spot them:


When people start businesses, the aim is not to hire employees who will stay stagnant in the role in which they started. The dream is not that they’ll have to keep hiring new talent to fill mid- and top-level management roles. The goal is to be able to develop employees into long-lasting and valuable assets of the company – and that the current talent will grow into its future leaders. But it can be tough to figure out who has serious growth potential – and, frankly, you don’t want to invest in someone who won’t be able to go the distance.

“Think of it like this”, says Martin Sutherland, co-founder of TalentPrint. “If you had a gym membership to give away, would you give it to someone has no interest in going, or someone who already enjoys fitness? Would you give it to someone who doesn’t think they need to exercise or would you give it to someone who sees the value – and is committed to putting in the hours?” The answer is obvious. And because your money, time and effort is (presumably) not endless, it makes sense to invest in people who are most likely to offer the highest return.

To spot who has the highest potential for growth, you need to identify an employee’s willingness and ability to grow. How? There are four main attributes that have the markings of high growth potential – and every employee falls on the scale for each. See how your employees fare in these areas, to see who could develop into a leader. They are:

1: Self-alignment

Employees are prone to blind spots (what they see as a strength, but others see as a weakness) and hidden strengths (what they see as a weakness, but others see as a strength). If they have too many of either, they will overuse what they are not good at and under-use what they are good at. If there is a large difference between how an employee sees him/herself and how others see them, there is low potential for growth.

2: Self-evaluation

Self-evaluation is the act of being able to critically analyse how you are versus how you could be. This is crucial in being able to grow. Traditional self-evaluation methods, however, can mean people over-rate themselves, based on “optimism bias”. Ensure you’re taking that into account when assessing a person’s ability to self-evaluate.

3: Feedback receptiveness

No surprises here, but people who are open to change and personal growth actively seek
feedback from others. They understand that what they know about themselves can only be enhanced by different information they get from other people they work with. Candidates with huge growth potential don’t shy away from (sometimes tough) feedback.

4: Energetic and consistency in learning

These are two major characteristics that are correlated with a willingness and ability to change and grow. Someone who is constantly learning will have a vast general knowledge and will be good at keeping up with trends. While one with an energetic approach will stick to tasks, and consistently achieve goals and meet targets.

Of course, even when you know what you’re looking for, it’s not always easy to spot on your own. A tool, such as TalentPrint (previously YouLab) uses analytics, feedback reports and self-evaluation techniques to ‘score’ employees in each of these attributes, helping to get a big-picture view on who could be the next leader in a company. It can:

  • Calculate the difference between the way others see someone, and how they see themselves.
  • Identify the ‘optimism bias’ in a person’s self evaluation.
  • See how much feedback users have requested over time.
  • Offer feedback on a person’s ability to be a – as the tool calls it – a “Constant Learner” or “Energetic Driver”.

The end result is a growth-potential map that shows an employee’s baseline growth potential by scoring them on the attributes above, from low to very high.

If the traditional methods of identifying growth potential are leaving you unsure, it’s worth trying out tools that use in-depth people analytics to create a map of the talent in your company.