By Doug Terry
Vice President, Client Services

Hiring for high potential means looking forward. It means selecting people who have the potential to grow – and the ability to help tackle the big strategic challenges of the future. In a time of huge flux, these challenges are legion. From digital transformations to delivering a net zero future, high potential hires can help drive essential change and create sustainable growth for your organisation. 

How is hiring for high potential different? 

Traditional recruitment can easily become a tick box exercise where you search for new people within very narrow parameters. Do they have specific educational qualifications, or a set number of years’ experience? Do they come from your sector, or work for a direct competitor? 

Taking this approach often leads to the selection of candidates that look exactly like your current teams and managers. It is hiring to reflect the status quo, rather than the needs of the future.  

Hiring for potential is different. It allows you to work from a much wider talent base and look at people you wouldn’t normally consider. You do not just look at the experience a candidate has, but their potential, aptitude and ability to help future-proof your organisation. People from sectors, role types and business areas that do not match the job you’re hiring for can all be explored. 

What are the benefits? 

Hiring for potential helps to bring a change of perspective. It can deliver candidates with a real diversity of thought and background, injecting life into cultures that might otherwise become very homogenous. Not only does this drive diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, it also creates a more sustainable workforce equipped to face the business challenges of the future head on. 

It can reduce hiring costs and time to hire, too. Instead of chasing a small pool of the usual suspects along with all your competitors, you are actively seeking out talent from alternative sources. In addition, because you are selecting for potential, you are growing the high-fliers of the future – which is much more cost-effective than buying them in later.  

High potential hiring means you do not have to keep recruiting from outside your organisation, as you hire and lose talent in an endless cycle of attrition, which is both inefficient and expensive. It takes some time to find, induct and assimilate people, so it makes sense to ensure they are individuals with a long-term future in your business – and then to put in place the talent management strategies that ensure they can thrive. 

What are the challenges? 

Often, high potential candidates are brought in to drive change – be that structural, operational, or digital. So, it’s essential they believe that they will have the power to do that within your organisation.  

To attract high potential people, you need a culture where they can thrive - and the employer brand that allows you to market that culture. These candidates need to know that they will have the autonomy to drive change and a platform where they can develop, with the long-term succession planning in place to allow them to develop the career that their talents justify.  

Developing an employer value proposition that is both truthful to the reality in your organisation and also appeals to these gifted people is key.  

As is delivering a candidate experience throughout the hiring process that reflects these values. Changing the mindset of hirers is key here. They will need to interview in a way that determines the skills that a person will be capable of developing, as well as the ones they have. They’ll also need to think about what might motivate high-potential candidates two; five or even ten years down the line and sell your organisation into them in light of this.  

It’s also vital to drive a DEI&B mindset throughout the hiring process, to ensure you’re attracting and welcoming the broadest spectrum of different candidates. From using internal success stories of people from a wide range of backgrounds as a marketing tool, to developing diverse interview panels, businesses need to showcase DEI&B in action.   

Some real life challenges a high-potential strategy can address 

The recruitment landscape can change fast. High potential hiring can help you keep out in front.  

In the APAC region, there is a growing emphasis on hiring local rather than relying on ex-pat talent. In some cases – for example in Singapore – these changes have actually been enshrined in law. This makes it even more important to locate, develop and retain high potential candidates from a wide pool within the local area, to ensure a flow of future talent – not least by rotating these highfliers through a series of international placements. 

High-potential hiring can also pay dividends in areas where competition for talent is fierce – such as technology. In the world of finance, some banks, realising that they are losing top talent to the tech giants and fintech start-ups, are repositioning their digital and technology teams in the market. By creating – and then promoting – a much more informal, entrepreneurial work culture in these teams, they are proactively evolving to attract top talent. 

The practice of developing in-house academies to evolve a technology skill set in high-potential candidates from the widest range of backgrounds is also becoming more prevalent. By employing those with the most potential and helping place others with talent in tech roles in other organisations, businesses can build strong talent pools both internally and externally to call on in the future. 

How can Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) help you develop a high potential workforce? 

High potential hiring can reap big rewards, but it requires long-term thinking and planning. As a leading global RPO provider, Cielo has the in-house tools to help our clients build an effective end-to-end strategy. From developing and delivering your employer brand and attraction messaging, to search strategies that are not just looking in the obvious places, we can help you attract talent with big potential.  

Thanks to the latest talent acquisition technology, we can also help you make data driven decisions and access a wider candidate pool. Our technology can reach further into social media to find different types of profiles and people, so you are not reliant on the same channels, key word searches and job boards. It can also provide you with vital analytics, so you can understand where your highest performers are coming from, how they move through your organisation, and where attrition points might be.  

Above all, we can work as a partner to help you develop both your talent acquisition and talent management strategies, to ensure the long-term success of your high-potential hiring strategy.