What if I told you that the information necessary for predicting top performers already exists? For every position. In every organization. And the data is in-house. I see the disbelief in your eyes. Impossible, you say. Making such a determination would require compiling reams of data followed by exhaustive analysis, you say. Perhaps this disbelief is why an in-depth Deloitte study found that close to 90% of HR and business executives believe their leadership pipeline is dry. Nearly 90%. How in the world does this happen?
Every boss can instantly name his/her top performers for any given job. Almost no boss can tell you why those top performers are top performers. Because many have never tried to learn the common qualities that separate the top group from the rest of the staff, how those characteristics could be shared with the rest of the class to raise middle-level people to the top rung and, how those qualities can provide a template to use when hiring new employees. Back to the original question with a follow-up: what if I also told you that companies have the necessary data for determining which employees are likely to be successful leaders? Because that information already exists, too; and, like the data on what defines top people, it is also already in-house.
A few days ago, I wrote about the value of a user’s guide for each employee, how having a thorough understanding of staff members is helpful in knowing how to manage them and in knowing what to expect from them. But a further look at the Deloitte study reveals not just a disinterest in knowing what makes individuals tick but also a sort of passive disengagement with them. Think about it; if 86% of employers say their leadership pipeline is inadequate and 75% can’t find the people they need, a reasonable person might conclude that a change of tactics is in order.
The Forbes piece cited above spends a lot of time on employee engagement and the author draws the conclusion that the problem is a changed work ethic, one in which individuals expect their jobs to be exciting, fulfilling, meaningful, and so forth. People want to matter, though a former colleague had a straight-forward assessment of what defines a job – “jobs exist because there is work to be done.” Nothing sexy or new age or even remotely sentimental about that. An organization has many moving parts; the output represents the sum total of each individual’s input. Which brings me back to the opening point about the data that organizations already have but either don’t know about or have yet to use.
There are diagnostic tools that can provide a good understanding of what separates top performers from run-of-the-mill employees; this is a compilation of the real-world application of those tools. I am hardly the only person in the assessments business. And I don’t mean personality tests that are creating a potential new form of corporate liability. This is about assessments that reveal what individuals value, what motivates them, and what they are interested in doing, information that is already there. So why aren’t employers asking for it? Maybe they see assessments as purely a pre-hiring tool, maybe they are concerned about the cost, or maybe it’s something else. But it seems that if a problem has been recognized, there should be a word for doing nothing about it while expecting the situation to change.