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Getting It Wrong

When companies hire new employees, each has its own methodology for assessing the potential of candidates, both new hires and internal promotions. A recent survey published by the Wall Street Journal, indicate that 40% of internal job moves by people regarded as high-potential end in failure.

According to George Hallenbeck, of the Center for Creative Leadership, “A lot of organizations go astray, in that they lack clarity on exactly what is it we mean when we say potential. Potential for what?” Some companies size-up potential based on a candidates culture fit, but clearly that can backfire in a period of change when business as usual is the wrong answer.

Another yardstick is to look for individuals who are capable of winning two promotions in five years. Hallenbeck said that approach risks gauging competence in only one kind of work. “The best engineer might not be the best CEO.”

Increasingly employers are turning to assessments that analyze their ideal leaders’ behaviors, drivers, attitudes and attributes. The science of these assessments produces a realistic understanding of what makes someone tick, greatly increasing the odds of getting the assessment of potential right.

However the assessment of behavior differs from one company to the next. A hotel operator like Marriott might look for people with a passion for hospitality and helping people, while an investment bank will more often than not, seek out good soldiers who can immerse themselves in the corporate identity and aggressively elbow to rise in the ranks. Hopefully the assessments don’t get mixed-up.

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