‘Organisations not developing potential – particularly in older workers’

Working Women


Organisations are at risk of losing key talent by failing to recognise their potential or doing little, if anything, to develop it, particularly when it comes to older employees, according to new research.

A survey of 1,000 employees and 1,000 managers in the UK by global people management business Penna Plc found that only 13% of employees described their organisation as doing a lot to recognise potential.

A significant number of employees surveyed (71%) said that they would be more likely to stay with an organisation that recognised their potential, yet almost a quarter had no idea whether or not their company thought they had what it takes. A possible explanation is organisations’ lack of formal processes for recognising potential, highlighted by more than a third of employees (37%). Also, when potential is recognised, only 23% of employees said that there had been any investment in developing their skills.

The vast majority of employers surveyed regarded developing potential as fairly or extremely important, while half recognised that failing to do so can lead to staff disengagement, high staff turnover and recruitment costs as well as decreased productivity. However, nearly a third of managers feel they lack senior management support in identifying employee potential, a quarter say it isn’t considered a business priority, and there isn’t the right development programmes in place – so there isn’t any value in identifying it in the first place.

Nearly a third of managers admit that their organisation has no single definition of what potential actually is and no real way of assessing it – as many as 79% of managers said that they didn’t have proper assessment processes or tools in place to spot potential. Also, the research showed that 25 – 34 year olds appear to be the focus of attention for 62% of managers, which means that large swathes of the workforce are being overlooked.

Penny de Valk, managing director of Penna Talent Practice said: “It is time that organisations recognised the importance of spotting potential and did something about it. By failing to do so they are jeopardising their greatest asset – their talent. Not only are they missing out on the opportunity to engage their most valuable employees, they also risk wasting – and possibly losing – existing talent at a time when it’s in short supply.

“Organisations need to take a more disciplined and systematic approach to identifying potential; many have future leaders sitting under their noses, but just can’t see it or they go elsewhere to find it. Instead, organisations need to have a clear definition of what potential actually looks like, a clear way of measuring it and link this to appropriate development interventions to ensure potential is optimised. Given the criticality of recognising potential to ensuring competitive advantage, businesses can’t afford not to.”

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