Article · 5 minute read

Future-Proofing Leadership - Thoughts from a Recent Conference

By Dan Hunt – 28th March 2023

I had the good fortune to attend an in-person (I know!) HR leadership conference recently, in which much of the agenda was focussed on the future of work. A broad topic for sure, and one in which all the issues considered were not going to be solved in one day – although with a tightly-packed agenda, it wasn’t for lack of trying! 

Topics discussed included how to improve wellbeing and productivity at work, whether businesses have a moral obligation to help solve the cost-of-living crisis (my view? They do), the movement towards hiring for skills and away from considering previous jobs and qualifications as the key determinant on the suitability of candidates, the relentless pace of technological change – including the growth of AI and its potential implications for the world of work – and of course, how organizations and people can successfully navigate the world of hybrid working. 

Hybrid working was undoubtedly the most hotly contested topic on the agenda, and despite being two years on from the height of the pandemic, it is clear that HR and business leaders are still navigating the most appropriate way for their organizations to facilitate a hybrid model that works for all parties.  

The day left me with the significant impression that HR and Business Leaders, and indeed all employees, have had little chance to catch up following the pandemic, and are facing some monumental changes in the world of work, for which the answers are not contained in an MBA textbook. 

In short,  people are frazzled and they don’t know what comes next. 

Leaders need to understand their teams as individuals

Leaders are undoubtedly caught at the forefront of these monumental changes and are arguably more exposed to them than other employees due to the breadth of their responsibilities. Leaders are expected to continue to deliver excellent results, as well as motivate and lead teams who they almost certainly see less often, but who still look to them for solutions that aren’t yet clear, for unprecedented problems that haven’t been faced before. 

So, in the face of such unprecedented change and pressure, how can Leaders ‘futureproof’ themselves and their organizations when many of the answers cannot be found in traditional working structures or theories? 

One way leaders can do this is to thoroughly understand their teams as individuals and to appreciate that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to motivating and developing employees, especially with four different generations in the workforce and the necessity to increasingly accommodate personal circumstances in the hybrid model. 

The ability to genuinely understand what motivates individuals and to accommodate personal circumstances, and to really dive deep into how individuals work best, also provides an opportunity to improve employee productivity and retention – who doesn’t work well when they feel they are appreciated, understood and encouraged for who they are? The phrase ‘being able to bring your whole self to work’ really does have benefits in this regard. If appreciating individuals as such has positive outputs, why not extend that approach much further into individual career aspirations?

This approach was integral to the development of Saville Assessment’s Wave-i tool.

As an end-to-end solution for strategically identifying and developing emerging talent and leaders, Wave-i avoids the pitfalls of traditional models of potential which tend to present one clear definition of potential and applies it to all types of leadership across all organizations.

This approach fails to account for different types of leadership roles and approaches – and if there’s one trend that has become realized over the last few years, and indeed has always been the case, is that people truly value being treated as individuals. To get the best results from them, they need to be treated as such.

Therefore, if organizations see the value in accommodating employees’ personal circumstances as much as possible through a hybrid working model, surely there is huge value in taking time to explore models of career growth that are targeted to the individual and in entrenching in your culture an idea that not only does everyone have potential for something, but increased organizational and individual self-awareness leads to better career outcomes for all.  

And this is at the heart of what Wave-i helps to uncover. Developed based on over 7,000 ratings of potential, refined to maximize fairness on an international dataset of 18,000, and further explored using an additional sample of over 30,000, Wave-i reduces the odds of wrongly identifying potential from 1 in 5 to 1 in 50, utilizing our 3P model that accurately reveals the types of career or leadership role an individual will thrive in: 


Individuals with strong Professional potential are likely to be curious experts with a desire to grow into best-in-class specialists in their fields. 


Individuals with strong People potential will likely rally, inspire and bring people together to work towards a common goal. 


Individuals with strong Pioneering potential will likely drive towards growth, either through innovation or a sharp commercial focus. 

With HR leaders facing huge uncertainty for the future, the ability for leadership pipelines to be flexible and agile will be increasingly important. And key to the ability to be flexible and agile is having the deep knowledge of where your employees’ strengths lie and how they can best be utilized in the business. Additionally, in a competitive employment market for skills, and with risks and costs that come from hiring externally, in-depth knowledge of employees can help maximize the potential for quiet hiring and better insulate organizations from external shocks.  

To some extent, whilst it would be much simpler to have a clear vision of the future, and a textbook of answers in which to address life’s challenges, it is also reassuring that HR leaders from all industries are very open about the challenges and uncertainties of the future, and that equally there are no stock-templated solutions from which to draw. 

I think it speaks to the quality of the individuals at the HR conference that they could listen to and engage with others with genuine humility and openness, and collective endeavor for new solutions.  

At Saville Assessment, we aim to be a constructive and valuable partner in these conversations, with world-class solutions such as Wave-i that can help organizations improve and confidently navigate the future working environment, whatever challenges that may bring.  


Learn more about transforming how your organization assesses potential in our complimentary whitepaper – Assessing Potential with Wave-I: Going Beyond the Traditionaldownload here
About the Author
Dan Hunt 

Dan is Managing Client Partner at Saville Assessment. He has a wealth of experience working as a Talent Leader at some of the world’s biggest brands, including BP,  Amazon, BSkyB and Johnson & Johnson. 

You can connect with Dan on LinkedIn here