Article · 5 minute read

Identifying Potential in a Changing World

‘The only constant is change’… ever heard that phrase before?

The likelihood is that you have, or some variation of it. And if you are the sort of person who’s likely to roll your eyes at such a statement, perhaps given in response to a situation in which you were looking for a more substantial answer to your question, a reminder of it might tempt you to move right along to the next article.

However, bear with me, because I share solidarity with the world’s eye rollers, and yet this statement is one which encapsulates the world in which we find ourselves in 2023, and guess what? That ain’t gonna change.

The world of work is changing in so many ways, the most obvious of which being the hybrid model – arguably one of the most significant changes to the relationship between individual and workplace since the industrial revolution. What it means to ‘go to work’ has altered irrevocably, and while challenging in so many ways for organizations to navigate, it’s a development in my view that is long overdue – offering far more positives than negatives for the average employee.

Similarly, recent experiments into the four-day week are challenging the accepted 20th Century, five-day, 9-5, commute-to the-office model, and discussions of raising the state pension age to at least 68 in the UK are ongoing, while the French are currently up in arms over the plan to raise it from 62 to 64.

A comment by a CTO from one of the world’s largest technology companies that was relayed to me a few years ago was:

 “Change is faster now than it ever has been, but the slowest that it ever will be.”

….and this comment is as relevant to the future of work as the future of technology. Not least because they are both absolutely intertwined. Taking his comment at face value, we should buckle up because if we think the last three years have been trying, chances are we haven’t seen anything yet – and this is without considering the paradigm-shifting potential of Artificial Intelligence; a topic for a future post.

The likelihood then, is that not only will working lives be longer in the future, but the 20th century model of a lifetime of working one’s way up the corporate ladder as a salaried employee, in one or two functions, with tenure in a small number of organizations until retirement will be far more unusual. As companies work to become more agile and able to adapt to new technologies, individuals are also far more likely to need to completely retrain, perhaps several times, in contrast to gradually building on the existing skills gained through their degree or initial chosen job function.

How can organizations embrace this to their advantage? How can they identify the ‘potential’ in an individual to successfully transition to a different function in a business, to take a role of greater responsibility, or for better succession planning, if they want to consider internal or external candidates for a role outside of the immediate function the role is in?

When one considers the macro changes outlined above, with the financial and time costs of hiring external candidates, and estimates that circa 20% of employees leave within their first 45 days of employment, it is no surprise at all that organizations would lean towards maximizing internal movement, and are becoming more open minded to lateral moves outside of job function. Also, considering the expected fluidity of the labor market in the future, it seems imperative for organizations to retain performing talent as much as possible, and, given everything discussed above, to be more open when discussing career development with employees to broader moves.

However, the fact remains that organizations will still need to assess an applicant’s capability, so how does one measure potential? What is more important in a role? The technical skills? Cultural fit?

Recruiters reading this post may allow themselves a wry smile at this stage, recounting how many times in the past they have had conversations with hiring managers who didn’t want to hire someone who ticked 70% of the requirements but needed a little coaching, only to be happy to wait another six months until the perfect person comes along. I do have some sympathy though as, for a long time, ‘potential’ has been a relatively ill-defined and intangible concept, in contrast to a culture of data-led hiring decisions.

However, Saville Assessment’s Wave-i provides a solution to vague, traditional notions of what ‘potential’ is, and brings the evaluation of what potential is into the 21st century.  Wave-i goes far beyond any traditional way of viewing what constitutes potential, and, with a refreshingly egalitarian perspective, is built with the view that everyone has potential for something. In relation to the future of work, and the many changes and trends we have discussed, this is key.

Wave-i participant dashboard on a laptop

Capturing data that provides an indication of someone’s ‘Professional’, ‘People’, or ‘Pioneering’ potential, and 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 and offers a new way of capturing potential that:

  • picks up on the nuances of leadership in an organisation
  • reveals the types of career or leadership role individuals will thrive in
  • helps build and maintain diversity in leadership pipelines
  • mobilizes a wider pool of talent.

Wave-i will benefit organizations’ understanding of their employees’ potential to perform as well as they can and to have rich and varied careers, and gives the individual the power of understanding oneself far better, enabling them to seek opportunities to thrive.

In a future where resilience, agility and adaptability are keywords for organizations and individuals alike, Wave-i provides an extremely constructive and positive tool for both parties. 

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