Identifying High Potential Tech talent

by CCS IT on October 15, 2020 in CCS IT Blog


What type of tech professionals will deliver the best results for your organization:

The smartest? The most experienced? The ones who are practically perfect in every way?

Or the ones with the greatest potential?

Why is potential so important in tech?

In a word, change. Experts now estimate that human knowledge doubles every 12 hours. This tsunami of new data increases the speed with which information and technology become obsolete.

IT has always been a rapidly evolving field; knowledge and skills have an extremely short lifespan. And thanks to the digital transformation the pandemic has thrust upon us, that pace of change has accelerated even further.

As technology and business models continue to shift, so do the qualities that align with long-term success in IT. The highest performers don’t just know their niche today; they possess unique attributes equipping them to adapt, grow and excel throughout their careers.

Identifying high-potential tech talent

To build an IT organization equipped for the future, HR and talent acquisition leaders must become great talent agents:

  • Spotting aptitude before others see it.
  • Unlocking potential.
  • And helping every professional become and achieve their best.

Whether you’re hiring or engaging IT talent for discrete initiatives, here’s how to spot people with tremendous potential, ripe for developing:

  • Understand the difference between high performance and high potential. All high potentials are high performers, but the converse is not true. High potentials are more than high achieving; they also have the ability and ambition to level up. For example, an IT professional may be great at their job and take pride in their work, but not have the potential or desire to pursue project management, team leadership or an executive-level role.
  • Focus on the right traits. Traditional models of talent evaluation put too much focus on tech talent’s past performance (even in the absence of reliable metrics) and inflate the importance of their resume, hard skills and technical expertise. With the Fourth Industrial Revolution well underway, HR and talent leaders must evaluate human potential based on a wider range of soft skills and characteristics.
  • Learn the characteristics of high potential. While each role and its needs are unique, consider this list of soft skills and qualities that are common among high potential IT professionals:
    • Adaptability: Ability to rapidly adjust behavior and attitudes to fit the needs of a given situation.
    • Immersion: Interest in roles and projects that require a personal commitment above the norm.
    • Learning orientation: While continual learning is expected for all IT professionals, high potentials demonstrate a particularly high learning orientation, and they actively seek out challenges for self-enhancement.
    • Proactive mindset: Taking action before crisis occurs.
    • Big-picture thinking: Beyond doing what’s required to succeed in their individual roles, high-potential IT professionals think beyond the project, taking the entire business into account. They understand how their work contributes to overall success and set out to achieve the company vision through achieving their individual work goals.
    • Receptive to feedback: Takes action on feedback to become a better professional.
    • Self-awareness: Understanding of one’s own strengths and limitations, and more importantly, understanding how their feelings may impact reactions and decisions.
    • Activity: A preference for fast-paced, multi-tasking work environments.
    • Drive: Hard work, coupled with a willingness to take on extra duties and assignments, and an eagerness for more responsibility.
    • Autonomy: Attraction to roles that allow them autonomy in how they execute their responsibilities.
    • Flexibility: Seeking out work environments that allow them more fluid ways of working.
    • Performance under pressure: Remaining positive in hectic times and high pressure situations, and remaining productive despite the stress of situational ambiguity.
    • Drive for results: Showing determination by pushing themselves and others to meet challenging goals with a commitment to produce exceptional results.
    • Strategic thinking: A focus on the future, considering longer-term goals aligned with a vision and consider the broader context with a future-orientation.
  • Create a robust identification process. There is no litmus test for assessing potential. A multidimensional approach is needed to paint a comprehensive picture of each person – their work habits, ideal job type, leadership potential and potential obstacles – far beyond the information available in a traditional process. Here are a few tips for success:
    • Set clear criteria that define explicitly what behaviors, achievements and KPIs you equate to high potential.
    • Carry out a talent audit of existing candidates and extend the audit to other high performers to ensure inclusion.
    • Don’t just focus on past or current performance. Personality and soft skills (like the ones listed above) are more important in evaluating potential.
    • Be cautious with performance appraisals and supervisor nominations. They reveal candidates who may look promising, but that promise is based on existing and past performance – and an individual’s point of view. Instead, successful high potential programs need to be based on science and analytics.

Struggling to find the “perfect” IT professionals?

CCS IT is ready to help.

A minority-owned, GSA-certified, digital transformation company, our team has provided innovative IT services, staffing and solutions since 2007. Partnering directly with HR leaders and procurement specialists like you, our strategic technology advisors:

  • Identify and deliver highly skilled, high-potential tech talent for your digital transformation initiatives.
  • Save you time and make your job easier.
  • Make every IT project and hire more successful.

Let’s start a conversation.