ICYMI: The Then and Now of Measuring People Potential (not Performance)
Performance, according to Merriam-Webster, is “the execution of an action,” or “something accomplished.”
Not to be confused with potential, which Merriam-Webster defines as “existing in possibility: capable of development into actuality.”
At first glance, “performance” and “potential” have completely different meanings, yet they’re basically being combined by today’s organizations in a way that allows potential to be mistaken for experience. The wrong employees get promoted and the right employees stay parked (and then your organization risks retention problems, but that’s a total sidebar).
Managers doing it right are those who measure future potential to determine which candidates are hired and which employees are promoted.
The question, “How do you measure people potential?” has been asked for years because it’s a difficult concept to grasp and effectively put to use. A handful of years ago, experts started digging into the complexity of measuring potential and came up with four basic principles:
1. People are different. From backgrounds to personality, and from age to experience and even our behaviors and thoughts rarely mirror that of our neighbor.
Tomato, tomato, as they say.
2. People are consistent.
“The reality is that everyone has patterns: past behaviour is the best predictor of future behavior and that is true both for the people we like and dislike,” Forbes contributor Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic said.
“Unpunctual people are always unpunctual; unemotional people never convey what they feel; and though we may think that we are extremely extroverted in some situations and highly introverted in others, in the grand scheme of things our extraversion level predicts how we behave in most situations.”
3. Self-presentation matters.
When we meet someone new, it’s natural to read them in one way or another, perhaps from style, body language, tone of voice, or even the strength of their handshake.
Measuring potential comes from valid personality tests that collect data on self-presentation and translate the information into core elements of a person’s values and competence, according to Chamarro-Premuzic.
“Tests make data-driven inferences: people who say ‘X’ about themselves tend to do ‘Y,’ or be seen as ‘Z’ by others,” he said.
4. Probability matters.
Profiling tools are known to help asses potential, but because people are not completely predictable, these tests haven’t proven their effectiveness overtime.
“Unlike squirrel or fish,” Chamarro-Premuzic said, “we always have a big repertoire of potential behaviours to pick from, and most of the situations we are immersed in are characterized by complexity and ambiguity.”
He said that when two people vary on a broad dimension of personality, the probability that they behave in ‘X’ or ‘Y’ won’t be the same from person to person, even when they’re in the same situation, under the same circumstance.
Although the exploration of measuring human potential began years ago and the resources are out there, today’s organizations tend to go with unscientific methods. Many organizations are still working to find the perfect way to decide who should get a job offer and who should move up in the company. An unscientific method allows for prejudice, bias and judgment. Scientific tools, like those found at Human Factors International (hfi), set leaders up to make choices based on what matters most to the business: psychology, competency, job profile matching and more.
Charlie Atkinson, CEO of hfi, shared the latest methods for measuring people potential, explained the science behind them, and identified the characteristics of potential in HCI webcast, “Measuring People Potential: Who to hire, who to promote and how to decide.”
CLICK HERE to watch for free, at your convenience.