Getting Better Results: Go Beyond High Potentials, Look at ALL Employees

Personnel Today recently reported on a survey conducted by KPMG’s Global HR Centre of Excellence.

The survey asked “people and change practitioners” from across KPMG’s global member network about the new “war for talent” and how it manifests in today’s workplace.

Even as the slow economic recovery continues to drag on, we are experiencing a war for talent — even as the skills needed and talent sought is itself evolving. And the needs of who and how we target employees for training, growth and advancement needs to also change.

A need to look at the entire employee base

Namely, we need to stop focusing nearly exclusively on high performers and high potentials, instead looking across the entire employee base for employees who may just need an opportunity to show their potential.

The Personnel Today article explains in more detail:

Talent managers who are overly focused on securing and retaining high-performing individuals can lose sight of the benefits of a more holistic talent-management system, one that addresses wider concerns such as escalating costs, diversity, truly effective performance management and connecting employees to the enterprise.

“Respondents agree that it is time to turn to new, more relevant and holistic strategies for managing talent. Two-thirds of survey respondents say it is most important to address the talent needs of all employees – in the context of the business and its strategy. Just over half agree or strongly agree that pursuing high potential talent at the broader team’s expense puts the business at risk through lowered morale and reduced employee engagement.”

What about middle-of-the-road performers?

Emphasis in the quotation above is mine. I can’t say I’m surprised by this result For a moment, put yourself in the shows of one of your middle-of-the-road performers.

This person (I’ll call him Gregory) comes in every day, completes the assigned work accurately, contributes to the team as needed, then goes home. Gregory may not perform in a particularly exceptional way, but he certainly meets the requirements of the job and helps keep projects on track.

Now, if Gregory consistently sees one or two people on his team singled out for additional opportunities or advancement, it’s unsurprising if he wonders when it might be his turn. If he has a truly exceptional manager, then the manager may be encouraging Gregory to extend himself a bit like those who are receiving the new opportunities.

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But it’s far more likely that Gregory receives no attention. After all, he’s not a squeaky wheel, he doesn’t rock the boat. He gets the job done. So no one thinks of Gregory.

Yes, people MAY surprise you

Gallup research shows us ignoring employees (no positive or constructive feedback given) is the managerial style most often resulting in higher levels of employee disengagement. Many people will surprise you with their interest to grow, learn and contribute more, if the opportunity is presented.

How do you proactively put opportunities in front of a broader group of people instead of offering to just the high potentials or high performers?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on the Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at


2 Comments on “Getting Better Results: Go Beyond High Potentials, Look at ALL Employees

  1. Very interesting and eye opening post. Most attention is given to our highest performers and our lowest performers. Those in the middle, get very little attention. They are the majority of our workforce and by not giving them encouragement and attention, we are sending the message that they are not terribly important. We are creating a disengaged workforce.

  2. As a student of Deming and ISO 9001, I am surprised how behind the time
    large organizations are. Deming demonstrated in his RED BEAD EXPERIMENT that the SYSTEM produces results (~95%), not the individual. MANAGEMENT creates
    the culture and system of work. So, Number 1: to really improve results, improve
    the system that does work and employees interact. Further, ISO 9001 Quality Management speaks to competencies. Again, organizations are responsible for understanding needs and competencies and then adequately measuring and developing them in employees. This is why it is called performance MANAGEMENT. A good manager can get the best out of the team, whereas a poor manager cannot.

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