Understanding how your employer gauges your potential can have a major impact on your position at the company, and on your career. If you know what they’re looking for in an employee, you can improve your chances of advancement.
When a manager is evaluating an employee’s potential, they’re considering factors like motivation, skill, experience, and the willingness and ability to learn, and evaluating how that employee can or will impact the company as it moves forward into the future.
Clearly, there is variation in terms of what different companies and management teams look at when determining an employee’s potential. But some factors are common, even if they may seem obvious. Still, knowing how your employer measures your potential can be valuable information both for your own personal development and for your advancement within the company. Here are a few commonly-used indicators.
Quality of Work
There are many ways for an employer or manager to asses the quality of your work. It might be through a series of specifically stated goals they’ve set for you, or through subjective analysis from your direct supervisor or manager. There is also what’s known as the 9-Box Grid method of assessment, a graph with one axis representing an employee’s potential, and the other their performance. So, a high-performing but low-potential worker would be ideal in their current role, while a low-performing but high-potential employee would be in need of coaching to unlock that potential. Other factors companies use to measure performance can be as simple as tracking the number of errors an employee has made, or, depending on the nature of their work, quantitative statistics like the number or amount of sales made or units produced.
The concept behind 360-degree feedback is for an employer to get performance feedback from a staff member’s direct manager, colleagues, subordinates, and customers. This can be done through specific questions or as a more general performance evaluation. Alternately, 180-degree feedback is similar, but is limited to the employee’s co-workers and manager, and is typically utilized when the worker doesn’t manage people and/or interact with customers.
Many businesses will also consider their employees’ potential to rise to a leadership position. Part of management is being able to observe when employees demonstrate a knack for managing others, delegating duties, and taking responsibility for projects. In a small or medium-sized business, it’s often easier for management to get a feel for an employee’s abilities and potential to advance by direct observation. (It also costs a business more to hire and train new employees than to promote an internal candidate.) Factors like drive, organizational skill, the ability to learn quickly and think on their feet, and empathy towards colleagues are some of the traits a good manager will look for when assessing an employee’s leadership potential. The Korn Ferry Institute, an authority on leadership and recruiting, has its own test for measuring leadership potential that takes into account many of these traits and more.
Once you have an idea of how your company measures your potential, you’ll be able to adjust your behaviour accordingly and focus on the right things. Whether it’s making a point of being in the office early every day, contributing in meetings, helping your colleagues with their projects, or just putting in the extra effort when executing your duties, demonstrating your potential to management is a sure-fire way to get ahead.
Justin Anderson | Assistant Editor