Does Lord Sugar see it? The importance of hiring for potential


Following on from last week’s blog on the similar-to-me bias, The Apprentice is now in full swing! Most businesses hire candidates because they meet the job requirements at the time of appointment. This is, of course, the primary rationale behind the selection process in ‘The Apprentice’ and it is a prevalent and relatively ‘common-sense’ approach. But the idea of ‘hiring for potential’ is one which is frequently overlooked and more often than not misunderstood, yet it is fundamental to organisational success. Preparing talent for future roles is a cornerstone of an organisation’s succession plan and its importance cannot be underestimated - see our blog on succession planning.

It is vital for the manager to be aware of the difference between hiring for an immediate resource and hiring for potential organisational growth. Selection of a candidate with the ability, learning mindset and resilience to develop and adapt at pace in your organisation means not only filling your vacant position but also solving a number of potential headaches for the future, too.

The importance of hiring for potential:

Lane4 research suggests that the number of successors who are willing and available to fulfil these leadership roles are gradually declining. This leaves organisations struggling for the resource to successfully fill these positions. This is known as a ‘talent gap’ and bridging this gap is no easy task. It is far better to build a strong bench of future leaders to allow for a stable platform for growth of the organisation. But what many organisations perhaps struggle to realise is that successful transitions and consistent organisational growth begins within the recruitment process – or in other words – hiring for potential.

Hiring for potential to help align your organisations talent strategy:

Internal vs. External – One of the main elements of a good talent strategy refers to a healthy balance of internal and external hires. Research has proven that the highest leader success rates appear when the majority of roles are filled internally1. Diversity is of course promoted within an organisation, but a majority of internal transitions should drive a greater likelihood of organisational performance, while also ensuring talent remains engaged and motivated to work for your organisation. But if you plan to make predominantly internal promotions this means focusing resource on recruitment at lower levels in the organisation, too.

Rich Learning – Talented people need to absorb information and thrive under challenge, and employees should be encouraged to embrace the opportunity to go for promotions without of fear of failure. Encouraging a ‘fail fast’ mentality gives employees a better chance to gain feedback, learn from mistakes and improve as a result, rather than preventing of discouraging employees from attempting a transition in the first place.

Organisational Vision Every aspect within an organisation needs to be aligned toward the same vision. An organisation’s employer brand, values and concept of potential should all grow from the same seed. Alignment will promote a healthy talent strategy and allow the development of employees which support the organisation’s vision and culture. Hiring candidates against these values, as well as for their capabilities, can be fundamental to a successful talent strategy.

Be sure to take into account not only the here and now, but what the future will look like when hiring. Something Lord Sugar should look into when hiring his next business partner.



1 DDI Global Leadership Forecast 2014-15

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