Even before the phrase ‘the war for talent’ came into being in 1997, having the right talent in the right roles was a prime concern facing all executives and HR professionals. And now, identifying and supporting talented individuals is so important (and at the centre of successful enterprise management) it could be a practice area of its own.


Executive skillsets are changing and changing rapidly. Why? Thanks to the onset of digitalization which brought about huge changes in the way business is conducted, and the rise of new generations in the workplace who are searching for meaning and purpose in their work, executive roles have evolved from what they once were.

To form a leadership team from the evolved C-suite in any organisation, propelling the organisation – and themselves – towards greater productivity and better results becomes more complex. There are complicating factors here, such as the fact that executives come from varying backgrounds and therefore have differing modus operandi, agendas, and vision for the future.

As senior leaders, they have functional and management responsibilities that reinforce their individuality – and sometimes this competes with organisational requirements. Add performance and talent into the mix, and understanding of the complexity of building your top team to lead you forward becomes apparent.


While many organisations look at past performance records as a qualifier for high potential status, there is widespread agreement that past and current performance does not signify effective performance in broader future roles. There is a real distinction between performance and potential.

The starting point for differentiation is that potential is a dynamic state, not a static end state. People who are high potential have the capability to learn, grow, adapt, and develop – so the assumption is that high potential people are dynamic and will continue developing beyond their current state. A question arises on whether the factors contained within potential (learning ability, adaptability) are learnable – because the key factors in potential are essentially personality traits.


It is inherently complicated to make predictions about how successful someone may be in the future. There is the need to define what you are trying to predict, then assessing the person against the criteria – made complicated by issues such as personal capabilities and motivation, alongside the challenges and opportunities linked to the organisation. This is a vastly different process to a selection decision, where there is a clear understanding the specific job requirements.

Hiring managers, senior leaders, and executives need three key skills to make successful predictions on someone’s potential. Read what they are in the full report.



Stephan Surber

Senior Partner
T: T +41 44 224 2235
E: [email protected]