How can I spot and develop potential?

This article is part of
Guide to succession planning

“So much of potential is about attitude and hunger, and I hope that more people start to understand this more and learn to recognise that people don’t need to be able to tick every box, especially with the skills market being in its current state, with more people starting to be given jobs in recognition of their potential.”

Ms Floor says many of her clients are themselves concerned about a lack of potential in the talent market. “The skills gap is something that everyone talks about. But sometimes the hardest challenge is recognising when someone has the attitude, hunger, traits and transferable skills to be able to change sectors or functions.”

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She gives the example of one particular client who showed potential, but needed the opportunity to showcase that potential. “It is usually difficult for an individual to move out of the retail sector but a few years ago I secured a job for a retail candidate in an HR role."

“The thing is I could see she had the potential for the role although the client didn’t recognise this from her CV. She had a strong desire to move into HR and had put herself through CIPD training. I knew if she could get in front of the right people, she would succeed.

"She’s now progressed within the company to the position of section manager – and she didn’t even have to take a pay cut to get into the organisation in the first place.”

Developing potential is of course harder than spotting it, according to Mr Murphy.

He says careful nurturing is key. This means allowing an employee to learn from their mistakes and taking a mentoring approach.

“This can add huge value through knowledge sharing and guidance as you offer advice but allow them to develop their own style and make their own decisions about which routes to take.”

Client contact is also important, he adds. “Don’t shield your team members from clients under the premise of them not being ready, it’s important that they understand first-hand the client’s pressure points and ultimate drivers to enable them to succeed in their job and become a valuable team member within the business.”


Lisa Winnard, HR and business services director at Sesame Bankhall Group, says that when thinking about the development of potential talent you should first consider where that potential can be used.

She explains: “What opportunities could arise with your business that you should give priority to and what strengths are required in order to excel there? Who has already started to display abilities in these strengths?”