The Science of Assessing Potential

Predicting Performance using evidence-based assessments

One of the most difficult decisions leaders make is who to promote into higher or more complex roles. Are we investing in people whose performance will be disappointing? Are we overlooking ‘under-the-radar’ managers who are brimming with potential? Most organisations don’t have tools for accurately assessing their employees’ potential.

Mercer has undertaken a critical review of the scientific evidence on how to assess potential. Based on the findings of over 2,500 studies with data on more than 500,000 people, we built an easy to understand and ready to use framework for assessing potential.

This evidence-based framework dramatically raises the bar for how organisations assess potential.

  • Some of the results of this study confirm common knowledge about potential, such as the importance of cognitive abilities. Other findings may be a surprise, such as the fact that concepts like Emotional Intelligence or Learning Agility add no new value in assessing potential.
  • Another important set of results answers the old question as to whether leaders are born or made. We’ve identified which specific attributes are tied to genes and are more difficult to change during adulthood (Stable Potential), and which skills can be more easily developed (Malleable Potential).   

Using this evidence-based framework allows organisations to increase their confidence in whom to promote, find the hidden stars, and have a legally defensible basis for assessment. It all adds up to putting better talent in critical roles, and better talent leads to better business results.

More than 50% of top global businesses are not satisfied with their current High Potential Programs.

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