Participative Individual Potential Assessment

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A second approach might be called participative assessment. Both individuals

and their immediate organizational superiors enact important roles in the assessment

process. Hence, it is participative. Periodically—such as once a

year—employees undergo an individual potential assessment. It may be timed

at the halfway point of the annual performance appraisal cycle so that potential

assessment is not confused with performance appraisal.

Although there are many ways to carry out the process, one approach involves

distributing individual assessment appraisal forms to employees and

their immediate organizational superiors. Employees and superiors complete

the forms, exchange them, and later meet to discuss the individual’s advancement

capabilities. As with performance appraisals, the forms for individual

potential assessment are usually prepared by the human resources department,

distributed from that department, and the results returned to that department

for filing in personnel records. (Alternatives to that approach are

possible. For instance, completed individual assessment appraisal forms may

be retained by the leader of each organizational unit.)

An advantage of this approach is that it allows ‘‘reality testing.’’ Individuals

learn of possibilities for the future, which may interest them and motivate

them; organizational representatives learn more about individual career goals

and aspirations, thereby improving the quality of their succession plans. In

this way, the assessment process provides an opportunity for mutual candor

and information-sharing.

Key to this process is the individual potential assessment interview. It

should be carried out in a quiet, supportive setting that is free of interruptions.

The employee’s immediate organizational superior should set the pace, dis-

cussing his or her perceptions about the individual’s strengths and weaknesses

for advancement—and the realistic possibilities for that advancement. Having

an agenda can make an interview of this kind run smoothly. Another advantage

is that employees have a stake in the assessment process. If the organization

should have a need to make a succession decision, the likelihood is greater

that employees will accept offers of promotions or transfers that match their

career goals and organizational needs.

A disadvantage of this approach is that it can rarely be done quickly. Leaders

and employees must devote time to it if it is to be valuable. Indeed, to gain

the full benefits from it, leaders must be trained on effective interviewing skills.

Another disadvantage is that the value of participative assessment is a function

of the interpersonal trust existing between leaders and their employees. However,

trust is not always present, nor is complete candor.

Several factors affect trust. Among them are past dealings between the organization

and individual; the perceived candor of the organization’s representative;

and the match between individual career goals and organizational

opportunities. To cite two examples, suppose that an employee has personal

aspirations that may eventually lead to her departure from the organization.

She may be unwilling to share that information for fear of how it might affect

her prospects for promotion. Likewise, leaders may be unable to share information

about pending changes affecting the organization—such as the sale of

a division or the dissolution of a product line—that may also impact career

goals or succession plans.