By @SimonCocking, review of HIGH POTENTIAL How to Spot, Manage and Develop Talented People at Work by Ian MacRae, Adrian Furnham and Martin Reed. Available from Bloomsbury here.

In today’s competitive job market, can employers afford to spend large sums on recruitment, and then simply let talented people go?

High Potential provides a practical framework for managers to create a strong, strategic vision for a high-performing, high-potential workforce.

Updated to reflect more recent research in the area, the book presents an accessible guide to clearly understanding and defining potential, and how to manage high-potential employees and develop their career. New case studies show how businesses have used the concepts outlined in the book to nurture future talent in the workplace and gain a real competitive business advantage.

This book is thorough and methodical in it’s approach to outlining the ways that you can try to ensure you hire the best people for the job. As we all know from personal experience the recruitment model is somewhere between imperfect and utterly broken. The challenge is for HR departments to be able to evolve and learn how to make better recruitment decisions. This book certainly offers a range of tools to help them do their job better. At times though you still wonder if it is possible. Is the whole concept of work, as framed by multinationals fundamentally flawed, and therefore their recruitment processes are only able to make the best of a bad job. There are a lot of good ideas in this book, but at times it might have helped to have a few more examples to illustrate when these practices had actually been successfully implemented. Maybe this was not the aim of the book.

On several occasions too, from personal experiences with work at multinationals, and interview experiences for companies, time and time again these seemed to suggest that the people conducting the recruitment processes were not following many of the ideas suggested in this book. Naturally it is not possible to do everything, and skills based assessments are a smart way to avoid confirmation biases, and are well presented and explained in this book. Overall there is a lot to like in this book, and it could, hopefully be a really useful guide for HR departments. However part of me also wondered if these are also possibly the final thrashings of an industry that is ripe for disruption and innovation by even better recruitment methods, and also a more decentralised work force. We’ll see, MacRae and his writing partners explain their points well, but perhaps in the future the whole process of finding and working with talent could be very different.

About the authors :

Ian MacRae is completing his PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology at Maastricht University. He is an advisor at Thomas International, owner of Paragon Research Ltd (offering customized research services to clients across the UK and Canada), and Director of High Potential Psychology Ltd.

Adrian Furnham is Professor of Psychology at UCL. He has written over 1000 scientific papers and 70 books, and is among the most well-known and productive psychologists in the world,noted for his motivational speaking. Adrian is a newspaper columnist, previously at the Financial Times and now at the Sunday Times. He wrote regularly for the Daily Telegraph and is a regular contributor to national and international radio and television stations including the BBC, CNN, and ITV.

Martin Reed is CEO of Thomas International UK. In addition to building a more efficient sales force and growth revenue, he was pivotal in raising Thomas’ position within the academic community, which led to the Thomas Personal Profile Analysis (PPA) being registered with the British Psychological Society (BPS). Martin is also a fellow of the Institute of Directors and launched Thomas Sport with the focus of supporting every athlete, coach and sporting organisation in maximising their performance.


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