The Talent Grid - online


"It involves insight into the relationship between personal interests and the interests of others."

Talent Agents

The authors are the founders of Career Openers, an organisation that is changing the roles in the labour market. In their opinion, a vacancy is not the starting point for a perfect match, but the competencies of high potential are. The talent agents guide top talent, with a number of years' experience, in their second or third career move, mainly to multinationals. However, before Career Openers is willing to act as a personal broker, candidates have to pass a stringent selection process. This process is used to identify the profile of, what they call, the innovator. This article describes the development of a model used to predict the potential for higher management functions, based on research conducted among a number of multinationals. In addition to selection, the model can also be applied in personnel development and planning.

Head and shoulders above the rest

We have been caught off balance searching for the profile of high potential for a long time. In the development of our ideas we were continuously led to new discoveries, as our original assumptions regarding the potential top manager were repeatedly proven incorrect. The following factors, in particular, were responsible for this process.

  • The core value of good leadership has always been that a leader rises above others and gives them direction.
  • In the past decade, social developments have significantly changed labour relations. The merging new production concepts have resulted in a shift from complex organisations made up of simple tasks, to simple organisations with complex tasks. Functions and teams are becoming increasingly self-managed, requiring a more coaching (softer) leadership style.
  • At an organisational level, it is also becoming clear that the environments of organisations are less stable. Therefore, it is increasingly important that organisations have the ability to innovate and adapt to these changes.

In search of a solution for a conclusive model for the recognition of management potential, we collected information on the characteristics used to select young executives and assess management potential from large organisations in the Netherlands. The companies involved in this study included ABN AMRO, Ahold, Campina Melkunie, Centraal Beheer, Coca-Cola, Friesland Coberco, General Electric, Hollandsche Beton Groep, Heineken, KLM, KPN Telecom, Mars, Phillips, Procter & Gamble, Sara Lee, TPG, Unilever and others. We subsequently used the lists of personal and behavioural characteristics, supplemented with interviews, in an attempt to compile groups of characteristics that logically belong together. This was done in the hope that more general dimensions would emerge from the data.


© 1999 Career Openers