Nicky Dries, Tim Vantilborgh, & Roland Pepermans
Dries, N., Vantilborgh, T., & Pepermans, R. (2012). The role of learning agility and career variety in the identification and development of high potential employees. Personnel Review, 41(3), 340-358.
Publication year: 2012

Purpose – A survey study was conducted in seven best practice organizations in the field of talent management. By cross-checking their existing high potential lists, the authors aimed to examine to which extent assessments of learning agility were able to predict being identified as a high potential or not above and beyond a baseline prediction by job performance. Furthermore, they aimed to investigate whether learning agility increased with career variety.

Design/methodology/approach – The study had a case-control design, comparing supervisor ratings of employees recently identified as high potentials (n=32) with supervisor ratings of a carefully matched control group of non-high potentials (n=31).

Findings – Learning agility (mediated by job content on-the-job learning) was found to be a better predictor of being identified as a high potential than job performance. Career variety was found to be positively associated to learning agility.

Research limitations/implications – This study’s design did not allow for the demonstration of causal effects. Longitudinal studies are needed to further clarify the causality of these findings and their implications for organizational performance.

Practical implications – Organizations should do well to incorporate measures of learning agility into their high potential identification and development processes. Furthermore, they need to reflect on how HRM practices might enhance their high potentials’ career variety and commitment.

Originality/value – The current study responds to urgent calls in the literature for more empirical research on the identification and development of high potentials, as well as on career variety.