As usual, Prasad posts on a pertinent topic. What is potential assessment, after all?
Unfortunately, (or should it be thankfully?) I have never been part of an organization that did any kind of potential assessment. There was this one organization where your manager and his manager were supposed to do a "scaling call" for you for the succession plan of the business. Which, if you see it, was another way of assessing potential. So people would be ranked one of the four options, Ready to be Promoted, Develop in Place, Continue in Place and Move Out. In decreasing order of desirability.
However what this organization did well was to put the onus on to the manager. If you as an assessee went for three quarter as "Ready to be Promoted" and yet were not promoted, your manager was hauled up over the coals to explain why not?
If you spent two quarters as a Develop in Place and were not yet "Ready to be Promoted" your manager was questioned again.
So organizations need to get a fix on what kind of potential they are assessing for. As Prasad says:
The answers include 'potential to be effective in a particular position', 'potential to be effective in a job family', 'potential to take up leadership positions in the company' etc. Logically, this should lead to the creation of a capability framework that details the requirements to be effective in the job/job family/leadership positions that we are taking about. The potential assessment has to be done with respect to these requisite capabilities. Depending on the nature of the particular capability the method for assessing it can be chosen keeping in mind the organization constraints/context specific factors. In many cases the employees might not have had an opportunity to demonstrate the requisite capabilities (for the future/target job) in their current/previous jobs. This would call for some sort of simulation, similar to those used in assessment centres. For some aspects of particular capabilities that are close to work styles/ personality attributes some sort of psychometric testing could also be useful. Managerial judgement (especially if it is based on in-depth discussion by a group of managers who have had significant amount work related interaction with the employee) and 360 degree feedback are useful to supplement the data from assessment centres/from other assessment tools particularly from a data interpretation/'reality testing' point of view.
Unfortunately organizations and their HR people are usually unable to plan so far ahead. In times of tremendous change sometimes looking for potential that is framed by what worked in the past will undo chances of success in the future.
So what kind of potential are you assessing your existing employees or even new employees for?