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“Real” high‐potential careers: An empirical study into the perspectives of organisations and high potentials

Nicky Dries (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium)
Roland Pepermans (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium)

Personnel Review

ISSN: 0048-3486

Publication date: 1 January 2008

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this empirical study is to make a contribution to career theory in general, and to the literature on high‐potential careers in particular, by examining the careers of real high potentials, taking place in the twenty‐first century world of work, from the perspectives of the high potentials themselves as well as those of their organizations.

Design/methodology/approach

A total of 34 interviews were conducted within three study samples: high potentials (n=14), organisational representatives employed by the same organisations that provided the high‐potential participants (n=8), and organisational representatives employed by organisations that did not allow for interviewing of their high potentials (n=12).

Findings

The current study suggests that high potentials still have organisational‐traditional careers. High upward mobility, low inter‐organisational mobility and career self‐management emerged as key features of real high‐potential careers.

Practical implications

Implications are spelled out with respect to the “streaming” of different types of employees in the workforce and the importance of expectations management.

Originality/value

Not only are the viewpoints of individuals largely absent in the literature on high‐potential careers, the majority of publications on the subject‐matter are also non‐empirical and take a rather normative stance. The interview study presented in this paper looks into the assumptions of real high‐potential careers from the perspectives of the high potentials themselves as well as those of their organizations, providing empirical data that are interpretive and descriptive rather than normative.

Keywords

Citation

Dries, N. and Pepermans, R. (2008), "“Real” high‐potential careers: An empirical study into the perspectives of organisations and high potentials", Personnel Review, Vol. 37 No. 1, pp. 85-108. https://doi.org/10.1108/00483480810839987

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited