Half of HR professionals lack confidence in their programmes for high-potential workers and feel they are ineffective for developing future leaders.

These are the findings of a global survey by advisory company CEB, which reveals that high-potential training could be improved by a factor of 11.

The research, which draws on a sample of 6.6 million people, shows that only one in six employees entering a high-potential development initiatives will go on to succeed in a senior role, while only 15 per cent of employees performing well in a role today will become effective once promoted. As a result, organisations are wasting as much as £1.2 million ($2m) annually in learning and development spend on high-potentials.

Eugene Burke, chief science and analytics officer for the company, said: “Put simply, too many programmes are directing resources, training and career opportunities towards employees who lack the aspiration, ability or engagement to be effective at the next level in their organisation”.

There are a number of actions organisations can take to ensure their investment in high-potential programmes delivers a greater return, according to the findings. These include adopting a clearer definition of what high-potential is and how it is different from high performance; identifying whether those with high-potential have the aspiration to rise into senior roles; looking at how engaged high-potential staff are to mitigate their risk of leaving; and using stretch roles or assignments to develop those staff.

Organisational focus is now moving to developing talent where fast tracking methods parallel individual learning and resources are focussed more efficiently and effectively.

Using the Learning Transfer System to diagnose and Accelerate People Performance and Achievement.