How to Spot Untapped Talent in the Third Sector

The Third Sector is going through a talent crisis, with many organisations struggling to attract and recruit the right people. 

As people are pivotal to your organisational success, it's critical to ensure you are both recruiting and retaining the best talent possible for your charity. And with the latest CIPD Resourcing and Talent Planning Survey reporting that not-for-profit organisations find qualified professionals the hardest category of workers to retain, and with 38% of charities experiencing difficulties, the ability to attract talent is more crucial than ever.  

So, how can you ensure you have a dedicated team driving your organisation to achieve its goals? 

As well as the usual methods of adding to your professional, motivated and compassionate teams – there is another way to scale growth in your charity. And that's by looking around at the potential for the unspotted talent you already have in your existing workforce. 

If you are finding it challenging to recruit in the current competitive marketplace where talent appears to be in short supply, this article will help you identify, develop and retain potential talent already working for you. 
Why Seek Out Untapped Talent? 

It is estimated that high-potential employees are as much as 91 per cent more valuable to an organisation than non-potential workers. By adding just one 'star' performer to your team, you can boost the productivity and effectiveness of other team members by as much as 15 per cent.  

High potential talent can be developed to become future team leaders and make a crucial contribution to the future of your not-for-profit organisation.  

Individual organisational needs will differ, but high potential employees with the skills and drive to succeed are there to be uncovered to become the next generation of effective leaders. To avoid rising stars being overlooked, it's critical to develop strategies to help you gauge where your untapped talent lies. So, how do you 'spot' these potential stars?  
High Performer or High Potential? 
Firstly, it's essential to recognise that there is a difference between a high performer and high potential. The former may be excellent in their current role – achieving targets and performing well – but lack the drive and potential to grow in the organisation to a more senior position.  

Alternatively, high potential employees, or 'HIPOs', have drive, energy and the desire to achieve more. They are committed to their work and willing to take on challenges. These HIPOs are almost twice as valuable as other employees, so they are a vital component in securing a prosperous future for your charity.  

To uncover your HIPOs, you should first define the behaviours and achievements you are looking for, and then build an assessment procedure to clarify if an individual could make a great leader. This will allow you to measure what your organisation needs are against the qualities of existing employees to find those rising stars. 

Once you have a procedure in place, you're ready to seek your hidden talent. 
How to Identify Potential in Your Organisation 
Using your objective methods to assess performance, you can monitor these ten essential traits of high potential which demonstrate the ability, innate talent and proficiency to become a future leader: - 

  • Aspiration – do they exhibit dreams to progress their career; are they ambitious? 
  • Engagement – are they committed to your charity? 
  • Resilience – do they demonstrate the ability to recover quickly from setbacks? Are they positive thinkers? 
  • Goal-oriented – how well do they work towards goals? 
  • Drive – do they demonstrate a passion for their work? 
  • Collaborative – are they team players: do they enjoy working with others? 
  • Enthusiastic – do they have intense and eager enjoyment and interest in what they do? 
  • Eager to learn – do they embrace lifelong learning? Are they curious to learn more? 
  • Growth mindset – do they see mistakes as learning opportunities? 
  • Social skills – do they interact well with others in the team, senior colleagues and customers? 
If you recognise the above critical characteristics in an existing employee, you have untapped talent waiting to be nurtured and advanced. So, how do you go about retaining your employee and developing their ability to take them to the next level?  
Retaining and Developing Untapped Talent 

Once you have identified high potential, untapped talent, there are several steps to take to ensure you invest in these employees to achieve a positive outcome for them and your charity. 

  1. Firstly, start your leadership training early. Forbes reported that many businesses simply wait too long before offering their talented employees an opportunity for leadership development.   
  2. Secondly, it's crucial to let them know you believe they have untapped talent and could grow their career in your organisation. This affirmation is likely to have a positive effect, making them feel valued and committed to working with you, putting effort into developing their skills to accelerate their career. Most importantly, it will build retention levels.  
  3. Identify the current strengths and skills of your untapped talent. These will help you set a benchmark for progress and identify any skills gaps they have.  
  4. Customise development plans for each individual to help them develop in a targeted, scalable way that will have a visible impact as they progress.  
  5.  Include milestone achievements in the development plan to confirm and recognise progress and be sure to celebrate them. Milestones also serve to ensure regular check-ins with your employees and the opportunity to have a two-way conversation about growth.  
  6. Finally, remember it takes time to develop and train an employee. But by tapping into this hidden wealth of potential, you will help raise your employee's aspirations, build high performing teams, retain happy, committed employees and raise the profile and productivity of your third sector organisation. 


Heather Clarke 
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About Harris Burns  
Harris Burns are specialists in Executive Search and Senior Finance appointments within the Public Sector; with particular expertise in NHS, Housing and Charity Sectors.   
With over 60 years' combined experience, we have extensive knowledge of the market, proven track records and established networks, allowing us to provide a wide range of services to both clients and candidates alike.  
To learn more about how we can support you to either build your team or career, contact us on 01952 743243.