The Skills Hi-Pos Need to Succeed in 2025

A group of people running on the same track.
by Deborah Bell

As Vice President, Consulting, Deborah conducts assessments, manages consulting projects, and designs and delivers custom solutions. She enjoys building relationships with her clients and uncovering their needs so she can serve as a trusted adviser and business partner.

Top 10 Skills for 2025

According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report, 50% of all employees will need reskilling by 2025.  And, the vast majority of business leaders (94%) now expect employees to pick up new skills on the job – a sharp rise from 65% in 2018. Source   While everyone will need to learn new skills, high potentials (hi-pos) will be expected to do so faster.  And, hi-pos will be expected to have higher levels of competence on the top 10 skills that the Jobs Report deemed essential for 2025.   Accurately identifying who your true hi-pos are is, therefore, imperative.  Doing so will ensure that you are spending your development dollars on people who are capable of learning a variety of skills quickly to deliver business results.

4 of the Top 10 are Cognitive Abilities

  • Analytical Thinking
  • Complex Problem Solving
  • Critical Thinking and Analysis
  • Reasoning, Problem Solving, and Ideation
It has been well-established that the gold standard for measuring cognitive ability is psychometric testing.  This is where many organizations go wrong when identifying “high potentials”.  People often assume that if someone has earned an advanced degree or is successful in their job, they must be smart.  People can be successful in their current job due to many internal factors (e.g., good social skills, hardworking) and external factors (e.g., a supportive boss, a talented team of direct reports).  

Another obstacle to accurately assessing someone’s cognitive ability is that it is very difficult to observe.  Even if you give the person a variety of novel problems to solve, new skills to learn, and increasingly complex assignments over the course of one to two years, it is nearly impossible to pinpoint how bright they are compared to a large, normative sample of other leaders.  At best, you could say that they picked up on things faster than others you have managed, but that still doesn’t tell you how much runway they have to take on higher levels of complexity and a broader range of intellectual challenges.  Alternatively, you can administer a cognitive skills test battery and have accurate data in less than 1 hour. 

4 of the Top 10 are aspects of Personality 

  • Creativity, Originality, and Initiative: This primarily falls under the  Openness/Intellect domain in the Five Factor Model of personality. Read about the FFM
  • Active Learning and Learning Strategies: This also falls under the Openness/Intellect domain.
  • Resilience, Stress Tolerance, and Flexibility: This primarily falls under the domain of Emotional Adjustment.  Openness to change is another facet of personality that contributes to this.
  • Leadership and Social Influence: This falls under the domain of Extraversion. 

These aspects of personality can also be challenging to observe and evaluate accurately because not everyone is on a level playing field.  For instance, some people are in roles that do not give them ample opportunities to display creativity or lead people.  Others may be in a low pressure role and haven’t been put through a stress test. 

The gold standard for evaluating personality is a self-report assessment based on the FFM. While most of us like to believe that we are good evaluators of other people’s personalities, the research tells us otherwise.  Researchers had people complete a self-report measure of personality (note that self-report is different than a self-assessment) and asked observers who just met them to rate that person on those same items.  At a later time, those same measurements were taken.  The results showed that the observer’s ratings became more closely aligned with the person’s self-report at time 2.  Essentially, as time goes on, and we observe the individual in many different types of situations, our ratings of that individual’s personality change and become closer to how that person sees themselves.  Because of the time it takes – and the limited range of situations in which we observe others at work – our assessments of people’s personality will tend to be less accurate than self-report measures.  

In addition to being able to administer a personality assessment in under 40 minutes, you get an apples-to-apples comparison of employees to supplement behavioral observations.  This has the added benefit of injecting fairness into the process.  In turn, this can result in a more diverse group of High Potentials. 

2 of the Top 10 relate to Technology

  • Technology Use, Monitoring, and Control
  • Technology Design and Programming
These skills can be more easily measured and evaluated on the job.  Still, some cognitive ability tests are predictive of technical aptitude (i.e., perceptual reasoning, numerical computation) and Intellect/Openness is predictive of exploring and trying new ways of doing things.


By using an objective assessment as part of your high-potential identification process, you will be able to put people on the right career path and allocate your development dollars appropriately.  You can also avoid falling into the trap of the Peter Principle.  This is a concept in management developed by Laurence J. Peter, which observes that people tend to get promoted up to their level of incompetence.  Essentially, people often earn promotions by performing well, until eventually, they rise to a role that they are incapable of performing well.  This is a lose-lose situation for the individual and the organization.  

Learn more about our assessments for hi-po identification and talent development: Talent Development

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