Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Finkelstein, Lisa M.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


The cultivation and development of high potential employees has been a main focus of most talent management sectors of organizations, regardless of field or context. While practitioners have been moving in this space for quite a while, academicians are only recently starting to conduct investigations on high potential employees. There are many critical aspects of best in class high potential programs – the accurate identification of high potential employees being one of the first pivotal steps.

High potential identification can be tricky for several reasons: the very definition of potential is oftentimes unclear, traditional selection decisions made for high potential can be biased, and few reliable assessments have been developed with the sole purpose of selecting employees into high potential talent programs. Talent management executives are often concerned with the value their high potential employees can add to organizations – value that necessitates correct identification. While high potential identification has received some attention from academics, how employees react to high potential designation has not been studied in depth. Researchers and practitioners alike should begin to consider how high potential designation can impact the individual as these labels can have significant impacts on the employees and their work.

This set of studies marks a novel contribution to the field as it is the first investigation to experimentally manipulate high potential designation, as well as consider the moderating impact of actual potential, measured by a validated assessment. Results from these studies also shed light on the question organizations often struggle with: Should we be transparent with our high potential programs and inform employees who is (not) high potential?

The results from study one indicate that employees designated as high potential, compared to those who are not high potential, report higher levels of procedural fairness. When employees believed they were high potential and were told they were not perceived fairness issues in the process they thought was used to determine their high potential status; these individuals were also more likely to report lower levels of self-efficacy. At high levels of high potential perception, procedural justice mediates the relationship between high potential designation and perceived psychological contract breach.

Study two results indicate that employees who were told they were high potential, compared to not, reported higher levels of job satisfaction. Additionally, self-efficacy was a mediator between high potential designation and decision accuracy, organizational trust, affective commitment, and job satisfaction. Results in study two revealed that perceived psychological contract breach was a significant mediator between high potential designation and decision accuracy, effort, organizational trust, affective commitment, and job satisfaction.

Overall, less support was found for the designation group that received no information regarding their high potential status. Further, self-efficacy analyses revealed mixed support. In study two, mixed evidence was found for affective commitment. Lastly, little evidence was found to support hypotheses involving career salience.


207 pages




Northern Illinois University

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