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3 HiPo Program Best Practices to Follow

High potential employees can shape and lead an organization into the future, but identifying and retaining high potentials goes beyond assigning a label or offering frequent promotions. Rather, it requires careful examination of who your high potentials are, what they are motivated by, and the optimal development path that unleashes their full potential. As you set out to develop your high potential employees or build a comprehensive HiPo program, it will be beneficial to adhere to the following best practices.

Cultivate an Understanding of What Motivates a High Potential

High potentials are often looking for their next big achievement and want to exceed expectations. To retain them, you will need to provide the tools, resources, opportunities, and knowledge that will keep them challenged and enable their continued high performance. Without addressing those needs, you run the risk of your high potentials becoming disengaged and leaving your company for one that will meet them. In fact, one study found that nearly 60 percent of highly engaged high potentials planned to stay with their company, but only 23 percent of low-engaged high potentials intended to stay.

Some of the important motivators that can help to retain high potentials include:

  • Providing frequent challenges that keep them engaged in their job and with the work your organization is doing
  • Freedom to act without feeling micromanaged
  • Resources that are readily available, which include tools, technology, and even other people
  • Mentorship opportunities with other successful high potentials or company leaders
  • Cross-functional opportunities that allow them to learn more about how the greater organization works 

Experiential training that is interactive is an ideal way to learn new skills, practice them, and then confidently apply them back on the job, as it is a methodology that can be used both in-class and virtually.

Prepare your high potentials of today to be your top leaders of tomorrow.

Recognize Those Identified as High Potentials

Many organizations are unsure of whether to tell high potentials that they’ve been identified as such. They should be told, but recognize that doing so requires that the company be prepared for the questions and expectations that are likely to follow. Those who have been identified as high potential employees will have expectations of training and increased opportunities. Those who have not been identified as high potentials may feel left out and undervalued, which will have to be addressed, usually with a robust career development program. Despite these concerns, telling individuals they are considered high potentials brings transparency to the organization’s commitment to developing talent, and can also go a long way in retaining them long-term.

Create a HiPo Program That Caters to Their Unique Development Needs

Every individual in the organization must be valued for their potential and developed so that they can perform to their best. However, high potentials have unique development needs because they’ve already shown their potential for breakthrough performance, but may not have yet shown their full potential to lead. Therefore, they will need to be taught how to see the world through the eyes of those who possess a different range of talents and needs.

High potentials also possess a unique motivation and capability to succeed that others might not have to the same degree, which can sometimes lead them to become frustrated or dissatisfied with their progress. High potentials do not need to be led as much as they need a line of sight to the end goal, which is not true of all people. Therefore, the HiPo program you create should show them how to provide the motivation, coaching, reinforcement, and recognition that they will require throughout their entire career to be successful.


Cultivating and developing high potential employees is a long-term investment. It is worthwhile, though, as it ensures organizational success down the road, aids in the retention of top talent, and builds the skills employees and leaders will need to navigate the world of tomorrow. By following the three listed best practices you will be well on your way to creating a HiPo program that is experiential, practical, utilizes virtual learning, and aids in retention and attraction of top talent. 

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Ian has been with Eagle’s Flight since 1997, and is Executive Vice President, Global Accounts. He holds an MBA in Finance and Marketing from the University of British Columbia. Ian spent 12 years at Nestlé Canada and brings a wide range of experience that includes practical business experience in management, sales, program design, development and mentoring. He works closely with the Global licensees to ensure their success as they represent Eagle’s Flight in the worldwide marketplace. He has developed outstanding communication skills and currently is the Executive in Charge of a large Fortune 500 client with a team of employees dedicated to this specific account. As a result, Ian has been instrumental in driving the company’s growth and strategic direction.

About Eagle's Flight

Founded in 1988, Eagle's Flight has earned its reputation as a global leader in the development and delivery of business-relevant, experiential learning programs that achieve specific training objectives and lasting behavior changes.

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