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.
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.