4 High Potential Talent Mistakes to Avoid

4 High Potential Talent Mistakes to Avoid
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Are You Making High Potential Talent Mistakes?

Most talent management strategies involve focusing time, attention, and training on targeted high potential employees — also called HiPo’s. HiPo’s are a fundamental part of  talent management plans to ensure a effective leadership succession and to see that you have the right critical talent in the right place at the right moment. Smart talent leaders know to pay attention to four specific high potential talent mistakes because research on HiPo program success rates is a bit alarming.

SHL recently reported that:

  • 46% of companies lack a systematic HiPo identification process
  • 55% of HiPo candidates drop out of HiPo programs within five years
  • 73% of HiPo programs show neither business outcomes nor return on investment

Four Field-Tested High Potential Talent Mistakes to Avoid
Let’s look at two of the high potentials you have identified, Chris and Alex. They have both proven themselves in their current roles. They are smart, above-average performers, good communicators, and respected by their managers and team mates alike.

But is that enough? Our experience says, “No.” Here is where and how your choices may run into high potential talent mistakes and not measure up to fulfill your hopes and expectations.

  1. Focusing Too Much on Current Performance
    Both may be high performers in their current positions, but current performance in a current role is no guarantee that they have the knowledge, skills, or even the desire to grow into more complex and visible leadership roles. Certainly you need high potential employees to be able to handle progressively more challenging jobs.

    Can you say with confidence that Chris and Alex have the characteristics that will allow them to be successful in more senior and responsible positions?

  2. Assuming High Levels of Engagement
    In this example, both HiPo’s are positive contributors to their team. They seem to be naturals. But are you sure of their commitment to this particular team and this particular company?

    Our employee engagement survey data scarily finds that 1-in-4 identified high potentials intend to leave their organization within the year. Chris and Alex may be less engaged than it seems.  In fact, high potentials have special needs and expectations for themselves, their company, their co-workers, and their leaders.

    When there’s an expectation  mismatch, high performers become a big retention risk.  To decrease their risk of leaving, ensure their positive engagement by checking regularly on their satisfaction levels with their career progression, trust and belief in their leaders, perception of their co-workers’ commitment and capabilities, and their personal alignment with organizational values and strategies.

  3. Having Misguided Professional Development
    The somewhat natural tendency to protect HiPo’s from making mistakes is one of the most common high potential talent mistakes. It is critical that Chris and Alex be exposed early on to complex and high stakes situations. They need to learn how to make and learn from performance management mistakes.

    HiPo’s need to be able to handle the stress of leadership decision making where there are high levels of visibility, strategic ambiguity, and high stakes consequences.

    The other natural tendency is to hand HiPo development over to the line managers who recommended them.  If they are truly high potential employees, we believe that the company needs to spend the time to carefully oversee their grooming for leadership.  The future of your company may depend upon how well they have been trained and coached for leadership.

  4. Limiting Board Room Access
    If Chris and Alex are to learn how corporate strategies are developed and implemented, they should be privy to early discussions on how to guide the company into the future. If they feel they have been left out of the loop, they will be less engaged. And then we’re right back where we started – with a 25% chance that they will jump ship.

    Actively involve your high potential employees in the strategy design and high stakes decision making processes whenever possible.

The Bottom Line
High potential talent mistakes can derail your talent management strategy.  If you want to protect your succession pipeline, focus on future performance, do not underestimate the chances of disengagement, codify a targeted development plan, and actively involve them in important strategy conversations whenever possible.

To learn more about creating a winning talent strategy, download The 3 Research-Backed Ingredients Required for Talent Management Success

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