Better Identify High Potentials (HiPos)
We define high potential employees as the most talented 5-10% of an organization. If you want to better identify high potentials, start by creating a common definition of high potential. From our perspective, HiPos:
Someone could make a fortune if there were an invention that could clearly discern employee potential – whether or not a “pawn” employee has what it takes to become a king.
Challenges of Identifying High Potentials (HiPos)
One of the problems in identifying high potential employees is that too many of us measure future potential by current and past performance. This is a mistake. An employee who excels in one job may not have the ability or the desire to excel in another.
How many top engineers have you seen promoted into management who fail miserably in their new role? And it was most likely not their fault. They probably had no preparation for becoming a new manager. They had the analytical and problem solving skills that served them well in their previous position but not the leadership, decision making, or communication skills they needed to successfully lead a team.
Pitfalls of Not Identifying High Potentials (HiPos)
Conversely, failing to identify, develop and promote HiPos can lead to increased attrition and succession planning problems. Our annual employee engagement research found that almost one-third of high-potential employees are looking for new jobs. Can your company afford that?
Guidelines to Select High Potentials (HiPos)
So if you can’t predict success from an employee’s current or past track record, what guidelines are there to help you select those high-potentials worthy of grooming for leadership positions? As a bare minimum, the employee should want the leadership position and be willing to do whatever it takes to earn and secure it. You also want to be sure of the employee’s commitment to the organization. They should be highly engaged in the company’s mission and totally committed to and representative of the company’s core values.
Once you have a preliminary list of likely HiPo candidates, you need to measure them against a proven leadership profile of the critical few competencies you and your team have determined are essential for future success at your company based upon your unique business strategy and corporate culture.
The Six Most Common Traits
While each company and organizational culture is different, here are six of the most common traits our high performance clients consider when they are looking to develop a group of high potentials. These are clients who understand the importance of planning for the future. The best leaders know that it is in the best interests of the company to select and prepare their successors.
Look for candidates who are:
The Bottom Line
There may well be other characteristics that you want to include to better identify high potentials in your specific high performance leader profile that is designed for your unique strategy and organizational culture. Remember not to look just at current performance but at the whole person who exhibits leadership qualities but perhaps has not yet had the time or the experience to fully develop them. That’s what “potential” is all about.
To learn more how to better identify high potentials, download The Top Skills for High Performing Leaders
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