How to manage HiPOs effectively

Organisations look forward to invest in the development of the right set of employees and for this they need to identify high potential employees and develop them as future leaders.


Every business today has a perfect blend of talent wherein some of the employees are HiPos and rest of them are the regular ones, and it takes an apt balance of these to run the organisation. Today, what differentiates an efficacious organisation from others is the way they manage their value pools, more specifically, the ‘A’ talent or High Potential employee pools. Now, the focus has been shifted towards evaluating the potential & capabilities of employees rather than their performance. Organisations look forward to invest in the development of the right set of employees and for this they need to identify high potential employees and develop them as future leaders.

While sourcing Hipos is a critical task, equally important is their channelization in the right direction and to make the most of their capabilities. The goal thus is to attract, develop and retain high potential employees having appropriate skills, commitment and capabilities, required to meet existing and future organizational needs. Given the current backdrop of rapidly changing global scenario and technology advancements, there is a rising demand for leaders who can succeed in today’s uncertain, complex, volatile, and ambiguous business environment.

Investing in the right people

How much so ever cliched it may sound, people remain the most critical asset of any organization. In the realm of sales and marketing, employees are the first face that customers interact with. Thus, a high potential employee can turn the tables altogether when it comes to driving revenue. Probably this is the reason why one of the industry leader of an eminent technology firm produced an off-beat legend, creating a culture of ‘Employees First Customer Second’ with a firm belief that an organisation can achieve success by following this mantra. While many glaring evidences and blue-ocean thoughts around employee engagement shout-out loud, sometimes even Management and HRD leaders fail to take cognizance of this critical issue. That’s why this is vital to not only identify, but also to nurture and retain employees with high potential.

Nurturing the HiPos

In an era where talent landscape is markedly competitive, HiPo employees should be the top most priority for any organisation otherwise if they don’t take care of them, their competitors soon will. Let us look at couple of organisational attributes for managing the HiPos effectively:

Trust Showcase – This is the foremost requisite of all. While an organisation may value a high potential employee, however, till the time, it doesn’t showcase complete trust on their potential, their decisions etc. it’s hard to say that those talents will stick around for long. Praising someone and trusting some are two different things and in case of Hi-Pos, both form an essential factor.

Timely Rewards and Recognitions - Recognising that the employees have potential helps them thrive better. Providing regular rewards and recognition can instill a sense of great self-esteem, positive reinforcement, and higher job satisfaction in them.

Leadership and Management Support: Thriving in a competitive corporate set up is not a cakewalk. Besides HR specialists to facilitate HiPos, involvement of the leaders and immediate managers is essentially crucial to make their journey worthwhile.

Engagement and Training: HiPos feel stress with corporate politics around them, that is why it is hard to hold on to them as they usually have several desired options available outside. The executive staffing firm Challenger, Gray, and Christmas reports that 42% of the employers are worried that other companies will steal their top talent. Therefore, for re-strengthening your HiPos’ mental and emotional system, it is a must to keep them engaged, which in turn, will impact their “discretionary effort” for higher performance. Also, after re-strengthening their mental and emotional system, it is equally important to provide constructive feedback and throw bigger challenges, supporting them with continuous coaching to unleash their maximum potential.

Work-life balance– Needless to say, but HiPos are a hot commodity at all levels today! Probably their high-potential makes them exposed to the expectation level which is sometimes difficult to meet and they end up messing up their personal life with the professional formalities. Therefore, it is critical to ensure the aspects of work-life balance of the High Potential employees as well to keep maintaining their productivity at par.

Challenges and strategies to overcome these challenges:

Having a robust pipeline of HiPos talent gives competitive advantage to an organization. However, due to increasing challenges of hefty work culture, it has become difficult to engage and retain them. This is quite evident as per a study by the Corporate Executive Board, which shows that the turnover rate of high potential employees is 30%. Now the question arises how should we strategise to reduce this low engagement-high turnover ratio and how can we ensure retaining these valuable assets? Obviously, there is no cookie-cutter approach for creating a successful retention strategy. Basically, you can-not predict what works somewhere else to manage them, will also work for your organisation too. For instance, employee’s future aspirations, training and development gap along with the leadership and middle management’s handling gap are some of the prevalent challenges that hampers the performance of high potential employees. However, since we know that organisational culture majorly impacts the engagement-retention level, below mentioned are two key focus areas to enhance the productivity of HiPos:

The art of communication is the language of leadership: Leadership plays a major role in terms of best managing any high potential talent. Since, everything trickles down from leaders to HRD to managers and ultimately to subordinates, it’s a continuous process wherein a perfect synchronisation of all of them is important.

Succession planning is the Key: Many organisations focus all planning on their C-level employees. Focusing all your attention only on getting people to the top spot might be paralyzing since in no time leaders can change, markets can change, and it’s hard to find and sustain an enduring proposition without an enduring stream of talent. Therefore, creating a healthy talent pipeline signifies development at all levels.

It’s a marathon of continuous efforts

This is now evident that identifying candidates and tossing development their way is just not enough. We need to continuously track and evaluate their progress. Performance evaluations and timely recognition prove to be some invaluable tools, giving an insight into how those identified future leaders are performing, and how valid that assessment continues to be. In a nut shell, we see that these days the organisations which identify their Hi-POs, find ways to engage and retain them while leveraging the most from their potential – are the ones who are able to progress far better in comparison to the rest, towards their strategic goals.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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