High Potentials

Everything you need to know about high-potential leadership programs

Every organization wants high potential employees. Here's how to spot them and develop them into future leaders.

Matthew Reeves

September 21, 2022

While there are a few reasons why employees are quitting and looking for new jobs, the most common seem to be:

  • Toxic work culture
  • Job insecurity and reorganizing
  • Failure to recognize employee performance
  • Insufficient pay.

When it comes to employee retention, most businesses want to keep their high-potential employees. These HiPo employees are the ones who take initiative, bring necessary change, and increase revenue. They are the ones who see the value in your business’ mission and goals and invest in them. So, losing these employees means slowing down your steady path to success.

This is why it’s important to recognize high-potential employees and give them the space to grow and further develop their careers. And a high-potential leadership program can help you do just that.

What is a high-potential leadership program?

A high-potential leadership program is a program dedicated to finding employees with high potential and talent for skill development and growth. This program is designed to find employees who will (or already do) go the extra mile and help them get to the next level.

First, you must determine what you want the program to do for your organization. 

  • Do you want to create stronger leaders? 
  • Do you want to keep your best employees? 

Then, decide how you can best find and support these high-potential individuals. Will they get value from workplace mentoring? Can you provide them with L&D resources?  

The end goal is to create a productive and high-performance work culture where high-potential employees are given a chance to shine. 

What is the purpose of high-potential leadership programs?

By running a high-potential leadership program, you identify and develop strong leaders within your organization. And when done right, such a mentorship program will help your organization in the following ways:

Succession planning: Preparing future leaders

Nurture future leaders and put them on the path to success with succession planning. Provide guidance, mentorship, and resources to become strong leaders who are equally invested in the organization. Support their career and skill development, assist them in overcoming challenges, and encourage innovation and growth.

Retention: Keeping your strongest employees invested

Your strongest employees are the ones who work hard and smart to bring your organization closer to its objectives. They care about the process and the results, and you can see this in the work they produce. Give these employees yet another reason to stay by providing more avenues for learning and development.

Engagement: Rewarding high performance

Improve employee engagement by helping your high-potential employees work towards goals that matter to them. Be aware of their personal milestones, and recognize and reward their achievements. This will make your high-potential employees feel more accomplished and supported in your workplace.

Benefits of developing high-potential employees

But running a high-potential leadership program doesn’t only boost your best-performing employees. Your business also benefits from promoting internally and letting your current employees grow in their ranks. 

Here’s why:

  • Internal recruitment is cheaper. Promoting from within means reducing money spent on job boards, advertising the role, onboarding and training a new employee, and more. In fact, studies have shown that promoting internal employees is cheaper than hiring new external employees.
  • Internally promoted employees perform better. A current high-potential employee already understands your business goals and value proposition. Plus, they are already invested in your business’ success. So, promoting these employees and equipping them with the right resources will only help them do their job better. And this kind of internal mobility will save you time and money in the long run and increase employee engagement and loyalty. 

How to identify high-potential employees

First of all, it is important to note there is a big difference between employee performance and employee potential. Even though the two can go hand in hand, when it comes to assessing someone as a high-potential employee, you need to think about their future and how they can contribute to the organization. 

Assessing an employee’s potential doesn’t just circle around their performance. Specifically, you want to find someone most likely to become a “key driver of organizational performance.”

So, consider their personality, willingness to learn, what motivates them, and how far they can go with the right support. 

Here are some characteristics to look for when building your high-potential leadership program:

  1. They’re good at what they do. To identify who has future potential, you want to look at their current and past performance and use their performance as a benchmark for success.
  1. They get things done and use initiative. Being reliable and getting work done is another important trait. These individuals don’t need to be prompted to tackle tasks outside of their job description. Plus, they want to be trusted to do the job well, so they rarely require regular check-ins or may update you themselves. 
  1. They are eager for new opportunities. They are happy to jump on new initiatives and projects. By volunteering to learn a new skill or taking on a new responsibility, they are excited by the prospect of leaving their comfort zone. Their goal is to improve and develop their skill set, so learning new things drives their career.
  1. They stay calm when under pressure. You cannot assume all employees easily manage stressful or fast-paced work environments. But an employee with high potential may visibly show their ability to handle pressure with composure and logic. They may even thrive working under pressure and love meeting deadlines.
  1. They care about the success of their company. High potential employees will be invested in a company that offers them opportunities. They will ask questions and want to hear about the company’s success. The idea is that they want to stay and build a long career. So understanding the goals of the business and how they can help is of mutual benefit. 

Strategies for a successful high-potential leadership program

When building out your high-potential leadership program, the first step is identifying your HiPo employees and determining what you want them to do for the organization. Once you recognize them and their strengths, you can consider how to best support them so they can achieve your (and their) goals. 

It is, therefore, crucial to have an open dialogue about your HiPos and their development so you can revisit retention and development strategies.

So, how do you create a high-potential leadership program that supports your employees and your business? 

Here are five strategies to consider:

Asses their existing skills

An important strategy for developing high-potential employees is to fully assess their existing skills. Look at the different skills they currently have and use. Then consider new skills they want to learn and that will aid in their future development. 

Put plans in motion to help them develop these skills. Assign them new tasks, introduce them to different projects, pair them with a senior mentor, or set them up with a relevant course.

Enroll them in personalized learning programs

Investing in high-potential employees means investing in their future and the company's future. Keep in mind that internal recruitment comes at a lower cost than external recruitment. So, this investment means the stakes are higher, but the risk is lower as you can see their development and build confidence in it. Set them up in learning and development programs and provide access to supporting resources. 

Organize job shadowing opportunities with existing leaders

As part of the program, allowing them to shadow higher managers and leaders so they can visualize the scope of the future in real-time. When possible, have them attend conferences, operational business meetings, and other industry-relevant events where important information is discussed at the higher manager or executive level. 

This isn’t just beneficial from a learning perspective but also in terms of networking. Such networking is vital in terms of progression. And for high-potential employees, it is an opportunity to show who they are, how they are driven, and why they deserve to be seen as an integral part of the company. 

Pair high-potentials with mentors

Developing high-potential employees means not dropping the ball on opportunities that they can make their mark on. Give them more responsibility to see how they perform with or without instruction. One way to do this is to pair them with mentors through mentoring software.

These mentors will train them, challenge them, and provide actionable feedback. 

Recognize and reward HiPos

Finally, reward these hardworking employees with positive feedback, good pay rates, and desirable benefits. 

This is a great way to tell employees that they are valued while keeping them engaged with your business. You may want to spend time determining how to distribute rewards, specifically, what kind of rewards and at what stages they will be distributed. 

Be transparent about this structure and ask for their input as well. After all, you want their rewards to mean something to them too.

Start your high-potential program with Together

Your high-potential employees want themselves and your business to succeed. For this, they need room to grow and develop their skills. It is up to you to give them this space so they can do right by your organization.

This is where Together comes in – you can use our mentorship software to develop high-potential leaders. Through our platform, you can ensure employees find the best mentors and have a space to interact and learn from them. 

Our intelligent algorithm will connect relevant leaders with mentees. They can then use our agenda templates or create their own and work on a schedule that meets their needs. The best part? Our reporting tools can help you track the progress of your high-potentials so you can see the success of the program.

Ready to get started? Request a demo today!

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