Companies are struggling to find successors for key positions within their businesses. They have the talent but don’t know how to utilize it properly. These underused employees often move on to opportunities elsewhere.
This is where high-potential programs (HiPo) come in.
Our team at Together has helped over 150 organizations launch mentoring programs for high-potential employees with our mentorship platform.
In doing so, we’ve learned the benefits and best practices of high-potential programs.
In this article, we’re going to unpack four examples and how to implement your own high-potential program.
What is a high-potential program?
High-potential programs are usually created so companies can hold on to employees that demonstrate a high level of potential.
These are employees that not only exceed expectations but are constantly looking for ways to boost the business and others around them. A high-potential program is designed to ensure they find a position within the company where their skills are best suited.
At its core, high-potential programs are designed to increase retention and plan for succession.
For example, you have a sales manager whose team is top in their region. Could she handle a larger team? Or would she be better off in a different department? They don’t have to know everything right away. It is about looking at their potential within the company.
A high-potential program can be mentorship, individual coaching, targeted training, or career management and will vary depending on the company or employee.
Examples of high-potential programs
Below is a list of four types of high-potential programs. Some are championed by leading companies, whereas others are general examples. Which approach would fit best within your organization?
- Potential assessment of workforce: This is an assessment based on your workforce, looking at what potential it has. You can use it to assess individuals to see if they are suitable or could be trained for a role. It can also be used to find potential gaps within your company’s workforce.
- Career management process: This is where high-potential employees have a career mentor to help them find out how they can reach their career goals. This is usually done by experts and professionals who have come from similar positions.
- 3E approach (Education, Experience, Exposure): This approach says that 10% of knowledge comes from education, 70% from experience, and 20% from exposure. This model uses this to support a high-potential employee’s development. Education relates to formal learning. Experience relates to on-the-job learning. Exposure is related to learning in a social community environment. For more information, learn about social learning at work through our white paper on the topic.
- Basic Blue for IBM leaders: This is an intensive management program created by International Business Machines (IBM) to find a manager’s strengths and weaknesses. The ‘Basic Blue’ program is where the employee takes on their first management role. Based on assessments, they then continue on to other programs, depending on their needs.
Deciding on which of these four examples is most relevant to your workplace context may not be clear. To make it more concrete, let's look at the three main benefits of high-potential programs.
Then, it may become clear which benefit is most important to you, and that will reveal which type of HiPo program you need.
What are the benefits of high-potential programs?
There are a lot of benefits to starting a high-potential program. We’ve categorized them into three buckets, which we detail below.
Increased participation from employees
High-potential employees need a challenge. You want to give them stretch assignments where they can learn and drive a positive impact for the organization.
Challenging them with these employee engagement ideas builds on their enthusiasm for the job. These employees need challenges and activities where they can grow their skillset, along with the tools to complete them.
Helps in training and equipping employees in your organization
High-potential programs are a chance to find gaps in employees’ knowledge and to build on skills they already have. These types of employees tend to be quick studies who will benefit from ongoing training and assessments.
Increased employee retention rate
High-potential employees are ambitious and constantly seeking to better themselves. So without these types of programs, these employees will start to look elsewhere for growth. This is evident in the study by McKinsey that shows 54% of employees globally plan to leave their jobs in the near future.
6 best practices for high-potential programs
We’ve covered a lot of the basics of high-potential programs. By this point, you likely want clear steps to get started. Below, we’ll walk through the concrete practices you can take to develop your high-potential employees.
These best practices aren’t in any particular order but are tactics you should have in your HiPo strategy.
1. Frequent assignments
To find the real potential in your employees, they need to be constantly working towards new objectives.
Frequent and varied assignments will challenge them and test their skills. Rotating their roles within the company exposes employees to the different areas of your business. A multi-skilled employee is a much more valuable asset.
To learn more about rotating roles, start by organizing job shadowing events with your HiPo employees.
2. Assess their ability to perform
High-potential employees don’t want to feel boxed into certain roles where they are just following orders. They need the freedom to hone their skills.
Creating business simulations where high-potential employees have a problem to solve will encourage to use their initiative.
For example, a hypothetical problem:
When deciding on a toll-free number, Canada may not be where your business is based, but you have a lot of customers located there. Would it be more effective to have an “umbrella” phone number or a local number?
Employees would have to do research and weigh up the benefits and drawbacks. They would also be in charge of the final decision and justification. They would be assessed on their decision-making methods as well as their final results.
3. Provide high-potential employees with leadership roles
High-potential programs are not only about training high-potential employees but finding them a role within the company.
Many lose their high-potentials to other companies because they do not feel valued or have not found their place within the company.
It’s important to give high-potential employees a chance to prove themselves. It can then be decided what further talent development they need to fill the role in the future.
4. Connect high-potential employees with mentors
High-potential programs are often created to find the successor to important roles within the company. So it makes sense for high-potential employees to have access to people currently working in these positions. They can see the inner workings of their potential future roles and gain some insight from the current employee.
Exposure to other high-potential employees who have completed the high-potential employee mentorship programs would also be beneficial. Hearing from others and looking at how they have progressed would help high-potential employees make the most of the high-potential employee program.
5. Give high-potential employees detailed feedback about their performance
Feedback is one of the most important parts of any program and should be a two-way process. Mentors, coaches, or program leaders should provide feedback on the progress the high-potential employees are making, just as participants in the program should feel encouraged to provide feedback on how successful the program is.
Feedback gives employees and employers a chance to examine performance. High-potential employees tend to be competitive and strive to do better. So feedback needs not only to be detailed; it must be personalized to individual employees.
High-potential employees should also be given a chance to be assessed by themselves and their peers. Self-reflection is an important skill to have if they plan to progress within a company. Peer assessments are key as these are the people who will be working with the employee.
6. Establish networking opportunities
High-potential employees will benefit from networking with like-minded people within and outside your company. Networking with colleagues creates stronger connections, which means that employees are more likely to remain with a company.
But external connections, like international calling, are also important for employees. This will give high-potential employees a larger pool of resources to work with, giving them more networking opportunities.
How do I implement a high-potential program?
With these best practices in mind, let’s walk through how to start a high-potential program.
Define what you are looking for in a high-potential employee
The first step in creating your high-potential employee mentorship programs is to find out what you are looking for in a high-potential employee. This can be difficult as there is no one-size-fits-all method.
Do you want employees that aren’t afraid to take risks, work well under pressure, or members of staff that demonstrate curiosity or creativity? Think carefully about what your company needs, including what roles you may have to fill in the future.
Identify your company’s high-potential employees
The next step is to identify your high-potential employees. You could ask for manager or peer recommendations, review previous appraisal records or conduct new ones. You could even conduct personality tests to see which employees possess the traits you’re looking for.
Once you have some promising candidates, you will need to conduct a selection process. Are employees allowed to apply for your high-potential programs, or will they be individually selected?
Create a detailed outline for your program
It is vital to ensure that your high-potential employees know what to expect during the program, as well as what is expected of them. Provide an outline and set clear goals. You will also need to think about how your program will affect any current roles and deadlines.
Implementing your high-potential program will take time to develop. It will need to constantly adapt so you can support each individual high-potential employee in their career development.
Examine your company to establish exactly what you’re looking for in high-potential employees. Find your employees that fit this criterion and guide them. Remember to be persistent in your efforts. Not all employees who show potential will meet your expectations. But the ones who do will be valuable assets to the company.
Grace Lau - Director of Growth Content, Dialpad
Grace Lau is the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad, an AI-powered cloud communication platform for better and easier team collaboration with features like Dialpad visual voicemail. She has over 10 years of experience in content writing and strategy. Currently, she is responsible for leading branded and editorial content strategies, partnering with SEO and Ops teams to build and nurture content. Here is her LinkedIn.