High Potential

How to Hang onto Your High Potentials

Every organization wants high potential employees in their organizations. Here's how to give them the growth and development they need so they stick around.

Matthew Reeves

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How to Hang onto Your High Potentials

Hanging on to high potential employees is challenging. Competition with other companies is strong as most employees are constantly searching for career growth opportunities. Research has found that many people already in full-time jobs are still passively seeking a better job somewhere else. The average job posting gets 250 applicants. So, even if you have all your positions filled, it may not stay that way for long.

In addition, statistics show that for most companies, 2019 was a difficult year for recruitment with nearly 7 out of 10 employers having employee shortages. In the U.S. the talent shortage is three times what it was just 10 years ago. The situation isn’t much better north of the border with 41 percent of Canadian companies struggling to find workers.

With competition high and employee turnover rates increasing, unless your organization has a proper retention strategy, you could lose your high potential employees. The loss of quality talent is likely to be felt at many levels of your organization for a long time. So, how do you prevent that from happening?

What is a high potential employee?

Some organizations and managers may struggle to tell the difference between a high potential employee and a high performance employee. But it is important to be able to tell them apart. A high potential employee has the right talent to make a difference in your organization. They offer more than just the ability to climb the corporate ladder as it were. Think about a high performance employee as one who consistently performs well and a high potential employee as one who could do so much more within your organization. Essentially, you want to be able to build and lead teams that will outperform your competitors.

Ways to identify high potential talent

When looking to uncover high potential employees at your organization it is important to have clear criteria that detail what your company is looking for in future leaders. Depending on the industry you are in these skills will vary. However, when it comes to identifying high potential leaders look for the following:

·      Strategic thinker

·      Ability to adapt

·      Vision and an entrepreneurial mindset

·      Calm under pressure

·      Capable of taking constructive criticism

·      Integrity

·      Hard worker

·      Willingness to take on more responsibility 

How to hang on to your high potential talent

Once you have identified those employees who have a high potential for your organization, it is important to define a strategy to hang on to them and set them on a path of career growth. Here are some things you can do that will improve your chances of holding on to those high potential employees.

  1. Tell them. High potential employees will have a good understanding of who they are and what they are capable of. What they need to know is if you see it too. So, once you have identified a high potential employee, let them know that you recognize their talent. If they understand that you value them, they will be less likely to look for that acclamation elsewhere.
  1. Define a career path for them. A good way to engage your high potential employees is to help develop a career path that fits their talents and desires. Offer them opportunities to take on more leadership roles at your organization. You can also start working on a succession plan that includes them at the top.
  1. Challenge them. If you want to increase their engagement with your organization, you’ll have to keep it interesting and challenging for high potential talent. These are individuals who thrive on change and stimulation. That means give them more opportunities for career growth and increased responsibility that actually tests them. This can not only help them rise to the challenge but also help you better assess their capabilities.
  1. Train them. Consider what workshops, online training programs or external courses might help your high potential employee develop their skills and abilities further. Consider the costs of these programs as an investment into the future of your business and your rising stars.
  1. Mentor them. Workplace mentoring programs are ideal for cultivating employee engagement and retention. Pairing your high potential employee with a senior member of your leadership team can help them reach their potential. Through mentorship, your employees are able to see the bigger picture of how your organization fits together. They can also benefit from the advice and support a mentor offers.
  1. Give regular feedback. Be sure to continue the conversation with your high potential talent. This includes giving them regular feedback on their performance and growth. Through this feedback, you can continue to guide their development so that they start to reach their full potential.


The value of high potential employees stretches beyond what they can do for your organization right now. Their highest value is in the potential they hold to be really great leaders that can guide your organization into a successful future. However, for you to achieve that dream, you’ll need to create a strategy for hanging on to your high potential employees. This is particularly important as competition for top talent is strong. Research shows that companies across North America have been struggling to attract workers.

In addition, many full-time employees are still job hunting on the side. So even if you have hired a high potential employee, you’ll need to invest in a plan to keep them.

By recognizing your rising stars, opening up the conversation with them early, offering them opportunities for career growth and throwing in some training and mentorship, you’ll increase their engagement with your organization. In doing this, you’ll improve your chances of hanging on to your high potential talent.

For more information on how Together can help you enhance the engagement of your high potential employees, click here.

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