Invest in the future by developing high potential employees

March 27, 2017 Christine Lamothe

In a typical workplace, approximately 20 percent of employees are considered top performers who generate exceptional value. HR professionals have recently become interested in identifying those likely to develop into high potential employees (HiPos) and expend considerable resources to do so. Having HiPos is essential to ensuring the continuing success of your organization after your current key players are no longer part of the workforce.

Unfortunately, many organizations are struggling to achieve results with their HiPo programs. A recent study by the Corporate Research Forum showed that 53% of organizations are not satisfied with their programs. A main reason these programs don’t succeed is that they focus too much on performance. While performance may seem the obvious thing to focus on, organizations are generally not good at measuring it. Also, the competencies that drive high performance are different at varying levels of responsibility. An employee who is a high performer at an individual level may not do as well in a management role. Essentially, when you look mostly at performance you are evaluating an individual on what they currently do, and not what they could achieve.

Another problem is that HiPo programs focus too much on leadership potential, not effectiveness. This can be detrimental because the attributes that get people into leadership roles are often not found in those who can actually lead effectively. For instance, self-promotion can often land and employee a management role, but these people often don’t have empathy, an important trait in a quality leader.

Although 20% of employees often account for 80% of the overall output, it is also true that 20% of individuals often cause 80% of the problems; they can even be the same individuals. HiPos can be high maintenance and difficult to manage, and no matter how high they perform, there will always be some undesirable qualities. HR interventions that only focus on strengths can create future problems, and turn overused strengths into weaknesses.

So what can your organization do to ensure your talent processes identify and empower standout employees?

Competencies address the challenges of identifying top performers, communicating expectations, and rewarding their performance. By providing detailed definitions of the abilities, skills, motivations, knowledge, and traits demonstrated by top performers, competencies deliver clarity and enable managers and employees to visualize successful workplace behaviors. And don’t overlook the importance of continuous feedback even for top performers who, despite their self-sufficiency, still need feedback to feel engaged and acknowledged.

Now that you know how to use competencies to identify and develop HiPos, check out some other new and emerging ways to use competencies.


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About the Author

Christine Lamothe

Christine is recognized as one of North America’s foremost experts in Competency Based Management and has developed hundreds of competency profiles and assessment tools for clients in both the private and public sector for various business roles. Christine has pioneered and has been active in the CBM field for the last 25 years.

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