ATI-Mirage Blog

Managing and retaining high potentialsladder to the sky

Posted by Kathi Rogers | Learning & Development Consultant on 26 September 2019.

Do you have some amazing people in your team? Have you found a team member you always rely on to get the job done? High potentials can be a great asset to any company, the key is to manage them effectively, so they don’t outgrow their roles.

There's a lot of buzz about "high potentials" coming from hiring managers, senior leaders and HR. Everyone wants to say they have high potential employees. It is important to keep in mind - not every employee needs to be high potential and not every job requires high potential employees. The important part is identifying what your business needs.

So, if we identify areas for high potentials within your organisation, how do you identify possible candidates? Typically, they are someone who has the ability for career growth. Someone who can move up and around the company successfully. Over time they can lead larger and more complex parts of the organisation.

With these thoughts in mind, here are 3 tips for identifying, managing and retaining high potentials:

High potentials emerge through time, not usually from direct hires:

What looks good on paper (MBA, Degrees, competitive experience etc.) may not translate into an automatic high potential. Strength in the soft skills of communication, building rapport, empathy and emotional intelligence are just as important as the technical ability. These will all show over time working with your team member and is not always obvious from just the recruitment process. 

Identify opportunities for individuals to become high potentials:

High potential team members don’t walk around with a sign saying “Hi, I’m a high potential!”. They have to be given the opportunity to grow and stretch their skills to demonstrate their capabilities. This means allowing more opportunities for team members to put their own stamp on their work, to show you what they can do. It usually involves demonstrating the skills, knowledge and behaviours critical to success in their role. There are many great performers in every company. The trick is finding them and determining the specific areas where they excel.

Allow cross training and career flexibility:

Once you have a high potential it’s easy to rely heavily on them to get all the work done. Too much of the same thing could make them bored, frustrated and may cause them to look elsewhere for new opportunities outside your organisation. Be open to “letting them go” to another department, cross training in a new skill or a secondment. Trying to keep them in your team because it suits you and your KPIs can be detrimental to the high potential staying. Supporting them to advance their skills will build loyalty and respect to your working relationship. Overall leading to higher retention rates and creating a highly skilled workforce. Allow them the opportunity to be included in higher level conversations in the business, increasing their knowledge and to bring a fresh approach to how things are done. They may be able to implement process improvement where business practices have become “stuck”.

Overall when it comes to high potentials the aim is to nurture their talent and watch them grow. When the time comes, they will likely move on and out of your organisation yet the experiences they had working with you will last their entire career.


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