The Unicorn HRO Blog

Identifying and retaining High Potential Employees

Posted Monday, January 30, 2017 by Unicorn HRO

One of the biggest jobs for any HR department is to ensure that the best people are being recruited and retained. This includes employees who have the potential to rise in the company and excel in higher positions.  These High Potential Employees (HiPos) need to be spotted and nurtured in the right way to help them to actualize their potential, and at the same time, HR staff need to ensure that they are happy at the company, so that their services can be retained.  Below are some ways in which HR staff can identify a High Potential Employee, how to go about promoting them to higher positions, and how to make sure that they stay at your company.

What Makes a High Potential Employee?

HiPos can be present in any area of your business, and can be identified via three characteristics: ability, aspiration, and engagement. HiPos also have a degree of experience and learning agility. HR managers tend to use a grid scale to measure an employee’s potential, with the X axis of the grid representing employee performance while the Y axis represents potential.  Should an employee score highly in both categories, they are marked as a HiPo employee, and this is confirmed when compared with other data and opinions.

How Do You Spot a HiPo at Your Company?

HR departments play an essential role in identifying High Potential employees.   These departments tend to examine a few factors.   A high potential employee, for example, has clear skills and abilities in at least one or more areas that are relevant to the business.   He or she has experience drawn from their performance at the company, or from outside areas such as knowledge gained during their education or previous employment roles.  Experience usually allows a high potential employee to gain a degree of respect from colleagues.  They also have what is referred to as learning agility, which is demonstrated by how fast they learn and can quickly assess and analyze a situation.  High potential employees are also ambitious, seeking chances to further develop their careers, and are willing to take on tough tasks with the aim of succeeding.  They also engage with fellow employees, helping them if they are running into difficulties with work and are enthusiastic in their commitment to company culture.    

How Do You Retain Them?

Once HR staff identify a HiPo, they need to be supportive, communicative, and rewarding.  A degree of recognition of this employee is important; this can take the form of positive reinforcement, which can allow the employee to have a sense of job satisfaction, and can be good for their self-esteem.  HiPos also need tangible rewards to incentivize them and help to retain them. These rewards can take the form of compensation, but also can be opportunities for career development or special perks.  HiPos also need new challenges that can keep them engaged so they do not become complacent.  Tough tasks or assignments which allow for possible future recognition and visibility might constitute such challenges.  Finally, it is important that HiPos are promoted, as the prospect of career advancement motivates these employees to strive for a better, more efficient performance.  A lack of promotion or advancement in the future might cause HiPos to become less satisfied in their jobs. Using methods such as quarterly performance evaluations can give HR staff a better idea of whether a HiPo is deserving of a promotion.    

HR staff would be well-advised to develop ways to best identify High Potential Employees.  In doing so, they can create a system which creates a regular supply of talented workers coming into the company.  While it is not guaranteed that any given HiPo will stay at the company, such a system means that the business will have a steady, regular source of talent who can provide invaluable services to the company in achieving its goals and vision.

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