High potential employee presenting

Most organizations have high potential talent, which are those employees that are considered your future stars. These are skilled employees that are likely to be a big part of your future growth and succession plan.

While it may be easy to recognize these employees, not all companies have a plan for retaining them. However, to make the most of those individuals who have the most potential you’ll need to create a plan to engage them and prevent them from being lured away from your organization. 

What are high potential employees?

High potential employees are basically those ones that have the drive, passion and skills to be successful in their careers. In turn, they will also build success for your organization, which is why keeping HIPPOs on board is key. 

Employees at any level of your organization can be identified as high potential talent. While some may be recognized by their track record and achievements, younger employees can also be identified by their perceived talent or potential. 

There is no one-size-fits-all test to help you identify high potential talent but they usually have the following characteristics:

  • Self-awareness – High potential employees have a good understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. They know what areas they need to work on to become even better employees. 
  • Critical thinking – Being able to think on their feet and problem solve is another characteristic you’ll recognize in your high potential talent. It is demonstrated through their willingness to be innovative and think outside the box when presented with a challenge. 
  • Drive – These employees have the motivation to build a successful career. They are hard-workers who are ambitious and willing to learn, adapt and grow professionally and personally. 
  • Reliable – Employees with high potential demonstrate their value not just once in a while but all the time. They are consistently giving it their all. 

Why high potential employees are important

Recognizing and encouraging your high potential employees to be their best will have a number of benefits for your organization including:

  • High performance
  • More employee engagement and commitment
  • Skilled leadership talent
  • Reduced turnover
  • Enhanced productivity and profits

Ultimately, the more high potential talent you are able to attract, hire and retain will create a culture of adaptability, which will steer your organization in the right direction for the future. 

How to make the best use of your high potential talent 

Taking high potential talent for granted is a fatal mistake that some organizations can make. Don’t assume that these employees are engaged. Employees are not always as committed to you as you may think. A Gallup poll found that 67 percent of employees were disengaged at work and 51 percent were actively looking for a new job. Moreover, the U.S. Bureau of Labor has seen the turnover rate increase over the past several years. 

Retaining your top talent is a tough job, but an important one. Your organization needs to have a strategy to create a culture and atmosphere that encourages employee growth and makes them want to stay at your company. 

Here are some ways to ramp up engagement for your high potential employees:

  1. Leadership – offer them some leadership opportunities. This benefits your organization because high potential employees will feel more accountable for the project. It also gives them a chance to hone their leadership skills, which they will need if they are going to grow into different roles in your company. 
  2. Growth – give your high potential talent responsibilities that will help them grow. This often means adjusting goals for them regularly as they thrive on new challenges. It may also mean letting them get in over their heads now and then so they can rise to the challenge. Don’t worry, high potential employees are invigorated by these situations as it gives them the opportunity to think fast on their feet. 
  3. Educate – encourage your high potential employees to take courses and training that will help them develop new skills and abilities. This can include internal training that your company has created but it should also include external opportunities. Consider the cost of their education as an investment in their future with your company. 
  4. Mentor – high potential employees should be connected with a mentor who can help them grow, learn and develop. Mentorships are informal connections that help employees set goals, network and access guidance from your more senior employees. This kind of relationship is key for high potential talent to feel connected and engaged with your company. Research has shown that employees who have mentors are more likely to stay with an organization. A study by Deloitte found that 68 percent of those with a mentor were likely to stay with their employer for over five years. In addition, having a mentor makes the high potential employee feel like they are a valued member of your team. It communicates to them that they have a future at your company. 
  5. Acknowledgement – talented employees desire to be recognized for their hard work and effort. It is important that you acknowledge their success and let them know that they are a valued member of your team. If you overlook this one factor, you run the risk of having your high potential talent look elsewhere for appreciation. 

Wrapping it up

High potential employees are those valuable team members who work hard and demonstrate a drive to succeed. They are often talented and value learning and growth opportunities. To help them feel engaged at your organization, you’ll need to have a strategy. This can include placing them in leadership positions, acknowledging their contribution and creating a mentorship program suited to them. 

With the right amount of investment, your high potential talent today will lead the way for your organization to grow and be successful in the future.