Strategically Retain and Develop Your High Potential Employees

Posted by Rick Yvanovich

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High potential employees quitting can be extremely costly. Letting your talents know the company has laid out development programs to prepare them for more senior management roles is one of the most effective methods to mitigate the impact of talent loss. 

The question is: how can companies successfully retain and develop their high potential employees so they will stay with you for the long-term?   

Read more: 3 common employee development challenges and how to overcome them 

Strategically retain and develop high potential employees

How to strategically retain and develop high potential employees?

Retaining your high potential employees (HIPOs) 

In our previous article, we have summarised the 12 most prominent characteristics that define a high potential employee. In it, we have emphasised that HIPOs continuously look for new opportunities to sharpen their skills. 

Engagement plays a critical role in employee retention. According to CEB's study in 2014, 55 per cent of HIPOs with low engagement will drop out of the development program. On the other hand, engaged high potentials (which accounted for nearly 60%) express the intent to stay long-term with the company.    

To keep them engaged, we have to understand their sources of motivation, what peaks their interests. Such information can be acquired from annual performance reviews, interviews, management feedback, etc. Companies should incorporate those insights into each HIPOs’ development program, which must be in alignment with the company vision and mission. 

Read more: In a world of volatility, invest in employee engagement 

Having said that, don’t forget your “hidden stars” who have yet been identified. They will feel undervalued if you are leaving them out. Be transparent by letting them know they need to improve which can boost morale. Companies can design a robust career development program for this particular group to bridge their current skill gaps.  

Developing your high potential employees 

There are plenty of methods to develop high potential employees. The main focus should be enabling your future leaders to maximise their potential with challenging and motivating experiences. 

A few examples of different methods to develop your high potential employees are: 

  • Stretch assignments: empower your employees to take on larger-scale projects that can help them earn higher authority and learn new skills. 
  • Rotation programs: enable your employees to obtain knowledge of different business units, scopes of work, their approaches to tackling issues, etc. 
  • Mentorship: reinforces HIPOs' knowledge about the organisation and creates bonds that are necessary when moving into leadership roles
  • Training: in the form of development programs tailored specifically to each high potential’s need, knowledge, and skill set.  

Short courses, on-the-job training, higher education, informal learning seminar, networking events etc. are all practical and common methods in developing high potentials.  

Create a collaborative culture by promoting peer mentorship 

The traditional executive-to-employee mentoring method, in some cases, is not the best approach to develop high potential Millennials. Mentorship has now transformed into a more collaborative session that enables younger employees to learn from their peers.  

There are various advantages of peer mentoring that organisations might not be aware of, such as: 

  • Enhance skills and generate fresh perspectives; 
  • Improve an individual's communication skills; 
  • Strengthen relationships among colleagues; 
  • Share relevant organisational knowledge; 
  • Ensure collaborative support among peers to handle unique future challenges. 

To successfully promote peer mentoring programs, your company first needs to have a collaborative culture that focuses on the issues, not the individual, and is non-judgemental when working towards the common goals together.  

Infographic: Are you a traditional or collaborative leader? 

Peer mentoring advocates authentic interactions which can lead to more positive work experience, enhanced trust, and help organisations to build collaborative high performing teams. 

Designing comprehensive high potential programs 

To effectively lead others, your high potential employees need to enhance their interpersonal skills, especially: 


High potentials will be required to work both independently and in team settings. They must be able to communicate without misunderstandings or getting frustrated easily as well as knowing when to speak and when to listen.  

Accountability management 

High potentials are some of the most accountable employees. As their responsibilities expand over time, it is imperative to train them to manage their accountabilities effectively. Training also ensures HIPOs are not drowning in tasks that are beyond their capability. 

Receptiveness to feedback  

Timely feedback and effective coaching method can turn a challenge into an opportunity. Not only will your HIPOs receive feedback and coaching sessions to make improvements, but they will also give feedback and coach others in the future. 

Ability to handle difficult conversations 

There are countless instances where it is difficult to talk to someone about a sensitive subject. It is an entirely new skill set that your HIPOs need to be trained in, in order to handle this situation when the time comes. 

Ability to assess others 

High potentials need to understand that not everyone will be as productive as them. Sometimes, there are issues that are beyond their control which can positively or negatively influence the outcomes. HIPOs need to be trained to objectively assess others based on facts, not just the end results alone. 

Ability to empower others 

Your high potentials will eventually become leaders and lead others. Thus, it is absolutely necessary for them to understand the detrimental effects of micromanaging, devaluing their subordinates or the inability to enhance their members’ strengths. They need to know the proper way to support, empower, and inspire their team. 

Read more: Motivation – How does it work for sales? 

Ensure the success of the development programs for high potential employees with a trusted solution  

Kick-starting your development program the right way by accurately identifying the high potentials that need to participate in these training sessions. 

Facts about high potential programs

360-degree feedback is considered to be one of the most useful tools in measuring the potential factor of an employee. 

This multi-rater feedback survey collects information regarding an individual from a variety of sources. The results are then analysed to provide the managers with a more well-rounded picture of who the candidate actually is and what he or she is capable of doing. 

Read more: Selecting raters for a 360-degree feedback process 

The GR8 360o solution provided by TRG Talent allows you to effectively identify the right talent and their leadership development needs.  

The main reason for the 360-degree feedback system to be highly recommended is due to its ability to measure observable behaviours. The extensive assessment dimensions in GR8 360o allow you to measure almost every possible aspect to determine if an individual is capable of becoming a future leader.  

A few dimensions that the GR8 360o tool measures include: 

  • Communication: assesses active listening, information analysis, straightforward communication. 
  • Leadership: assesses integrity, guidance, task delegation. 
  • Performance: assesses problem-solving, goal orientation. 
  • Coaching: assesses talent development, team motivation. 
  • Responsibility: assesses courage, responsibility and empowerment, risk prevention, performance management. 
  • Engagement: assesses vision, empathy, succession planning. 

Plus many more dimensions for you to choose from. You also have the liberty to create your own questionnaire that fits with your company culture, values as well as specific needs. 

What are your concerns? Talk to us directly by requesting a free demo now! 


Topics: Talent Management

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 Rick Yvanovich
 /Founder & CEO/

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