High-potential employees perform their roles to the highest standards. More than that though, they’re the people who can go on to rise up the ranks, becoming the future of your company.
If you’re lucky enough to have employees like this, you need to reward their performance, support their progression and build them into your plans.
Who are high-potential employees and what are their characteristics?
In every organisation, there are people who excel in their roles. Sometimes top performers show enough promise to grow into great managers and valuable senior employees. Standout individuals with the ability to go much further are high-potential employees, and are exactly the kind of people any company wants to retain and develop.
Knowing how to identify high-potential employees is the first step. There are some tell-tale signs:
- Consistently achieving great results in their role, even under pressure
- Working well autonomously and seeking the authority to take decisions themselves
- Using initiative to solve problems and generate ideas for improving processes
- Acquiring new skills whenever they can, gaining knowledge by asking intelligent questions and learning quickly
- Taking on responsibilities outside of their job description to support coworkers and the company
- Interest in the future of the company, as well as the direction your industry is heading in
- Being wrong isn’t a problem for them: they learn from it and realise what’s best for the company
Of course, everyone is different and there’s no concrete high-potential employees definition, but they’re generally positive influences around the office. They maintain their composure no matter how stressful the situation and don’t dwell on problems they can’t solve. Not only does this help them to remain calm in the face of mounting deadlines, but it’s also beneficial for people around them. It’s another trait that makes them perfect leadership material.
They will usually be aware of their potential, another characteristic that will mark them out. You can expect them to have definite ideas about their future, so it’s vital to show them they can achieve their aims with your company. Make a point of setting out clear pathways for their progression and invite them to share their opinions on matters of importance.
Why is it important to be able to identify high-potential employees?
Highly capable employees can, simply put, propel your business on to greater success. They might have ideas that can solve long-standing business problems, or they might inspire others to achieve more. Fail to recognise such people and your company misses out on such opportunities.
The individuals concerned may also feel overlooked or underappreciated, potentially leading to disillusionment. You could end up losing a very talented team member.
On the other hand, if you can identify high-potential employees and put them in positions where they can have real influence, they can transform whole teams, increase productivity or improve operations in any number of ways.
How do you identify high-potential employees in your business?
Since these rising stars excel in their everyday roles, an obvious measure of their ability is their daily performance. Meeting – or exceeding – targets is a key indicator. High-flyers will also be interested in their performance and that of the company as a whole. They’ll want to know they’re part of a business that’s heading in the right direction and can satisfy their career goals.
You can also learn much about their strengths and their promise from speaking to their colleagues, particularly as high-potential employees tend to be engaged and effective team-workers. They will support their teammates when they can and recognise their efforts with praise, which will certainly not go unnoticed around the office. Personality is as much of an indicator of promise as meeting objectives, particularly if they can inspire others to apply themselves better.
How do you develop your high-potential employees?
If they’re to become the future of your company, developing high-potential employees is essential. They’ll need exposure to senior management, real responsibility and, whenever possible, key decisions.
First though, you may find they need training up. Leadership training is an obvious requirement as they might need help finding their managerial style and making the transition to management, if they haven’t already. They might also benefit from support on strategic thinking: suddenly having to think about wider and longer term goals might not come naturally.
Communication is another area that’s crucial in senior roles. Effective communication is sometimes the difference between a motivated workforce and an unproductive one. While your candidate for the top will probably be an accomplished communicator, polishing their skills in this area is never a bad idea.
Although they’ll learn how to make the right decisions through experience, giving them tools to analyse options will prepare them ahead of time. Training in decision-making will give them the confidence to make big calls and, hopefully, instil in them a process for doing so.
In addition to the necessity of training, high-potential individuals also expect to be given plentiful learning opportunities and the chance to progress. If they’re not, they’ll quickly take their talents elsewhere, because individuals like this want to be challenged and learn. They certainly don’t want to stand still and let their careers pass them by, and you should let them know that you envisage a more senior role for them.
You should gradually hand them more responsibility, including special projects and leadership roles, consulting them each step of the way so that they feel in control of their development. Providing support is also important: you don’t want them to feel overwhelmed and become discouraged.
Deciding exactly how to develop high-potential employees is not always easy, so involve them in the process. They’re certain to have ideas about the future direction of their career and will be much more engaged in their development if they’re consulted from the start.
What are the benefits of developing your high-potential employees?
Everybody appreciates opportunities to develop themselves and this is especially true of high-potential employees, who are particularly eager to learn. If you fail to offer your rising stars training opportunities, they’re likely to think about moving on. They, of all people, don’t want to stagnate. Retaining high-potential employees is crucial if you want your company to grow.
Aside from keeping these talented people at your company in the short term, providing learning and development opportunities will also benefit you in the long term. With the skills and attitudes they have, they can become inspirational leaders, shaping the future of your business as well as achieving great results right now.
How do you retain high-potential employees?
The first step is recognition. Tell your promising employees you can see their potential and praise their good work. Let them know that you want them to develop with your company – and detail your plans for that development.
As we’ve said, if these individuals don’t feel like they’re going to learn or progress at a company, they’ll soon move on. In the vast majority of cases, high-potential people know their worth, so it’s important to be proactive and signal your intent to them.
Since they’re determined to keep moving in the right direction, make a point of giving them regular, constructive feedback. These are people who want to know how they can improve their work and add value.
You might also consider assigning a mentor to them. That way, they’ll have someone on hand for support, allowing them to develop even more swiftly. It should be someone whose role they can aspire to, setting them an example of the behaviours and skills they need to reach that position.
How do you manage high-potential employees?
The key to managing high-potential employees is trust. Give them real responsibility and the autonomy to make important decisions.
They’ll reward your trust with results and, furthermore, they’ll appreciate the freedom you’ve given them. It’ll show them that you value their opinions, skills and expertise – and that you see their potential.
Of course, handing them responsibility will also prepare them for a more senior role and more important duties. You’ll be able to see how they perform and gauge how much responsibility to give them – and how quickly.
At the same time, it’s important to let them know they can call upon you for support. Nobody likes to be thrown in at the deep end, regardless of how capable they might be.
How can agp help you develop and retain your high-potential employees?
Through one-to-one coaching sessions, we put a framework in place to help your best people grow, personally and professionally. As well as providing guidance on their career path, we’ll ask carefully considered questions to understand what motivates them and where they see themselves going.
Our approach is centred on self-learning and self-discovery, giving people the tools they need to make better decisions, improve working relationships and fine-tune their communication skills. Our coaching sessions will leave them feeling more confident in their abilities and ready to achieve more.
We offer flexible coaching agendas and schedules, to fit your employee’s needs, setting goals and timeframes for achieving them. We can even help you to identify your high-potential employees and match them to senior roles with succession management planning.