Designing HiPo programmes that work
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43% of organisations do not use a systematic approach to identify HiPos
75% of organisations do not have the metrics to measure the impact of HiPo programmes
Organisations should make concerted efforts to identify, notify and develop high potentials and measure its outcome
Organisations across the globe are staring at a leadership crisis. Owing to the necessity of building a succession pipeline, there has been a rise in the incidence of organisations investing in high potential (HiPo) programmes in the past few years. Slizer and Church’s 2013 Global Workforce Study reveals that the number of organisations having a HiPo programme increased from 42 per cent in 1994 to 55 per cent in 2012. Analyst firm Corporate Executive Board’s research shows that a high potential is 50 per cent more valuable to an organisation than an average employee.
Right Management’s 2013 India survey among 21 business sponsors, 46 programme managers and 33 HiPo participants shows that there are many factors behind why HiPo programmes are unable to achieve their desired objectives. The primary factors that contribute to making HiPo programmes ineffective include lack of trust in HiPo selection, dearth of objective measures, mismatch of expectations between participants and sponsors and inadequate measurement of outcomes. HiPo programmes are high-investment and high-involvement projects and an organisation needs to get every piece right to realise its true benefits.
HiPo identification still a challenge
While manager nomination is still the most popular method of HiPo selection, it is not always considered fair. Favouritism and nominating HiPos on a rotational basis seem to be the norm. AMA Enterprise’s 2011 research indicates that about 43 per cent of organisations do not use a systematic approach to identify HiPos and only 12 per cent of employees in companies that have HiPo programmes believe that selection processes are fair. To remove perceptions of bias and subjectivity, self-nomination has proved to be a great way to build trust and confidence in the process.
Namrata Gill, Senior General Manager – Organisational Development and Talent Management at Mahindra Auto & Farm Equipment Sectors (AFS) says, “At Mahindra AFS, we have the ‘Emerging Leaders’ Program’ as one of the HiPo development programmes. Eligibility to be an ELP candidate needs fulfilment of three criteria – performance ratings, band and grade specifications and tenure of service. The beauty in the process is that even if an individual does not get selected, no one else gets to know about it. It helps in ensuring that an employee’s engagement does not drop and s/he has a reason to look forward to applying once again in the future.”
“At Mahindra, any person can apply for the HiPo programme through an online portal. After self-nominations, HR objectively assesses every application and communicates the key reasons behind selection or rejection of a candidate. The beauty in the process is that even if an individual does not get selected no one else gets to know about it. It helps in ensuring that an employee’s engagement does not drop and s/he has a reason to look forward to applying once again in the future.”
Potential before performance
In the absence of clearly defined selection criteria, organisations rely upon proxy measures such as performance, tenure and level while selecting HiPos. Measures should be aligned with the outcome expectations of an individual, which are one to two levels above and spread across two to three years. Some of the “potential” characteristics that leading organisations use are cognitive skills, personality traits, learning capabilities, leadership skills and business know-how. Right Management defines a high potential as “an individual contributor who could successfully perform in leadership positions in the next three to five years” and should have the following qualities: Career aspiration and drive, agility and organisational confidence and work performance.
Build trust among stakeholders
Organisations often face the dilemma of whether they should notify individuals about their HiPo status. While research proves that selection into the HiPo pool drives engagement and motivation, notifying employees as HiPos may lead them to become complacent. Right Management High Potential Programme survey shows that 84 per cent of HiPos leave an organisation within two years of getting selected. In order to maintain confidence and engagement, it is important that stakeholders truly believe in the outcome from a HiPo programme. Chaitali Mukherjee, Country Manager (India), Right Management says that, “It is important to address two central questions that participants and the organisation asks regarding the purpose of a HiPo programme: What’s in it for me as an individual and what’s in it for an organisation. The HiPo development plan should be able to clearly differentiate between group development and individual development and it must ensure that all stakeholders have been uniformly communicated about the programme’s objective.”
Measuring the impact of a HiPoprogramme
While HiPo programmes require considerable investments of resource and time, it is surprising to note that almost 75 per cent of organisations do not have metrics to measure the impact of HiPo programmes. Robin Boomer, Client Solutions Manager (APAC) at Knowledge Advisors, says, “HiPo programmes are strategic, costly and highly visible and therefore it is extremely important to measure the effectiveness, outcomes and efficiency of these programmes.”
Firms should put systems and processes that facilitate the measurement and discussion of HiPo programme outcomes regularly. Ric Roi, Head of the Global Center of Excellence for Talent Management & Practice Leader (APAC), Right Management says, “A key reason for measuring the outcome from a HiPo programme is because there is always the need for continuous improvement. We cannot measure the improvement of anything in the future unless we measure current outcomes.”