Setting up a HiPo Development Program is a big a step for any organization. It indicates a clear path of growth not just for the individual, but also for the organization. According to a study by Right Management “Employers that provide career development opportunities are six times more likely to engage their employees than organizations that do not.” However, to make HiPo programs successful, they need to be thought through – from conception to execution. Here’s a list of 5 safeguards that ensure the success of HiPo programs, if given due consideration at the beginning of a HiPo program.
Safeguard 1: Get top and senior management buy-in
One of the most important aspects when devising a sturdy HiPo program is involving the top and senior management right at the outset. Dr Ranjan Banerjee, Dean, S. P. Jain Institute of Management and Research (SPJIMR) states that, “I think this (a HiPo program) needs to be planned from the very top. A culture of mentoring others and conscious succession planning needs to be initiated right from the board level. The ability to groom leaders should be an important component of evaluation for senior leaders.” It also ensures sustainability of the program. On the same lines, Anu Wakhlu, executive coach for CXOs and Managing Director of Pragati Leadership that conducts HiPo programs for corporates adds, “Leaders need to identify their own successors at each level of hierarchy in the organization and invest time in development of talent.”
Safeguard 2: Identify the right candidates
A potentially critical aspect of any HiPo program is the identification of the right candidates. Anu Wakhlu explains, “Something specifically for success in a HiPo program would be the selection process. I think organizations have to consider the entire talent pool of the organization and not just the HiPos for any talent intervention to succeed.
“Organizations have to look for value based people more than just competent people. Alignment of the person with the vision and values is critical. This is at all levels.”
If the identification is not done through a clear and defined process, it could potentially jeopardize the entire program.
Safeguard 3: Create a long term plan
The next big safeguard that a program needs to look at is creating not just a three or four month training program, but an intervention that shows a clear path to the HiPos. Ranjan notes that “When you classify somebody as a high potential, you are raising expectations of career growth. Do you have a development plan or opportunities mapped for three to five years post the program?”
Anu explains, “The gap that I find is that while identification and grooming happens well, the journey after that is often not so well planned and thought through. Many companies say that we will wait for opportunities to place these people rather than actually create these opportunities early on. This often tends to derail this initiative.”
The biggest casualty would be that the HiPos get frustrated and eventually leave the organization. Research* by CEB indicates that half of the identified high potentials will drop out of their program within five years.
Safeguard 4: Set up a holistic program
You have identified the correct HiPos and you have the best training program planned. However, if your program is not supported by real-time project support & mentorship, it might collapse. The first is real-time project support. Ranjan elaborates, “Not seeing this as a single three-week course, but rather a program which balances input, stretch projects in job contexts, and reflection is important. Integration of program learnings with the job through projects and mentoring – these need to be planned well in advance.” Anu agrees, “Enough clear opportunities for challenging roles are not identified and very often the potential is not used for delivering higher business results for the company. Most HiPo interventions get driven as programs and not a journey which is over 2-3 years. Only the training part is well handled.”
Which brings us to the other aspect – that of identifying a mentor, who will be with the HiPos throughout the process. “The boss of the high potential needs to be taken into confidence. He must own the success of his reportee and give avenues to take forward program learnings,” he adds. The mentor will need to be a big support after the intervention. Anu adds, “Mentoring and having a post HiPo program handholding is very critical for the success of this journey.”
Safeguard 5: Be quiet, sure footed and plan beyond
The last aspect is something that organizations feel they can handle easily. However, because it involves human emotion, it is not really predictable. It is the environment or emotion that a HiPo program generates in the organization. A HiPo program needs to generate an atmosphere of positive energy and kinship. However, sometimes negative emotions surface. According to Anu, “I believe that HiPo programs need to be implemented without fanfare and quietly so that the identified HiPos are not resented in the company.” While the resentment may not be obvious or pronounced, it can make HiPos uncomfortable, eventually affecting the success of the program.
Hence, it is essential to have a clear implementation plan in place that incorporates the culture of the organization. Being clear on the reasons for identifying the HiPos will go a long way in managing emotions.
Plan your HiPo programs well and ensure all safeguards are incorporated. Now, go ahead, start the drumroll!
*Improving the Odds of Success for High-Potential Programs’, research done by CEB, USA.