Shep Hyken, the legendary Customer Service expert and motivational speaker says: “To the Customer, YOU are the company”.
The “You” here is referred to each and every employee interacting with a customer. The fact that if you take care of your employees, your employees would take care of the customers is a tried and tested management philosophy. And with this firmly established, the role of your High Potential talent becomes even more critical.
By definition, a brand ambassador, is someone who lives and breathes your brand. This is someone your customers can connect and engage with, and experience your brand just as you would like them to. It’s all very well that the candidates in your High Potential program have the requisite ability, they have all been high performers, and they have sky-high aspirations, but is that enough to risk your brand with them?
Research says that Engagement is the strongest indicator of a HiPos’ affiliation with a brand. HiPos with low engagement are prone to moving out, and that could cause as much as a staggering 55% of candidates to drop out of your HiPo program1! What that means is the whole HiPo pool being wiped out in 2 years! Scary, isn’t it.
So the real question is, “Are your HiPos engaged enough to be strong proponents of your brand?” Does that make you think? So let’s run a quick dipstick to answer this question.
- Do you think you’re giving your HiPos a nothing-less-than-a-delightful experience with respect to the physiological and safety needs as defined by Maslow?
- Do you make your HiPos feel adequately valued and appreciated, significantly more than an average employee?
- Are you providing them with more exciting, challenging and rewarding opportunities, or are you simply giving them more work?
- Do you understand their larger purpose in life?
- In every interaction you have with them, are you making sure that they see a long-term career with you?
- Are you listening to them enough?
If you’ve answered any of the above questions in the negative, then there is clearly a possibility that your HiPos are not as involved and engaged as you would like them to be. In fact, your organization could be in danger of losing its top talent! So what would you do?
The challenges are many, so it makes sense to employ multiple strategies to engage HiPos. Here are a few that can be tried.
- Create connections: Keep their life exciting by providing them opportunities to interact with other HiPo groups, within or outside your organization.
- Provide them visibility: Most HiPos thrive on being in the limelight. So make sure you throw that spotlight on them as often as you can, and you’ll see them living up to your expectations most of the times.
- Focus on their development: Provide the right learning opportunities, send them to the right forums, and give them confidence that the organization is willing to invest in them.
- Throw them a challenge: Most of the HiPos are people who get bored with routine very quickly, and more often than not, they are also the ones who never say no to a challenge! They usually want to make a positive difference and shape the environment and culture around them. Channelize their energies in the right direction by throwing them a challenge they can’t refuse.
- Recognize: For the value they bring to the organization, offer them differentiated compensation and recognition.
- Involve them in strategic planning: The more involved they are, the more would be their buy-in. Get their skin into the game!
- Help them find meaning: Align their personal goals to their business priorities and provide them avenues to work towards the same. This would make them feel more complete and ensure a more fulfilling journey with your organization.
- Do not take them for granted!
While every employee craves for this attention from their leaders, the best and brightest ones often demand it. HiPos want to contribute based on their strengths; they like more autonomy around how they do their work and they have a need to be convinced rather than be controlled. This attitude may not fit well with command-and-control organizational hierarchies, but it’s an essential mind-shift for organizations that are serious about attracting and retaining the best talent.
To conclude in the words of Mark Sanborn, a renowned author and professional speaker, “Employees who don’t feel significant, rarely make significant contribution”. If talent is your most important asset, as companies like to say, then HiPos are vital to your future; and let us be clear, the war for talent shows no signs of letting up. In such a scenario, it is imperative to have your HiPos not just working for you in terms of their KRAs, but also working towards establishing your brand in the external world. They have to be the strongest proponents of your brand, and if you keep them adequately engaged, chances are they’ll be the most impactful ones!