With Hi-Po programs becoming an integral part of many organizations, identifying and implementing the right metrics to measure the effectiveness of these programs, attains paramount importance. As a part of HiPo Week, People Matters, in partnership with Right Management India conducted a Facebook Live on the topic “HiPo Programs and ROI: Is it Gripping the Road?”, wherein Megha Agarwal (Senior Manager – Research, People Matters) interviewed Avinash Kohli (Head HR, Boeing India) and Hardeep Singh (Vice President, Right Management) to delve deeper into the success factors and key metrics that make a Hi-Po program successful. Here are some excerpts, from the discussion.
Q: As an HR leader, how have you seen the Hi-Po programs evolving over the last 5 years? What has been your experience?
Avinash: I got an opportunity to be a part of a Hi-Po program myself, in the early part of my career, where I went through 2+ years of rotations across different businesses, roles, geographies. From an experience standpoint, I gained immensely from that exposure, and it was very foundational for me as an HR professional.
I have seen the Hi-Po programs evolve over the last few years, around 3 parameters. The first change is around the widespread use or implementation of such programs. If you go back a few decades, just a few organizations like GE, IBM, P&G etc. used to have these programs run in a structured and institutionalized manner. Now, a lot more organizations have started to develop their own versions of such programs, in-house.
The second change that I’ve seen, is in terms of the breadth of the programs which are existing now. Earlier, we saw the functions take a lead on such programs; Finance or Sales Leadership Programs have always been there. However, now I’m seeing a lot of business leadership programs also coming on track, where you take somebody from (let’s say) a finance background and put them in a sales role or an operations role, to develop well-rounded business leaders out of them.
Lastly, another point of change is the level at which these programs are targeted, in the organizations. Traditionally, it’s been more at the entry level or early career stage in the organizations. Nowadays, organizations have also started to look at the people who are at the mid-level or senior level of their careers, to assess what can be done to take them to the next level. They may not have gone through such a program at the early part of their careers, but they are still high potentials, so it is important to take them on board as well.
Q: Based on your experiences with clients, what do you think are the key elements for such Hi-Po programs to be successful in an organization?
Hardeep: I think the critical success factors have remained the same as earlier, but the deployment of them has changed. Selection, for example, continues to be critical in today’s era. In the earlier era, the selection used to be very HR-driven, to begin with. Now, since business takes ownership of it, the pulls and pressures of business come into play, it’s more of a balance between sponsorship and the science of selection.
Furthermore, there has been a significant evolution in Hi-Po development over the years, especially so in India. The Indian HR leaders, professionals and high potentials are showing an increased appetite to experiment with development as a system, due to which a significant amount of experimental development is happening, in addition to experiential development.
The other critical component for Hi-Po programs is manager sponsorship. While leadership sponsorship has been present, we see manager sponsorship as pivotal to Hi-Po success. In many organizations, when the Hi-Po program comes in, the manager is not properly aligned to it, probably feels threatened, or more importantly, is not clear about what is expected of him/her, and what’s in it for him/her. So these dimensions of manager alignment need to be solved, for the program to be successful.
Q: In your conversations with organizations, how do you define the tangible impact or the ROI of Hi-Po programs?
Hardeep: When we look at India, essentially there are three market-driven factors that are used to measure the ROI of Hi-Po programs:-
- Talent (Hi-Po) Retention
- Number of key positions being fulfilled internally
- Behavior change (before and after the program)
Avinash: In addition to that, the immediate performance rating of these individuals once they come out of the program, serve as a short term metric for organizations. Secondly, how they stand on the Talent Management Grid (which is the balance of performance and potential and values sometimes) gives an overview of how the person is being perceived as a holistic, well-rounded leader. Thirdly, we look at their placement on succession plans. How many times, and for how many positions are they appearing on the succession plans of the organizations? Are they being seen as people who could take those leadership roles in the next two or three assignments, and also: are they being seen as long term players for the organization?
Q: What should be the role of the sponsor, once the Hi-Po program is completed?
Avinash: The most important role of the sponsor, just as the Hi-Po development program is coming to an end, is to make sure that they secure a great role for the participant. There have been cases where some promising high potential individuals had an expectation mismatch of what they should have got from the program, and what they actually got from the program; and hence it did not lead to a great end of that person’s tenure in the organization. So, it is important to make sure that they get a good start off the program. Beyond that, it is the responsibility of the incumbents to take it forward from there, be it leveraging what they have learnt, the networks they have built, or the perspective they have gained of the organization. They need to use all of this to manage their careers, and take it into their own hands.
Hardeep: The sponsor needs to look at this as a five or six year game he/she is playing. So once the program is over, they should very quickly start the next one, and do this for three or four cycles, so that there is critical mass in the organization, and there are enough candidates for the program.
Both Avinash and Hardeep concurred that since a Hi-Po program entails a very big investment into the selected individuals, it has to be done in a very thoughtful, well-structured manner and it must be institutionalized, regardless of whether the business is up or down, so that the input into the program remains, and when the times are good, there is a bench strength that is waiting to perform at the highest level.