Article: Retaining Hi-Po employees in development programs

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Retaining Hi-Po employees in development programs


While identifying Hi-Po employees and executing a development program are challenges in themselves, retaining Hi-Po employees is an uphill task as well.
Retaining Hi-Po employees in development programs

Here are some quick facts related to High-Potential (Hi-Po) employees and Programs:

  • CEB research shows that HIPOs are 91% more valuable than non-HIPOs. However, 73% of HIPO programs are failing to deliver business outcomes or ROI. 
  • Only 1-in-7 high performing employees classify as Hi-Po.
  • 2/3rd of Hi-Pos say they are dissatisfied with their training program and over two-thirds of HIPO programs (69%) have failed to build a strong pipeline of leaders to take over from their firm’s current crop. 
  • Nearly 40% of internal job moves made by people identified by their companies as “high potentials” end in failure. 

Hi-Po has long been a buzzword in the HR community, but it seems like we are still struggling with the most basic challenges of identifying Hi-Po employees, and designing Hi-Po Development Programs. The first step of identifying the most suitable employees is of crucial importance, as it sets the tone for the rest of the program. But, the scope of this article is restricted to discussing mechanisms to retain Hi-Po employees once they are a part of such development programs. Retaining employees who are a part of such developmental programs is easier said than done, but if the following are considered, retention does become easier:

Learning comes in many forms

No matter the duration of the program, focussing on only one aspect of the training can prove to be a deterrent. The development program must be pragmatic enough to take everyone along, and must strike a balance between hard and soft skills, along with core theoretical information and hands-on practical training. A sure shot way to pump some energy into the program is to integrate a mentorship-styled learning method, and allow senior leaders to groom Hi-Po employees. Furthermore, exciting high-visibility tasks should be a part of the program to make the participant feel like they are actually making an impact to the working of the organisation, as opposed to the feeling of being in an incubated stimulator. All these methods will give the participants opportunities to step out of their comfort zone and learn from their mistakes. 

Take them along on the ride

What several Hi-Po Development programs fail to do is consider the importance of communication and dialogue in the process of training. Rigid outcomes of the program mean that participants are given a mandate that they have to complete, and complete it by any means possible. However, this leads to disenchantment over a period of time, as crucial support structures that hold up employees when needed, are absent. The only way to work around this is to ensure that feedback is shared at every step, communication is two-way and engagement is consistent. Consult the participants continuously regarding their career goals and paths, and make sure the program incorporates the suggestions. Begin the process of alignment – of where the employees see themselves after the program, and where the organisation sees them – at this junction itself. 

Acknowledge their value

While rewards and benefits, based on program outcomes, are the surest way to show your appreciation for your Hi-Po employees, they are not nearly enough in isolation. An efficient mechanism to highlight their progress and achievement in the program, providing opportunities to lead publically, constant attention to their attempts at improving, and public recognition of their milestones are some simple and cost-effective ways to ensure that you acknowledge their value. Merely identifying a Hi-Po employee for development is not enough – you have to work doubly hard to engage them too. Finally, the biggest acknowledgement must come in the form of an end-goal, with special duties, expanded responsibilities or an official promotion that will pave the way for the employee to feel truly valued. 

Meaning and Purpose

Reinforce the organisation values, mission and goals during the program – and make sure that this is connected to the broader career development goals of the participants. The program must make the employee feel that there is an earnest attempt to help them reach their potential – and not just be future ready for a bigger role in the organisation. Every organisation prides itself in solving a particular problem, or having a unique vision; the development program must make sure that leaders being prepared for tomorrow truly understand, cherish and embody the same. This understanding that work goes beyond performance and numbers will instil a sense of purpose in the employee, and they are much more likely to follow the overarching values and culture of the organisation. 

At the end of the day, having clarity about the path of the development program, and sustained communication is essential to successfully retain Hi-Po employees. Employees can seek a higher designation or more salary elsewhere too, but if you can communicate the interest you have in truly developing them as leaders of tomorrow, they are likely to stick around. 

Topics: #HiPoWeek, Strategic HR

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