Article: Identifying and developing high potential employees


Identifying and developing high potential employees

For a HIPO program to be successful, it must start with seeking clarity on the current and future talent needs keeping in mind the business and the talent challenges.
Identifying and developing high potential employees

The cornerstone of an organization’s talent strategy is the identification of high-potential talent to ensure growth and retention of existing employees. The organizations across industries and geographies confirm the criticality of high-potential identification to stay competitive. These high potential employees, commonly known as HIPO, are the pool of leaders who have what it takes to run the future business. 

When we planned to introduce the HIPO exercise in one of our businesses at Uflex, what we learned was first and foremost it is important to establish a clear definition of HiPO in the organizational context as the definition of high potential talent is often confused with high performers.

An employee can register off-the-chart performance in a current role, but still lack the aspiration, drive, commitment and interpersonal skills or mobility to succeed at higher levels. 

A high potential employee is the one who can handle a larger set of responsibilities than what they are currently handling, competent enough to skip the normal timeframe and move to the next level of job in a year.  They are able to undertake complex roles, new roles & cross functional roles and have the leadership qualities in them.

The HiPo has something extra that sets them apart and makes them hold promise for future. They are the ones the leadership team believes can take up senior leadership role. So, it is clear that while identifying HIPO, the primary focus is on potential, the performance is considered as eligibility criteria and as a differentiator to be included in the list of employees to be assessed.

Our Approach for identifying the HiPos

At Uflex, we use nine box matrix approach (Potential vs. Performance) to differentiate high performers with high potential talent. Thereafter, we draft development plan for each of the boxes to facilitate the developmental process. For this, we take into consideration the past performance, competencies, behavior attributes, leadership and business challenges. 

Our approach of identifying HiPOs not only improves our selection criteria but also increases the perception of fairness and impartiality within different businesses. As a process, we first communicate the criteria to the business head / CEO of the business by defining the terminology of the 9 box matrix. We showcase the complete demographics of the target employees and then discuss one by one each and every case in a structured set up.

Assessment Criteria:



High-Potential employees at Uflex goes through a structured career pathing, we pay utmost importance in developing their career graphs. We discuss their present KRAs with their reporting managers and make their developmental plan. They also get an opportunity to travel to our global locations for some specific projects which is again part of their developmental plan. These international experiences help Uflex develop a pool of leaders with global mindset and help teach high-potential Uflex employees how to adapt to different cultures and situations.

HiPO Demographics (at Uflex so far)


Accelerating growth for business leadership

What the HR professionals and the organization must understand is that ‘potential’ is context dependent, and a development program should stem from organization’s culture, strategy and future leadership demands. 

To truly develop HIPOs, it is important to give them learning experiences outside their comfort zones. Coaching along with giving right feedback in a controlled setting will help drive successful behavior in a real pressure situation when effective leadership matters most. 

Finally, business strategy has to be the guiding principle for the HIPO program. This calls for the involvement of the top leadership team. For a HIPO program to be successful, it must start with seeking clarity on the current and future talent needs keeping in mind the business and the talent challenges. 

One of my business heads who had end-to-end involvement in conducting the exercise and implementing the results perfectly quotes “I trust these stars (HIPOs) with the fate of my business. They are going to significantly impact our future; they are critical to our growth and would strategically partner the transformation process we are in”. When we would be perfectly armed with this foundational understanding, we set the stage for action.

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Topics: Leadership, #HIPO

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