How do you define a High Potential (HiPo) from a CEO’s perspective and what is the importance of HiPos?
For a CEO, high potentials are the brightest spark of the population in the organization. They understand the organization really well and have the capability to take the organization to the next level while also realizing his/her aspirations for the organization. This makes them the most valuable asset for an organization. In the current times, when organizations talk about slightly mid-to long-term growth, when the business growth is dynamic but at the same time it’s important to act for the future, they need a pool of people who can make that happen and HiPos are those people who can lead the organization to that growth.
Should organizations view HiPo development only as an agenda for HR or should it be a concern for both HR and the CEO?
Earlier organizations thought that if it’s about people, it should be the HR’s concern and they would let the HR handle it completely. Very soon they realized that while it was under HR’s control, the impact that the HiPos were able to create were more at an organizational level. Further, the HiPos were in tremendous demand and they needed far more attention than the HR could give alone. That’s where one major change happened; with rising competition and availability of information, the demand for HiPos has increased manifolds and hence the need for every organization to retain them has also gone high. Therefore, it has now moved from just being the HR’s agenda to being the HR and the CEO’s agenda. Infact the ability of the CEO and the business leaders to manage the HiPos and put their arms around them makes all the difference.
What are the challenges most organizations face with high potential identification or development and where could organizations possibly go wrong?
We have to understand what we need to do at each stage of HiPo development and the starting point is to knowing who my high potential should be and gauging the talent against that definition of HiPo that will be unique to my organization. This is where organizations today face the biggest challenge, since they continue to identify their HiPos based on performance in their current roles and or the manager’s point of view, which again is mostly skewed by performance.
Secondly, it’s important to know whether my high performer is a high potential. May be yes, maybe not! High performance is only the ability to perform well in one’s current role, while high potential implies that one has the ability to take on the future role better and that makes the difference. Most of the time, organizations pick up high performers and view them as high potentials and that’s the first step towards the failure of a high potential program. May be 60 per cent of your high performers are HiPos but what fails the process is the remaining 40 per cent.
Right Management talks about the 5Ps of identifying and assessing talent:
- The Performance – the 1st P is the threshold, followed by;
- The Perception – the 2nd P which helps in understanding the ability of the leader to not just have the potential but also be leader like and be acceptable as a leader
- The Personality – the 3rd P which makes each leader different from the other, may or may not change, but it’s important to understand the uniqueness each leader brings to the table and then the most important P for High Potential;
- The Potential – the 4th P – which is a combination of the leadership competencies that I am expecting my future leaders should possess, which includes their skills, abilities and their attitude along with their ability and desire to learn
- Finally the 5th’ P’ being the Purpose of the Individual – The Individual leaders’ aspirations and value systems and their alignment to the organization goals is equally important and this last P, in fact builds the necessary organization relevance in the High Potential.
We call it the four Ps beyond performance – Perception, Personality, Potential and Purpose of the individual. Looking at these aspects in entirety is necessary to identify the pool of people who can be invested upon for being the future leaders.
What makes a successful high potential program?
Once I have identified my high potentials, the second step is to notify them. This is also where organizations need to take a call. Organizations need to find out what are they developing their high potentials for: Is it for the organization or for the larger universe? So, having a clearly laid out plan for the development of people goes a long way.
If you want to manage the engagement of the high potentials, you need to provide them with clarity on their career growth, handhold them on their development journey, continuously motivate them and recognize their efforts of going the extra mile - these make all the difference. An effective HiPo program requires a collective approach and that includes looking at the four Ps, focusing on their individual development needs, providing them growth options, clarity on what’s in store for them and continuously managing the engagement of the high potentials.
While talking of managing it, what people fail to realize is program-managing a HiPo program is the most important element and organizations don’t give it the due importance. Do you have a HiPo who is program-managing the HiPo program or you have just left it for someone to run it? A HiPo clearly understands and knows how a high potential thinks. This helps in bridging the gap between what the organization and high potential wants and what can the organization provide in its system. Linking all these gaps makes a successful HiPo program.
Finally, the HiPo journey is a two way commitment and thus it’s not a life time position or a role. HiPos will need to be continuously running and will need to give the system back the value for the position and there is no room for ‘slow down’ or ‘take it easy’ if you want to be a HiPo on a continuous basis. Organizations, should also review the pool constantly to ensure that only the ones who have the necessary commitment, drive and motivation to put that extra effort continue in the league – HiPo is not a permanent position.
What can organizations do better to ensure their high potentials stay?
Understanding the fact that organizations need to have a dedicated person for developing the high potentials in a focused manner is imperative; someone who gives them the right forum and creates the right kind of noises for them in the system. The high potentials always have opportunities galore; they’ll not come and speak to you so you’ll have to ensure that if the HiPo expects something, you already know about it and you are sure about whether or not you can meet it. Finally nothing replaces the commitment of the CEO and Business Leaders. That can be one of the most important driving factors for the High Potentials.