HiPos are more often made than born
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The war for talent is intense and even fierce now, more than any time before. Every organization is grappling with ways and means to draw, retain and engage the best talent. As Jack Welch popularly said, ‘the resounding HR mantra is – engage the top 20 per cent, retain and amplify the performance of the middle 50 per cent and let go of the bottom 30 per cent religiously’. This is an adage that most organizations across the globe have come to imbibe as a part of their performance culture.
The 20 per cent talent is where most High Potentials exist and managing them is like managing the golden goose. You manage them with utmost care, engage them, challenge them and enthrall them to make sure that they have the chance to amplify their performance, thus raising their own performance bars as well as that of the organization.
So, how can HiPos be managed and deployed in a way that it leads to the success of the enterprise? Is there a standard template that helps so that the management and its leadership do not mess up?
Looking for answers to these, it is first important to understand that HiPos stay and thrive in an environment that is challenging and one that gives room for creativity. Such workplaces allow the talented and self-driven a lot to work in their own terms but within the framework of the enterprise. Now framework here does not mean a whole set of rules and regulations equating to a bureaucracy; it means a place where the organizational goals are loud and clear and are defined clearly to the team and the individuals. Once the business goals are clear, the entrepreneurial mindset of HiPos drives them to reaching and very often exceeding the set milestones.
It can be safely said that one can seldom manage HiPos in the context of playing a supervisory or report-seeking role. The real challenge in managing HiPos is to create an environment where they are seen as equals and as a benchmark to all those who have the performance scalability – the ability to move from the average performer level to the ideal HiPo level.
This brings to the front another fact that many might be inclined to think that HiPos are born so. While there can be no case studies to prove this, the fact remains that HiPos are more often made than born. However sometimes the fire within someone to excel and perform to their best is stifled at workplaces. From that point of view, managing HiPos is all about providing them the eco-system where their ideas and execution methods flourish, get constantly challenged to the extent that they get the adrenalin rush in them day in and day out. This is rarely possible with sheer systems and processes.
Managing HiPos is more about managing softer issues in the organization – the ambience, the space to be creative and not just going by the rule book, a place where you can question ideas, and challenge the status quo. This is not just possible by management, but more by creating a conducive space and atmosphere for these kind of people at the workplace. If an organization and its leadership cannot create such a situation, HiPos could see themselves as misfits, thus making them decide to leave for greener pastures elsewhere.
Fearing this impact, there are a few organizations that create separate functional teams providing space and opportunities to HiPos, with the top performing guys reporting to the senior leadership. If one assumes that managing HiPos is an HR function, any attempt at cosmetic HR programs may not work well. Thus, it can be easily said that managing HiPos is complex, context sensitive and a dynamic play, requiring a serious commitment from the senior leadership of the organization.