Article: HiPos need to be treated differently

A Brand Reachout InitiativePerformance Management

HiPos need to be treated differently


Vikram Bector, Chief Talent Officer at Tata Motors, talks about successful HiPo programs and what can go wrong with one
HiPos need to be treated differently

How do you define a High Potential?

We look for people through two lenses – managers with the potential to take up general management /P&L roles and managers who have the potential to rise and become specialists. General management potential is a tad easier to spot as we look for potential for a two-step vertical jump. In identifying HiPo’s we look for competence in three broad areas which are a part of our competency model called the Tata Leadership Practices. In addition to that we look for a global mind-set. I’d like to talk about the global mindset first. Tata Group derives most of its revenues from it overseas operations, Tata Motors is globalising rapidly too, so we look for leaders who can think globally, understand and influence global customers and create global products. The three competency clusters which we assess are execution focus, strategic thinking and managing stakeholders.

How important is a High Potential for growth in a business?

As a USD 35 Billion dollar company which has grown multi-fold over the last decade, Tata Motors needs both HiPos and solid citizens. We have had a rich history of HiPo’s being actively involved in many aspects of our company such as creating innovative products and services, mergers and acquisitions, manufacturing excellence etc. Tata Ace in the commercial vehicles market, the Nano in the passenger vehicles space are some examples of intensive HiPo involvement in product design and delivery. We have a product development plans till 2020 with a slew of new products including two new cars coming up later this year - the Bolt and Zest.

Have you structured these High Potential programs as you recognize how important the HiPos are to the business?

FTSS or Fast Track Selection Scheme has been in operation for over two decades now and in fact we currently running the 23rd edition of FTSS. Identification and grooming of HiPos is embedded in the culture of our company. Under the FTSS program, each year 10-12 HiPos are identified through a rigorous multistage process. We provide a two grade jump to all FTSS finalists and identify challenging roles and developmental assignments. We also provide higher educational assistance as required. I would say that the potential identification process is very well institutionalised at Tata Motors. We wish to invest more time in streamlining the career development part of our HiPo program.

What are the key ingredients to make a HiPo program successful?

Leadership commitment is very important and our top leaders are committed to participating in the selection and grooming of HiPos. The other aspect is to provide challenging projects to HiPos, as maximum growth happens through such live projects. The third ingredient is to support HiPos through coaching, mentoring and training support. Many of our HiPos, who are engineers, are sent to the best learning and education programs in the country. Providing continuous feedback is another key enabler as we find that sometimes managers of HiPos do not provide enough and timely feedback. I have seen many HiPos getting derailed despite all the other inputs being place. The absence of candid and in the moment feedback did them in.

What are the obstacles faced?

Organisations should provide for equal opportunities for all to excel, but not try and aim for equality. Everyone is not equal, even at school or in college we know that there will only be a handful of people who will top the class in the different subjects. The same is true in sports too. There are studies to show that HiPos can be 1.8 times more productive than their average counterparts. HiPos know that they are good and seek a little different treatment, they also expect to be recognised and compensated differently and a lot of companies hesitate in doing so. Therefore, the big challenge is how to take care of the careers and aspirations of the HiPOs while continuing to keep the solid citizens engaged and productive. An organisation which tries to treat everyone equally is surely heading towards mediocrity.

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Topics: Performance Management, #HiPoWeek

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