As senior leaders and industry veterans are trying to explore new ways of identifying, engaging and developing HiPos, it not only builds trust among HiPos and makes them feel important, it also sorts out the biggest challenge organizations are facing. As Suchitra Bhaskar, Director L&D at Crisil says, “The biggest question that keeps a CEO or any senior leader awake is who is next after me? Whom do I hand over the baton to?” This question is the base for any High Potential program.
HiPos, whether they are self-aware about their talent dynamics or not, have something in common – their resilient drive to excel. This desire and strive for excellence is an essential criteria for HiPos in their quest for self-discovery. HiPos pave their path to success as much as the organization takes multiple efforts for their development. In a message to the HiPos, Suchitra says, “You need to be responsible for your own development. The organization or HR will do their best for your development, but you must have an unwavering thirst to learn and steer through your growth path. You have to own your career and need to invest as much as you can to make the shift.”
So, how do you take that onus? You may or may not be in a role that provides you the opportunity to perform your best, but it’s your perseverance and ability to think beyond “the here and now” and making the most of your role that makes you a high potential. Talking of learning, Suchitra says, “It is important to learn new things, but more importantly to unlearn and re-learn. Unlearning what you already know is very tricky yet very crucial as a future leader has to let go of the past and always be futuristic in his/her thinking. As you go higher up, it’s not your ability to learn new skills that counts, it’s your ability to unlearn what you already know. At times, it is the baggage of the past that weighs us down, preventing us from sprinting ahead in life”.
“The most crucial step in a HiPo program is having multiple avenues to identify high potentials. While the best predictor of future is past performance, over dependence on past performance alone a metric may not be the best indicator of success potential for future roles. Sustained performance at workplace, potential assessments, 360 degree feedback and understanding career aspirations etc. are critical attributes in a HiPo selection process”.
The next step is to retain them and prevent them from “falling off” the HiPo program. The best organizations actively work towards the development and retention of HiPos. There are different schools of thought, which believe that communicating to the HiPos about their status helps in retention and acts like a motivator keeping them engaged. The HiPos are actively involved in creating their IDP’s (individual development plan), tracking milestones and progress. Other organizations differentiate the treatment of HiPos by providing challenging opportunities, differentiated compensation, international exposure etc. and keep the communication implicit. The idea behind both is to make the HiPo feel special and use multiple hooks to retain and develop them.
“While getting these steps right, immense care needs to be invested in aligning these programs and efforts to the overall organizational goal of building a strong leadership pipeline,” says Suchitra. “What skills are we developing? Which skills do we lack? What roles are critical and which role does each one of these HiPos fit into? What kind of support and ownership does the program enjoy from the top? Who holds the talent crucible? What if they fail? What kind of transition support do we provide for them to succeed… these and many more questions need to be answered at each stage with constant review at periodic intervals. Changes in business cycles, external environment and business mix are crucial points for us to review our talent program effectiveness. Lastly, job rotation, special projects etc. help in nurturing and developing talent by exposing them to challenging roles and help in providing the organization with the right set of future leaders,” she says.
Explaining that the three-pronged approach works the best for getting the leadership pipeline ready, Suchitra says, “One, identify the right set of people. Two, ensure they stay along or retain them and three, nurture and support their potential to make out the best of it.”