Industry Insights

Identifying and developing high potential employees

Posted by John Wills on Oct 25, 2023 2:11:32 PM

High potential employees are the future of your organization. They have the ability, adaptability and drive to be part of the next generation of your organization’s leadership and to become catalysts for the organization’s growth and success.

So, it’s vital to be able to identify those employees, and to give them all the support needed to fulfil their potential. And it’s also important to be able to retain these important people – or else they will become future leaders working for your competitors.

High potential employees are easily overlooked

High potential employees set themselves apart in many ways. But it’s not just a matter of promoting employees who arrive early and stay at their desks late. In fact, if this is the main criteria for promotion, you’re likely to overlook genuine talent. And worse, your organization will run the risk of developing a culture of overwork and presenteeism, which is actually less likely to help you attract and retain top talent in the first place.

High potential employees set themselves apart by being collaborative. True team-players, they are less likely to crave personal recognition and more likely to want to share credit with their peers. Again, this means that leaders looking to identify high potential employees must be in-tune with what’s going on within their teams’ projects, in order to see who is really driving success. Who is facilitating communication and who is generating great new ideas? These are your high potential employees.

High potential employees will ask for your help

It takes confidence to know the limits of your expertise. High potential employees will exhibit this kind of confidence, knowing when to come to you for feedback and for learning opportunities. On the other hand, high potential employees tend to display great critical thinking skills, meaning that they may come to you with solutions to problems you hadn’t even considered yourself with processes and procedures in your organization.

However, before an employee feels ready to come to you for help, you must earn their trust. High performing employees will look for leaders who they admire, and who they feel will act in the best interests of the organization, when seeking advice. This is why being a strong and honest communicator is so vital for leaders hoping to nurture talent.

High performance employees are agents of change

Make the most of the input that high potential employees offer. The chances are that other employees look up to their high potential peers, making high potential employees the perfect people to help implement new ideas, whoever comes up with them.

When you’re hoping to drive organizational change, getting buy-in from your high potential employees will make it a lot easier to bring more people on-board.

Avoiding bias when identifying high potential employees

Often, your highest potential employees will stand out by being the most resourceful, independent members of your team. But remember, potential can take many forms.

The persistence of the gender pay-gap and lack of diversity in c-suite positions provide a demonstration of how some people are more likely to be overlooked for promotion. Therefore, it’s important to

  • Use consistent criteria and standards when making decisions about who to promote in your organization
  • These should be based on their skills and ability to benefit their teams, rather than their personal characteristics
  • Establish a structured system for making these decisions in a transparent and clear manner
  • Speak confidentially with individual team members about which of their colleagues they value working with

The importance of retaining your highest potential people

Once you’ve identified your high potential employees, the most important thing for your organization is to keep hold of them! Remember, high potential employees thrive on a challenge and want to be doing engaging work. If your organization doesn’t offer them these things, they’ll be likely to start thinking about developing their career elsewhere.

The good news is that the things you should be doing to help develop those employees are the same things that are likely to help retain them in your organization.

The more responsibility you give to a high potential employee, the better they will respond. High potential employees want to get stuck into challenging, interesting work. They also appreciate being given autonomy. So, find opportunities to delegate authority to them, seek their opinion and they will repay you with commitment and energy.

Fostering engagement in this way helps your high potential employees to develop the skills they will need to become the next generation of leaders. Furthermore, it simultaneously helps them to feel a connection to the organization that will result in them staying with you as their career develops and flourishes, rather than seeking new opportunities, potentially working for a competitor.

Training your high potential employees

As a leader, it is up to you to act as a mentor to your highest potential employees. But it is important to support their development in more formal ways through training, too.

Business simulations are a form of training perfectly suited to high potential employees. It allows these employees to really test their abilities, discover new abilities and to develop the leadership skills that they’ll need as their career advances.

Business simulations are a form of experiential learning in which participants can take decisions in a leadership role and see the outcomes of those decisions in a safe, controlled environment. StratX ExL combines business simulations with peer-to-peer and on-the-job learning, helping you better identify high potential employees, discovering talent in your workforce that could otherwise be overlooked, and equipping them to become leaders.

To find our more about experiential learning through business simulations, contact us today.

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