Can you risk losing your HiPos? Is your HiPo Strategy in place for 2023 and beyond?

Distinguishing high potentials (HiPos) from high performers (HPs) is essential for the long-term sustainability of every organisation.

When leaders talk about HiPo employees, they often opt to hire external candidates, in the absence of systematic internal processes to identify and assess objectively their people’s potential. As per SHL’s and Gartner’s research, 46% of organisations lack such a process for identifying HiPos. The implementation of a HiPo strategy, accompanied by the introduction of objective methods to identify HiPos is crucial, especially if we take into consideration the current challenges in the labour market and the unstable economic environment.

Have organisations clearly defined the meaning of High Potential (HiPo)?

In a period of constant change and economic shakeup, that keeps impacting the already competitive market, many leaders and organizations are desperately searching for HiPos who can drive their organizations through an environment of continuous change. But, do leaders and organizations appreciate the importance of identifying, supporting and growing their HiPos? Do they really understand the difference between High Performance (HP) and High Potential (HP)? Do they assess performance and potential simultaneously through the annual performance appraisal system? Probably the answer to all these questions is that many leaders and organisations have the concepts of HiPos and HPs confused, therefore, they have no clear strategies in place on how to identify, manage and retain their HiPos. Many times, the easy solution for leaders is to select their HiPos from the group of their high performers. However, according to SHL’s and Gartner’s research, only 1 in 7 high performers is actually a HiPo. Therefore, can you be certain that someone who performs extremely well at his/her current role has the potential to undertake successfully a more senior role? The truth is that past performance cannot guarantee future success at a role that requires a different set of skills. Let us also not forget that the qualities that make someone great today, do not always translate to success at the next level.

Why is it important to identify and develop HiPos?

How often do organizations find themselves in the situation of not recognizing the value of their own HiPos within their companies, and then they see them joining a competitor who is willing to invest in them? The answer is that leaders and organisations find themselves in this unpleasant situation quite frequently, especially in our days, as the competition in the labour market is fierce, where HiPos are in great demand and are often headhunted for higher roles, responsibilities and financial packages.

Therefore, instead of offering a “gift” to your competitors, by giving them space to attract your talented future leaders, it is best to ensure that you firstly identify the potential of your people at an early stage in their career, through the use of objective tools, and then invest in their career and professional development, thus, ensuring their long-term commitment to stay. Let us not forget that, nowadays, we mostly hire/manage young professionals who belong to GenZ, who can prove to be very capable employees, but at the same time less committed to stay in case their career expectations are not met.

It is of utmost importance to have a clear strategy on HiPos, if you wish to secure the long-term commitment of your future leaders and of the smooth succession of your leadership team. This can only be achieved through the early identification of your people’s potential and timely planning of their career development.

Essential attributes of HiPo Employees

A HiPo employee is a proven high performer who scores highly in three distinguishing attributes. A combination of the following attributes, allow HiPos to rise to and succeed in more senior and critical positions within the organisation:

  • Aspiration – to rise to senior roles
  • Ability – to be effective in more responsible and senior roles
  • Engagement – to commit to the organization and remain in challenging roles

According to SHL’s and Gartner’s research, employees who have the blend of aspiration, ability and engagement, (SHL’s HiPo Model), are 12 times more likely to be effective in senior roles and 11 times more likely to achieve an executive position.

Effective HiPo programs and predictors of High Potential

An effective HiPo program should focus on measuring people against an objective and predictive set of competencies to identify high potentials. Organisations that use a structured and predictive set of measures are more likely to engage their workforce and promote people who will succeed during times of uncertainty and economic instability.

In the recent years, a number of leadership qualities/competencies required to maintain stability during times of uncertainty have been highlighted. You may consider the role of each of the five competencies below, which truly differentiate high potentials from high performers:

  1. Resilience: The ability to cope with difficult situations, bounce back after failure and overcome challenges in times of uncertainty.
  2. Empathy: The ability to understand others’ feelings and show empathy during a period of uncertainty.
  3. Communication: The ability to share information broadly, create streamlined channels of communication, keep messages simple, communicate frequently, and reinforce/repeat information through multiple sources.
  4. Candor: The ability to speak with transparency and clarity. Speak the truth, even when the answer is difficult.
  5. Humility/ vulnerability: The ability to demonstrate humility and vulnerability, which helps build trust faster than others. Practically this is achieved by checking on our ego, admitting mistakes, learning from others, leaving ourselves open to receiving critical feedback, keeping an open mind, and resisting becoming defensive.
  6. Active listening: The ability to listen to others carefully and respond in a responsible and engaging manner, which motivates/encourages others to carry out an effective discussion with you.

The value of HiPo Employees & your company’s Strategy

Do not miss opportunities and implement a strategy that aims to identify HiPos within your organization first, prior to searching to hire external candidates. In addition, be patient and persistent in developing your HiPos by giving them the right stimuli that increase motivation towards roles of greater complexity and engagement towards your organization.

Finally, I would like to conclude by saying that it is at least tragic to lose HiPos to whom you have invested time, money and energy. Can you take the risk of losing them, especially to competition? Is there a way to calculate the financial cost of losing your HiPos? My humble opinion is that the answer is no. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to calculate the cost of losing your possible future CEO, CFO, COO, CHRO, etc. Only one thing can be certain about the cost – it will be very high!!

Marios Melanides, Cyprus Country Partner, Evalion-SHL Greece & Cyprus

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