Retaining employees with high potential is essential to the success of your organization.

The Center for Creative Leadership’s High-Potential Talent: A View from Inside the Leadership Pipeline defines “high-potential talent as an employee who is assessed as having the ability, organizational commitment, and motivation to rise to and succeed in more senior positions in the organization.”

How are high potentials different from other employees? According to research by Ready, Conger and Hill (Are You a High Potential?, Harvard Business Review, June 2010), companies tend to describe high potentials this way:

“High potentials consistently and significantly outperform their peer groups in a variety of settings and circumstances. While achieving these superior levels of performance, they exhibit behaviors that reflect their companies’ culture and values in an exemplary manner. Moreover, they show a strong capacity to grow and succeed throughout their careers within an organization—more quickly and effectively than their peer groups do.”

To create a nimble strategy for managing your leadership pipeline, follow these steps:

Identify. Who are your high potentials? Though you may balk at creating a formal list of high potentials, many concede that identifying individuals with potential for growth is important for the organizations and the people themselves.

Engage and develop. Now that you have your list, create a plan to nurture your high potentials that includes both access to upper management and opportunities to grow. CCL’s research on high potentials notes that “high potentials receive more development opportunities – such as special assignments and training as well as mentoring and coaching from senior leaders – than other employees.” This gives them role models and advocates to develop those relationships that are the connective tissue within the organization.

Retain. CCL’s research indicates that people formally identified as high potentials have a higher retention rate than those not formally identified. Be aware, however, that identification as a high potential can trigger anxiety as well as excitement. Your strategy should manage for both, providing support to deal with the inevitable pressures as well as opportunities for development.

Deploy. High potentials want to understand the path that lies ahead, even if the specifics are a little vague. Provide answers to questions such as, What is the next step? What do I need to do or learn to get there? Communication, feedback and increasing levels of authority are critical to leveraging the talent pool, according to CCL.

Maximizing the potential of your organization’s future leaders requires planning and commitment. Allowing the “cream to rise to the top” on its own is not an option if your goal is converting raw talent into exceptional leadership for the long-term benefit of the organization.

Need strategies to engage your high potentials? Contact Humanergy.

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