Identifying & Developing High Potential Employees

May 05 2023 | Einblicke

What are high potential employees?

High potential employees are individuals that display the necessary skills to develop into a leadership role, exceeding the needs of their current position and bringing value to your organization.

In fact, a study found that high-potential talent brings a staggering 91% more value to an organization.

We’ve taken a look at how to identify high potential employees, so you know exactly what you’re looking out for.

How to identify high potential employees

Identifying high potential employees within your own company is now more important than ever, saving you time and money. But what sort of things should you be noticing?

1. Talent

This may seem obvious, but high potential employees are going to be those that are talented in their current job role, outperforming others as well as what the role expects of them. You’ll most likely find their performance is high, deliverables are an excellent standard, they get results, and they may even be upselling the business for you. And this is through hard work – research shows that high potential employees exert 21% more effort.

2. Autonomy

High potential employees tend to have, and feel comfortable with, autonomy. They’re able to use their initiative, take work away and complete it without the need for additional support or ‘handholding’.

The fact that they’re comfortable with autonomy and can use their initiative means they’re more likely to be ready for a leadership or management style role, with decision-making, delegation, and expertise.

3. Taking interest in a leadership role

If they’re pushing their boundaries and taking interest in more senior roles, this is often an attribute of high potential employees. Of course, this varies from individual to individual, but a drive and motivation to get to a more senior role is a characteristic you should be looking out for when identifying high potential employees.

4. Staying calm under pressure

Leadership roles are often pressurized, and handling that pressure is a key part of a senior role. So, having the confidence in themselves to keep calm under pressure is a characteristic high potential employees should have. If they tend to underperform in a high pressure situation, an employee might not quite be ready to make a move to a leadership role.

5. Emotionally intelligent

High potential individuals within a workplace are also likely to be emotionally intelligent, portraying both self-awareness and the ability to understand complex situations with empathy. This is key to senior roles within a business, so if a more junior individual is already showing these characteristics, building trusting relationships, and being open and honest with communication, their emotional intelligence is a sign of high potential.

6. Gives and takes feedback

High potential employees tend to be happy receiving feedback. They’ll automatically use that to adjust their work or performance to try to get the best results for the company. Which leads us to our next characteristic…

7. Looks at how things will benefit the company

Having a holistic view of what works for the company, what doesn’t work, how things will benefit it, and a strategic thought process of the future of the organization is often a characteristic of a high potential employee. It suggests they’re already thinking as a leader might, despite still being in a role that doesn’t expect them to.

8. Always looking to upskill

High potential employees are often dedicated to bettering themselves to get to where they want to be within the company. This can manifest in being motivated to upskilling themselves, plugging their skills gaps. Not only does this show passion and motivation, but it shows dedication to growth – something you’ll want from your leaders.

9. Trusted and respected

Due to their dedication, talent, and hard work at work, high potential employees are very often trusted and respected by their fellow employees, often being a point of contact for questions or feedback, and providing support — a key characteristic of a good leader.

10. A champion of the company culture

As future leaders, high potential employees will be embodying the company culture. Their influence will also encourage their peers to do the same, reinforcing the company culture and creating a healthy work environment.

How to develop high potential employees

1. Establish strengths and weaknesses

Focusing on what you’re good at so that you can maximize performance is key to developing high potential employees. Using formal assessment to identify employee strengths and weaknesses is a bias-proof technique, and something that provides you with the data needed to track progress.

2. Create goals

To develop high potential employees, make sure there is a culture of goal setting in the workplace. Where do they want to be, how can they get there? This provides motivational objectives to develop and grow.

3. Invest in coaching

Personalized coaching is a really effective way of developing high potential employees at work. Not only does coaching provide accountability in reaching goals, but it also helps people upskill, increases their confidence, and brings out their full potential.

4. Set up internal mentoring

Think of this almost like a buddy system. Internal mentors can be useful support for those already identified as developing high potential employees. Often, individuals that have are high potential employees are incredibly self-motivated, so they’ll already have goals in mind. This is where internal mentoring can be a subtle way of supporting high potential employees develop, but not overbearing them with too many techniques and tools to do so.

5. Invest in a high potential development program

A high potential development program can also be an effective way of finding and developing these individuals. It’s a structured program that focuses on the potential for growth and is used by companies around the world to develop future leaders.

Developing high potential employees will, of course, vary company to company. But the premise is a really important one; high potential employees are the backbone of most companies, acting as future leadership. So, harnessing the power of these talented individuals, and investing in their journey is essential for businesses.

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