How not to lose high-potential employees - Business Works
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How not to lose high-potential employees

by Eugene Burke, Chief Science and Analytics Officer, CEB More than two-thirds of companies are misidentifying their high-potential (HiPo) employees, jeopardising long-term corporate performance says Eugene Burke, Chief Science and Analytics Officer at CEB. This failure drives true HiPos those who demonstrate the attributes to be successful future leaders to pursue positions with potentially-competitive organisations willing to invest in their development. In order to keep top talent in house and maximize bottom-line results, companies must re-evaluate and reinvigorate their HiPo programmes.

Major corporations spend an average of US$3 million (£1.8m) every year on leadership and development programmes for HiPo employees, but 55% of these employees will turn over in a five-year period, resulting in wasted dollars and an insufficient leadership bench. The inability to establish a strong, diverse leadership pipeline impairs bottom-line performance since organisations with weak leadership generate roughly half the revenue and profit growth as those with strong leadership.

resources, training and career opportunities are directed at the wrong employees

"There is mounting pressure on companies to realise the value of any talent investment made, especially HiPo programmes which deliver future leaders for the business. Too often resources, training and career opportunities are directed at employees who lack the aspiration, engagement or ability to be effective at the next level. This misidentification is preventing those with the strongest potential from reaching senior roles and could restrict an organisation's future productivity, innovation and performance," said Eugene.

Companies can expect to improve the success of their programmes more than 10-fold by correctly identifying HiPos and engaging them with the right training and development. Not only are they well positioned to groom employees for senior leadership positions, but will also strengthen talent pipelines and reduce flight risk for the business longer term.

Insights from a decade of research sampling 6.6 million people and more than 100 Fortune 500 HR leaders suggest that companies can improve the caliber of leaders and create incentives for HiPos to stay by applying a four-pronged approach:

  1. Redefine 'potential': Adopt a clearer definition that accounts for the key attributes employees need to have in order to rise to more senior roles: the desire to assume senior positions (aspiration), manage and lead others effectively (ability), as well as having the commitment to realize their career goals with their current employer (engagement);

  2. Measure potential objectively: Rather than relying solely on subjective manager nominations or evaluation, organisations should adopt a systematic process for identifying HiPo talent through objective talent assessment and evaluation.

  3. Ask for commitment in return for career opportunities: Proactively evaluate engagement and act to mitigate flight risk among HiPo employees by evaluating their engagement today and their longer-term commitment to the organisation in the future.

  4. Create differentiated development experiences: Typical HiPo programmes provide opportunities for incremental skill building, but fail to prepare HiPo employees for realistic future roles. The best organisations help HiPos learn new skills, but also apply existing skills in different roles by exposing them to high-impact development experiences.

To learn more about how to increase the return on HiPo programmes, download Improving the Odds of Success for High-Potential Programs

For more information about CEB, please visit:

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