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High-Potential Employees

High Potential Employees: 55 Percent Set to Leave

Developing and promoting from within is valuable; don't let your high potential employees leave

Man Leaving Walking Out of the DoorOrganizations the world over are investing big sums in high-potential employee (HIPO) development programs because they rightly see that developing their employees is the best and most efficient way to find their firm’s future leaders.

And the rewards can be great: CEB research shows that organizations with strong leadership can double their revenue and profit growth.

But all this investment is for naught if a firm’s brightest and best take all their “world class” training and hot foot it off to a competitor. SHL Talent Measurement research shows that a staggering 55% drop out of HIPO programs.

Given the career risk to an HR executive in telling their CEO that half the top talent in the company is likely to leave within 5 years, they should not only focus on those development programs but on engaging and retaining HIPOs.

HIPO Engagement

That HIPOs are hard to hold onto shouldn’t really surprise anyone, because they are in huge demand. If one firm wants them, then so do their competitors. And they are rare. Only one-in-seven high performers are considered “high potential”; i.e., that they are likely to reach a senior position.

So for those few, it’s a seller’s market. They’re will look carefully at their experience with their existing company and weigh it against career prospects elsewhere.

SHL Talent Measurement research shows that whether they go or stay depends on their engagement with the firm. It’s one of three essential components (with aspiration and ability) that helps managers understand which of their employees is likely to rise to a senior position, perform well in the role, and stay with the firm long enough to justify the investment.

Before allocating a place on a HIPO program it’s important to understand whether the employee is committed to the organization and sees it as the best place to realize their career goals.

The Anatomy of Engagement

As our data and research show, engagement can be measured and has two components:  “current engagement” and “future engagement.”

  • Current engagement is determined by a combination of past experiences with an employer, and an employee’s current experiences in their job, role and work environment.

  • Future engagement is determined by an employee’s expectations about their job, career and their employer, or what we call “engagement capital.”

Engagement levels, both for now and the future, will depend on an individual’s rational and emotional commitment to their employer. They are going to be as interested in their alignment with the organization’s mission and goals as they are with their personal challenges and goals.

How to Keep HIPOs Engaged

Almost 60% of HIPO employees with high engagement have a high intent to stay; more than double that of HIPOs with lower levels of engagement. To keep HIPOs engaged, managers should take three steps.

  1. Show them some love: Make sure they know they’re important to you, as that helps build commitment. Amazingly, 63% of organizations don’t even tell their HIPOs that they are high potential.

  2. Give them a challenge: Give them highly visible and challenging stretch roles. Our research shows that 70% will stay if they get a challenging task and unconditional support.

  3. Make them commit: In return for your firm’s investment in them, consider asking your HIPOs to commit to your organization for a period. A surprising 89% of organizations ask for no such commitment.

Taken together, these steps can improve the success a high potential development program by a factor of 11.


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10 Responses

  • Good information that can easily be implemented. In today’s US employment world can you ask for a committment to your organization.

  • Yolanda Baker says:

    Great article! I love to see CEB sharing beyond its membership walls.

  • Robert M says:

    Worth noting that unconditional support in Item 2 in my opinion, is not just the friendly pat on the back or offer for ‘Lets do lunch’ – but ensuring adequate resources are available to HIPOs.

    Being offered a challenging task is one thing – been given an impossible challenge will only break someones spirit and lead them to explore other avenues.
    My current engagement

  • sira gaffoor says:

    Regarding showing employees some love in my opinion cud mean sml tings like greeting n appreciating a job well done…thank dem so tey feel valued. On the job training takes a lot of patience but is worth the investment. Some employees need prodding whilst others r able to handle tings on their own. Ensure u do monitor their performance without breathing down their necks …meaning chk on their outputs. give to work wid periodic chks won’t b setting dem up fo doom.
    When employees feel they r part of achieving business goals n objectives tey enjoy working wid a smile.

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