Retaining the “High Potential” talent in your organization

Monday, January 23, 2017

High potential employees are a hot commodity in today’s world of work. Are your leaders doing everything they can to identify, challenge and retain the high potentials in your organization?

High potentials are employees who demonstrate capability to be groomed into future leaders. Research conducted by the Harvard Business Review shows high potentials represent the top 3 to 5% of a company’s talent. But, the big question that arises is that if High Potentials represent such a niche population of the organization who are performing well and seem to at the top of their game, why is it so difficult to retain the high potentials in India? A recent study conducted reveals that 25% of employers in India– identified high potential employees plan to leave their current companies within the year as compared to 10% in 2006. This is quite alarming especially when combined with the data that in India, 84% of these leave the organization within two years of completing the in-house High Potential Development Program.

The war for talent is showing no signs of letting up even in sectors that are experiencing significant growth. Even though organizations across the globe have some form of leadership development program specifically catering to the high potentials, translating them into action is much more difficult and remains a challenge. Most firms have trouble keeping the top talent despite their large investments in talent management programs. So why do they jump ship so soon?

High potentials are very hard to hold onto because they are in huge demand. If one firm wants them, then so would their competitors. Employees consider development programs as opportunities for professional growth; however they can be a costly expense for the organization if the employees do not stay back with the organization. The real cost of losing a High Potential employee is up to the tune of 3 ½ times the employee’s annual compensation and that includes:

In order to keep the high potential employees around long enough for them to reach their potential, organizations need to engage them in a different way. They should be:

Given visibility and access

The increased visibility through organizational initiatives and events translates into more career opportunities, and a chance at furthering individual development. High potentials should also be included in senior level/cross-functional meetings where their opinions should be sought after more frequently.

Given special assignments and training

Special assignments or high impact projects, participation in task force team and role rotations should be considered frequently for the high potentials.

Given higher and wider responsibilities

When high potentials are provided more responsibilities it usually translates into higher ownership. While it may seem that high potential employees are rewarded with more work, the assignments bring along with them a wider scale of influence and increased appreciation.

Recognizing high potential employees is necessary. While you may have a slew of high performing workers, only a handful of them have the particular set of skills and abilities to effectively lead a business or organization. The bigger problem, however, is retaining these employees long enough to transition them into company leadership roles. Because these employees are such a hot commodity in the workplace, employers have to stimulate and challenge them in order to maintain high engagement levels. Doing so helps to reduce the dropout rate from high potential development programs and subsequently, increasing the internal leadership success rate.