High-Potential Employees Want Chances to Grow and Learn

High-potential employees, above all, are keen to grow and learn, expand their skills and have new experiences.

Sarah sat down with the vice president of human resources (VPHR) feeling pretty good about herself. She had prepared for the meeting and knew that her team had met all its deadlines and exceeded performance metrics for the quarter. The VPHR had already spoken to her manager, and came armed with a promotion offer.

Will this be enough to keep Sarah happy?

HR should want to keep Sarah happy. She has the right mix of ability, aspiration and engagement with the company to become a senior leader, and that makes her a high-potential employee (HIPO). HIPOs are more important than ever for organizations that increasingly rely on collaboration, consensus and independent thinking, and focus less on hierarchical efficient teamwork.

The most effective way to increase HIPO engagement is through growth opportunities and experiences — more so than promotions

Employees always welcome promotions and pay raises, but those tactics may not be the most effective ways to engage with HIPOs. Research shows the most effective way to increase HIPO engagement is through growth opportunities and experiences — more so than promotions, rotations or special projects.

Picking the right strategy is especially important for HIPOs, who are 15% more likely to leave than non-HIPO employees when they are disappointed with their future opportunities, according to CEB, now Gartner, data.

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HIPOs want to get ahead

It is typically the job of HR to keep HIPOs engaged and give them the right opportunities to ensure they develop into the leaders their company needs. HR teams should look at “progression opportunities” for HIPOs that help them refine the skills they have, add new ones and expand their responsibilities to prepare them for leadership duties in the future.

In a survey of 2,177 HIPOs by CEB, now Gartner, increasing satisfaction with progression opportunities had a greater impact on HIPO engagement than increasing satisfaction with either current income or promotions.

HR teams play a critical role in creating an environment in which HIPOs can access the right opportunities at the right time. They can do this in two main ways — within HIPOs’ existing roles or by moving them into new roles. To get started, HR should:

  • Conduct regular discussions with managers and use their feedback to identify growth opportunities that align with the development needs of the HIPO.
  • Improve HR’s visibility across different areas of the business by sharing knowledge of available progression opportunities across departments.
  • Involve colleagues with a view across the whole business, such as skip-level managers, executive sponsors and senior leaders, to ensure everyone benefits when redesigning a HIPO’s role.
  • Improve HIPOs’ understanding of the opportunities available to them by providing timely updates through a career portal or workflow “shadowing.”

Gartner for HR Leaders clients can read more in Take Ownership of HIPOs’ Career Progression.

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