Blog Post

Four Strategies to Retain Your High-Potential Employees

A recent story crossed my radar of a young high-potential (HiPo) worker named Taylor. Having been happily on board with a company for four years, Taylor had grown restless and began searching for new challenges. Taylor’s story begs the questions: What draws talented HiPos to stay put in an organization and how can we as leaders more effectively create strategies to retain them?

HiPo retention blind spots

Why retain HiPos in the first place? The easy answer is that most successful organizations in the world know that these individuals are critically important for long-term strength and profitability. Less obvious is that the market for talent currently favors these HiPos as those with refined skill sets are quickly growing in demand. Perhaps most importantly, these same industry leaders are also choosing to develop and “hire” their internal HiPos because they are keenly aware of just how invaluable leadership continuity is in our current business environment.

A growing number of organizations have lost key talent like Taylor in the tumult of this past year. Many executives in my extended network have expressed concern over losing HiPos they wanted to retain. As leaders, we must intentionally develop our promising leaders.

Good intentions, poor follow-through

When someone like Taylor shows initiative and asks to be developed, many organizations will have a good vision for the development of their HiPos and identify a path to the executive level for them. They have a strong conceptual belief in the connection between this and the future of the organization. But beware that HiPos are all about action and will grow more disengaged if your organization fails to respond quickly.

HiPos are the most confident, mobile and agile of our teams. As we begin to transition into post-pandemic conditions, organizations are at risk of losing their best and brightest if they are not developed.

What high-potentials want: A path to the executive level

In my coaching experience of HiPos for 20+years, I have developed a formula to retain them that includes the following:

1. Access: Provide HiPos access to the processes of the business and how decisions are really made, as well as the organizational and cultural dynamics. The more connected and integral a HiPo feels, the more they have a sense that they matter and they are worth the investment.

2. Exposure: They want to be noticed by the right people in the organization. HiPos have myriad talents they can bring to bear. One way to leverage this is to assign or involve them in major projects and presentations. This provides an opportunity for them to showcase their abilities while building new connections and honing skills.

3. Advocacy: This goes beyond just assigning a mentor. It is someone who will advocate for them. Someone to listen and further their career and their career ambitions. If you hear from a HiPo that they want to be a manager, it’s time to act. Advocate for them and help by sharing specific steps on their path forward.

4. Development: This is simply a development plan that is a co-created documented roadmap you follow to retain HiPos. A HiPo who can see their path forward in your company will be more likely to stay. The key here is to be sure they are challenged, learning and growing.

In Summary

Could things have been different for Taylor? Possibly. But only when organizations are intentional and ensure HiPos get adequate access, exposure, advocacy and development so they can see themselves making a career commitment to your organization. If the continuity of your business is important, then retaining and developing HiPos is the best strategy.