5 Steps and Tools to Identify, Develop, and Retain HiPos

Written by Sheu Quen

6 minute read

Gartner research has shown that HiPos exert 21% more effort compared to non-HiPos. At the same time, CEB states that the turnover rate of HiPos is 30% and more than 50% of organizations are ineffective at identifying, managing, and retaining top talent. Do you have what it takes for HiPo identification and management?

High potential employees (HiPos) are often viewed as the future leaders of an organisation and should be identified early and developed effectively. Gartner research has shown that HiPos are 91% more valuable and have a higher likelihood to exert 21% more effort compared to non-HiPos.

Organisations invest millions of dollars to train and develop high potential employees. However, it is pointless to do so if they are inviting and training the wrong people. Poorly conducted HiPo programs can lead to:

  • High Attrition: CEB stated that the turnover rate of HiPo employees is 30% while more than 50% of organisations are ineffective at identifying, managing, and retaining top talent.
  • Low Performance: The Corporate Leadership Council reported that 40% of HiPos have insignificant performance levels. 40% of internal job moves by HiPos end in failure while fewer than 15% of direct reports were ready for immediate transition to subsequent roles.

The question is, do you have the right tools for HiPo identification, management, and retention? Time to find out!

What are High Potential (HiPo) Employees?

HiPos are the employees in your team who display a high propensity for learning and growth within a current role, as well as the potential to fill an expanded role. HiPos are usually highlighted as staff with key qualities that portray them as highly beneficial contributors to the organisation, the business, and its future success.

It is important to note that HiPos also exhibit managerial competencies which are not shared by every top employee in your organisation. Many often aspire to move into a senior role within the business and plan to get there in the shortest possible time. While high performers seek to excel as individuals, it is the high potentials who desire to do well collectively.

The Difference between High Potential and High Performance

High potential and high performance are often misidentified and this is because the two traits aren’t always mutually exclusive. High potential employees can be seen as high performers, the same isn’t always true with high performing employees.

High performers are naturally high achievers and may find it challenging to achieve results when they move into management roles. High potentials, on the other hand, are results-driven and possess an aptitude for leadership qualities necessary for business continuity.

High PerformersHigh Potentials
  • High achievers
  • Excel in their current roles
  • Function extremely well on their own
  • Ability to remain focused on tasks given
  • Results-driven
  • Excel in a group setting
  • Possess aptitude for leadership qualities
  • Have potential to be in management roles

Mistaking high performers for high potentials can cost an organisation time, money, and even employees. Find out more about the differences between high performance and high potential here.

5 Tools to Develop and Retain HiPo Employees

Once you have identified your high potential employees, you now want to develop and retain them.So, how do they fit within your organisation’s plans? A more scientific approach involves a variety of the following assessment tools:

  1. Personality profiling assessments
  2. Assessments and development centres
  3. High-Performance Trait Indicator (HPTI) 
  4. 9-box grid
  5. 360-degree feedback
Personality Profiling AssessmentsPersonality profiling tests are used to assess employees for high potential, the essential traits for a particular role, and whether they can excel within that role.
Assessments and Development CentresRoleplays, simulations, group discussions, presentations, as well as psychometric and aptitude tests are some activities of an assessment and development centre. Used in tandem, they make excellent tools in identifying high potential employees.
High Performance Trait Indicator (HPTI)HPTI assessments are identification tools that assess employees with prospective leadership abilities, their leadership strengths, and their areas for improvement. HPTI assessments can also help to:


  • Discover the next generation of leaders
  • Boost self-awareness and resolve skill gaps
  • Increase employee retention 
9-Box GridThe 9-Box Grid is an individual tool that evaluates an employee’s current and potential level of contribution to the company based on their performance and potential.
360-Degree FeedbackAccording to a survey by Mettl, more than 30% of organisations have used a structured 360 feedback tool for their HiPo identification process and employee performance assessment. It is a reliable and objective method of tracking employee performance based on multiple feedback sources. 

How to Build an Effective HiPo Strategy in 5 Steps

We get it. Developing talent is expensive. But effective HiPo programs can be well-oiled, profit-generating machines when done right. Implementing the right HiPo program starts with the following steps:

Step 1 – Identifying

Identify your successors for talent readiness to strengthen your succession pipeline and build a HiPo framework model to gauge the extent of a talent’s capabilities. Talents who score high are more likely to display high potential and ability in handling greater challenges. This can be done using personality profiling assessments, assessment and development centres, HPTIs, and 360 feedback.

CapabilityInnovative Mindset


Entrepreneurial Spirit

Decisive, Bold, and Fast Actions

Digital Champion

AgilityCatalytic Learning Agility


Cognitive Ability




Passion for Excellence

Step 2 – Assessing

Assess your successors through a range of assessment tools that incorporate data, science, and technology on a talent intelligence platform.

Slice and dice data as your talent strategy
Slice and dice data as your talent strategy

Slice and dice data as your talent strategy evolves with a talent target tool to always find the best talent for business needs.

Assess your HiPos with multiple lenses to gain in depth insights
Assess your HiPos with multiple lenses to gain in-depth insights

Assess your HiPos with multiple lenses to gain in-depth insights into their strengths and areas of development. An extensive library of talent assessment tools can help to measure preferences, behaviours at work, and contextualising abilities.

Step 3 – Analysing

Real-time dashboard and reporting enable tracking and monitoring of your HiPo candidate’s assessment progress. The dashboard allows you to analyse the overall scores of your HiPo candidate pool and “slice and dice” the data points to simulate multiple scenarios.

Real time dashboard and reporting enables tracking and monitoring of your HiPo candidates
Real-time dashboard and reporting enables tracking and monitoring of your HiPo candidate’s

Evaluate the behavioural, motivational, and cognitive assessments on your framework model to measure potential HiPos on their working style, key motivators, agility, problem-solving abilities, and decision-making skills. Analyse these talent insights to incorporate all the consolidated data across the company to sustainably deploy your HiPo program.

Stretchability Gauge of HiPo
Stretchability Gauge of HiPo

Step 4 – Developing

Developing high potentials is a significant growth opportunity for organisations. This can be done by building a personalised learning journey to help ensure guided development, maximum learning ROI, and high retention rates.

Simultaneously, you can use the 9-box grid to measure and evaluate your pool of talents based on the selection of parameters, where the x-axis is for performance while the y-axis is for potential.

HiPo 9-Box Grid
HiPo 9 Box Grid

With the 9-box grid, you can easily identify high potential talents and customise the elements of the axes based on what high potential means to you. Once you have narrowed the list down, you can select the high potential talents for development.

Step 5 – Retaining

Retaining your HiPo employees ensures that they stick with your organisation. Here are a few things you can do to retain them:

  1. Give your HiPo employees more responsibilities that provide them with valuable experience that will help them as they move up in their career.
  2. Provide your HiPo employees with coaching and feedback to enable them to improve and continue learning new skills. 
  3. Recognise their potential and express your willingness to help them develop. This shows that you value them, making them less likely to seek roles elsewhere.

Are your employees ready for high potential status? Time to invest in ways to manage and engage the HiPo workforce, regardless of where they work. 

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