How to Retain High Potential Employees? (Retain HiPo)

High potential employees, also known as HiPos, bring great value to their organisation. Statistically, they are 91% more valuable to businesses than their peers! However, this rare group of potential leaders is hard to find and even harder to retain without the right processes in place. 

Many companies invest a lot of money in recruiting high potential employees, but do so little to retain them. In fact, the employees you have working in mission-critical roles are those who tend to leave if they find that they are no longer valued. 25% of them are of this nature, what you might consider “high risk” when it comes to retention.

At a time when talent is so crucial, organisations must put strategies in place to avoid losing the people with the most value. Here are 3 strategies for retaining HiPos that you should be thinking about today.

High Potential Identification eBook

High potential employees play a significant role in any organisation. Their competence can effectively increase the organisation’s return on investment, but losing them would greatly impact the organisation. So, retaining these top talents is vital. 

If you know how to identify HiPos, you will notice that they are always chasing after new opportunities in their careers. Investing in HiPos is ideal, but retaining them in the long run is inevitable.

The moment HiPos are unable to find meaning in their jobs, they will start looking elsewhere for new opportunities. After all, they already have what it takes to amaze new employers seeking for high potential and high performing employees

Before we address how to retain your HiPo employees, let’s begin by analysing the causes of voluntary resignation in your company.

One way to understand why your HiPo employees leave is by examining the reasons that might prompt them to hand in their resignation letters. Many leaders deduce that employees leave because of remuneration but this is not true. 89% of employers wrongly believe their employees quit because of low pay.

In retrospect, only 12% leave their job because they want higher pay. The reasons for HiPos leaving go much deeper than pay. So, what could be the possible reason for these top talents to leave?

Here, we identify 3 common issues that cause top talent to leave an organisation.

Reasons why top talents leave an organization

1. Lack of Growth

We now know that HiPos are creatures of career advancement opportunities. The reason a HiPo employee would leave is the lack of such an opportunity. They either feel their careers aren’t going as planned or the company they work for does not provide a potential path to grow. Having said that, companies can fail in this area in two ways:

  • Not actively building a career path for HiPos
  • Not communicating the opportunities for learning properly to HiPos

A study by Willis Towers Watson showed that over 70% of “high-retention-risk” employees leave due to a lack of future advancement in their current job. The benefits of developing and communicating a clear learning and advancement path for HiPos is that the more they grow, the more value they bring to their organization.

In fact, research has shown that the value of a HiPo employee linearly grows with the job level. Learn about potential traps when designing HiPo development programs and how to avoid them.

2. 'Bossy' Boss

While everyone at the company may work towards the same goal, the pace and strategy, however, differ from one another. It applies to both a new employee and a HiPo employee. Thus, the managers or heads are appointed to pacify the process. 

There is a saying that employees don’t quit their jobs, but they quit their managers. These employees do not willingly work for managers who put their career prospects  at the cost of an unfortunate situation. How a manager treats employees can leave an impact on an employee’s work involvement.

Studies have shown that managers are accountable for 70% of the employee engagement. Yet 39% of employees in a study on turnover said their managers failed to keep promises, while 37% reported that their managers failed to credit them for their hard work.

3. Lack of Recognition 

HiPo employees can also be categorised as high performers. According to the Harvard Business Review, top performers can be 400% more productive than average performers.

Your top performers are well aware of how much more work they accomplish compared to their peers, but are companies aware of this? High-potential performers are driven to excel, but they want recognition. If their contributions aren’t recognised in your organisation, then they will excel in someone else’s.

In addition to wanting recognition for their outstanding contributions, your top performers will also want feedback. While companies assume no one craves negative feedback, your star performers will want to know where they can improve and they appreciate the positive feedback.

All the same, feedback should be given regularly. Most employees resent waiting a year or more for a performance review that may focus on no-longer relevant issues, and your top performers are no different.

Now that we have uncovered the cause of why high-potential employees leave their job, let us address the following ways on how to retain a HiPo employee:

  • Recognise
  • Develop
  • Nurture

1. RECOGNISE High Potential Employees

High-potential employees need to know that the commitments they make are valued and valuable. Recognising their work and reaffirming their significance to the organisation communicate that they are esteemed. However, if they are treated as an expendable resource, they may look for another boss who will appreciate them.

Compliment their work

A study revealed that 14% of HiPo employees only looked for another job after their work was consistently given compliments, while 33% searched for another job after their managers failed to compliment their work.

High Potential Program

Reaffirm their value within the community

Embrace your top talents because if you don’t, somebody else will. Don’t let your top employees feel disowned. They have the potential which makes them an asset for the company’s successful growth. These relentless hard workers firmly deserve your recognition.

2. DEVELOP High Potential Employees

High potential employees know what they need from an advancement program and they keep this aligned with the company targets. Hence, a targeted and personalised development approach will contribute to upskilling your HiPo’s competencies and knowledge, and ultimately upgrade your organizational performance

Impart advancement possibility

HiPo employees prefer to receive training and improvement as early as conceivable. A learner-centred approach views employees as active agents, bringing their own knowledge, past experiences, education, and ideas to the table. This impacts how they take on board new information and learn.

Preparing a list of the high potential employees helps them get ready for future leadership roles. This is not only fundamental in creating organisational progression, but also in retaining the talented people in the organization.

Pave the way for career success

HiPo employees are highly motivated and have set their own career goals. However, they may need help to climb the career ladder. This is the role that their manager plays – to show them the key and route to their goal. In most cases, the “key” is the employer! When HiPo employees are given the right opportunities, their perseverance will do the rest for a company’s growth.

3. NURTURE High Potential Employees

An experienced coach or mentor can be a colossal resource to a high potential employee. Coaches and mentors can provide counsel and direction, as well as illustrating where development is needed. Showing value to your top talents requires the employer to nurture them. 

Consistent Feedback

Management is a structured and formal way in which you grow and develop your direct reports. Mentorship, however, is less formal, less structured, and more about coaching and feedback.

HiPos need to be led using a mentorship style of leadership as they crave constant feedback. Once they are aware of their high level of work performance, they can seek challenges to motivate themselves. Thus, it is important to ensure they have goals to strive towards and that these goals are reassessed for relevance and level of stretch regularly.

Setting HiPo employees up with multiple mentors can help accelerate their growth and get the different perspectives from a leader outside of their immediate team or function. 


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