What does it mean to be a high potential employee in your organization? How does your company define the term? Formally, you may define it as an employee who is ready to take on a role that is significantly more complex than his/her current role.
That is a lot of words … and for most people, it does not mean anything. It is simply a grouping together of stuffy, pompous HR words as the strange jargon that we like to use. It really gets lost on most people when we give them the hi-po label but we never tell the hi-po what it means now that they have been given this label. We undermine ourselves by not taking follow on action. We tell you that you are a hi-po, you have lots of runway or headspace and then when the first opportunity comes up to promote you, we put you through the grind.
It is time to simplify our language. To connect it back to the business. If you want to talk about what a high potential is, start talking about risk. For me, the true definition of high potential is that you’re willing to take a risk on an individual. It means you are willing to put them into a position that may be a stretch. It means that you are going to take a chance on them. It does not mean you are going to watch them drown and not give support. But it does mean you are willing to challenge them and see what they have really got.
Think Steve Burke big. At a fairly young age, Disney sent him to France to resurrect Euro-Disney. They gave him a chance. And it paid off, he fixed it by adding wine (you can thank him for the next time you go to any Disney park) and making other structural changes. There was big money on the line. But he showed promise, and they took the risk on him.
If you believe in your high potentials, show them. Challenge them and push them. You will be impressed with the level of effort that you will get as a result. People are motivated by challenges, especially your hi-pos. They want to do more, they can take on that more complex role. So hook it up and give them a chance. You will not be let down.
Take the uncertain risk on your top talent now … to gain the high reward of their loyalty and retention in return later.