How do you manage your high potentials? Do you recognize them publicly? Do you put them into a development program? Or, do you make assumptions about what they know?
If you do recognize them or put them into a development program it is a good start, but it is not everything. You cannot end there on the event. It is the next set of actions that you take that are most relevant.
I have a fairly regular conversation with a friend who was just recently through a high potential development program. The program is 9 months long and they meet three times during this months. In between they work on two projects, one in the community and the other on an internal process improvement. He loved the program. Thought it was great. Took a lot away from it and was really re-engaged and ready to make a difference.
It took less than 3 months to undo. The event was awesome, the learning was great, but 3 months later when it came time for annual reviews he got the standard meets expectations and a 3% raise. Now, I’m a firm believer that potential and performance aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, but they didn’t message effectively at all. He came out of that program being told he was the top 2-3% of his level. He had been in his role for well over a year and a half. His scope had not changed in that time either.
So when he comes to the table, what was on his mind, what are the expectations that he should have? Entry into the program requires high levels of both performance and potential. So where did it all go wrong?
1. Expectations weren’t aligned with standard HR practices during the program
2. HR practices aren’t aligned to the high potential development programs
3. Company-wide the focus was on the event and not the action
4. Manager was not having fully transparent conversations with him
It could be any combination of these four things. But even with the best intent in mind, if you are not thinking and being empathic at the individual level with your high potentials you’re missing an opportunity. You had him fully engaged and now you have him disgruntled. Be aware, be vigilant and remember that the action is more important than the event.