Identifying and developing high-potential employees is an important part of an organization’s talent strategy. These employees represent the future leaders and innovators companies need to thrive in a disruptive and competitive business environment. Unfortunately, the characteristics of high-potential employees also make them difficult to retain. Their desire for growth and opportunity often causes them to become dissatisfied with their current role and leads them to look outside the company for the chance to advance their careers. If identifying high-potential employees is a top priority for talent and development professionals, implementing strategies to retain them should be a close second.
Strategies for Retaining and Managing High-Potential Employees
Give Them Responsibility and New Challenges
High-potential employees thrive when they’re taking on new challenges and exploring new possibilities. Assigning someone to a special project, tasking them with overseeing another employee, or placing them in charge of a newly formed team allows high-potential employees the space to grow and build new skills. Unfortunately, many organizations are hesitant to trust employees with tasks or responsibilities outside their immediate role. They may not be willing to risk any potential for failure or be unable to envision someone stepping into a new role they’ve never held before. When high-potential employees don’t have these opportunities, however, they can feel as if they’re stagnant in their current position and may seek to pursue their career goals elsewhere or become disengaged.
Connect Them With Mentors
An experienced mentor can be a tremendous asset to a high-potential employee. Not only can they go to a mentor for advice and guidance, their mentor can also provide them with an example of how they could potentially grow into a new role over time. Recent research has found that employees who receive mentorship are far more likely to remain with an organization for longer than five years. Working with a mentor helps them feel valued and makes it clear that they have a future within the company. Mentors can also provide valuable feedback that often comes across as more direct and personal than what they typically receive from a manager. Since employees develop a relationship with a mentor, feedback can be discussed in more detail and enhanced with frequent follow-ups in the future.
For all the concern companies have over toxic behavior in the workplace, neglect is actually the greatest source of employee turnover. This is especially true of high-potential employees, who want to be recognized and appreciated for the value they bring to the organization. When employees feel ignored or neglected, they can begin to view their work as unimportant. From there, it’s only a small step for them to feel like their employer doesn’t value their skills and talents. High-potential employees want to know that someone values the contributions they make to the organization. If they feel like they’re being treated like a disposable asset, they may seek out another employer that will value them or become disengaged as a way of putting emotional distance between themselves and their work. By recognizing their work and reaffirming their importance to the organization, companies communicate that they are valued.
Provide Them With Learning Opportunities
While organizations put a lot of effort into identifying high-potential employees, they don’t always do a good job of acting on that information. According to the Center for Creative Leadership, 60 percent of employers don’t inform employees that they’ve been identified as “high-potential.” It’s hardly surprising that 33 percent of these employees are busy looking for another job. When someone is identified as high-potential, they need to receive focused training and development as early as possible. Incorporating these employees into a succession pipeline that helps them prepare for future leadership roles is not only essential to retaining these talented individuals, but also to creating organizational continuity and overcoming the disruption associated with talent gaps.
Create a Career Path
Although high-potential employees may have an idea of where they want to go in their career, they may not have a good sense of how to get there. This is especially true for younger people with less experience or career switchers who don’t have extensive familiarity with what opportunities are available. By working with the employee to formulate a professional development plan, organizations can help high-potentials understand what options are available and what skills they will need to pick up along the way.
Implementing strategies to retain high-potential employees is critically important for organizations of all sizes. By identifying these leaders early and taking steps to manage their ongoing development, companies can create a space for them to thrive and feel valued. Rather than thinking about how to keep high-potential employees from leaving, they should instead consider how they can empower these future leaders by finding new challenges.