Posted by Louise Szymala - Business Unit Director
emerging talent, High Performance, High Potential, HiPo, people management, Quality hires, Talent management
Posted on August 9th, 2011 at 5:32 pm

The High Potential Programme is making a come back!

On the back burner for the last few years whilst many organisations have undergone cost cutting exercises, the high potential (HiPo) programme is making a come back as business leaders have recognised that effective talent management and development is the key to business growth and sustainable competitive advantage.

Historically, high potentials have been classified primarily based on past performance. Whilst this is a solid indicator of likely future performance, will it be enough to determine the DNA of the HiPos of today and tomorrow in an increasingly volatile and unpredictable market where a unique combination of macro drivers such as globalisation, increasing pressure on margins, risk awareness and growing skills gaps are colliding like never before?

Many organisations fall at the first hurdle; making the distinction between high performance and high potential.

High performance can be measured against clearly defined goals and objectives that exist today. High performers deliver tangible results, are star performers in role, have expertise in a technical or functional discipline and see their careers thrive in a meritocratic organisation. So how is this different from high potential?

HiPos usually sit within the top 5% of talent in an organisation and can be clearly recognised as those who deliver game changing performance time and time again in a wide variety of circumstances, display broad acumen of the company business and contribute to the organisational strategy whilst living out their company’s values. They are characterised through more rapid career growth than their peers, spurred on by their drive, entrepreneurial thinking and mastery of emotional intelligence.

So are the high performers of today the high potentials of tomorrow?

Not necessarily.

An emotive debate and one that the most forward thinking talent centric organisations are set to tackle with not only the current but the long term future goals of the organisation at forefront of mind.

As organisations set out to increase the number of HiPos in their business against an uncertain backdrop where required “skills for the future” are still unknown but the challenges ahead couldn’t be more clear, we are seeing a shift away from technical skills and past performance as key hiring criteria and a renewed focus on the behaviours, traits, mental agility, emotional intelligence and embodiment of company values as selection criteria to meet the business challenges of tomorrow. Investments are being made not only in internal HiPo programmes (coaching, rotational placements and simulated situations) likely to leverage and convert the potential of current high performers but also in external programmes specifically targeting the HiPo talent of direct and indirect competitor organisations with particular focus on top MBA schools as a key source.

How organisations will measure the return on what they invest in these programmes remains to be seen but for now all they know is they can’t afford not to.


  1. John-Joe says:

    Not sure I under story here? is there opp’s for candidates?
    If its aimed at companies you are going to need a much more robust argument?

    For example What was the impact of companies dropping the old schemes?
    Is there any research on this topic?

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