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How to identify your high-potential employees?

eye 2308 Published on 31 Jan. 2019
tag #Management & Leadership #Potential identification #HR advice

Ideally, organisations would want all their employees to work at their full potential and contribute equally. But research shows that the long-term success of an organisation is driven and sustained by a select few high-potential employees or HiPos. High-potential employees deliver two to six times the return of average players.* So identifying HiPos becomes crucial to maximize organisations’ returns. But with a limited budget and time organisations need a defined and reliable approach to find their star performers.

The approach to identifying your high-potential employees:

Define your HiPo employees
HiPos are employees who drive the overall business performance: by making significant and consistent contributions, delivering superior levels of performance while outperforming others, and exhibiting behaviour that aligns with the company’s culture and values. This is the basic DNA of a HiPo, but the real challenge is how to identify these employees who stand out.

Look for the 3 essentials traits for HiPo employees

Learning Agility

To be a HiPo, the employee must exhibit the willingness and ability to consistently acquire new skills and expertise on the job. And then apply the fresh capabilities to perform exceedingly well in the job role and its related tasks. This learning agility is governed by cognitive abilities (IQ), and personality traits of adaptability, improvisation and perseverance. When extending this to HiPos in leadership roles, wider personality dimensions are needed, a visionary outlook, desire to lead, the capability to motivate and develop others, etc.

Emotional Intelligence

Another essential of HiPo is emotional intelligence (EI), this ability to rightfully perceive emotions and react accordingly is crucial to form and maintain amicable and fruitful interpersonal relationships. Possessing EI traits of optimism, self-motivation, resilience and flexibility, etc. are determinant of performance and potential at all job levels. For managers and company leaders who drive teams, influence stakeholders, shape opinions; they will need high EI traits of empathy, tactfulness, mediation, dealing with diversity, etc.


Both high-performance and high-potential are driven by the motivation to work, achieve and surpass. And HiPo employees will showcase behavioural traits that signal the propensity to work hard, need for action, ambition, etc. They will also exhibit the willingness to take extra responsibility, face challenges, and bear psychological and physical discomfort as part and parcel of succeeding in a high-demanding job role. All this as recurring requirements of long-distance travel, short deadlines and unpredictable tasks.

To summarize briefly, a successful approach to identify HiPo employees can be created by correctly defining HiPos and then looking for the essential personality and behavioural factors that determine and predict high-potential. Psychometric assessments can be reliable tools to successfully reveal the various behavioural and personality traits of HiPos. The assessments not only bring scientific capability and reliability, but also eliminates human biases. The identification of HiPos is a rewarding investment that companies are advised to make for high business performance and future readiness.

*Gandossy, R. and Effron, M. (2003) Leading the Way: Three Truths from the Top Companies for Leaders. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey.

Akshay Pratap Singh

Senior Executive, Marketing and Communications

Akshay has 6 years of experience in marketing and communications. He likes to read and write on diverse topics, with a keen interest in human psychology, philosophy, and languages.

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