4 Success Factors for Effective High Potential Programs

High-potential (HiPo) development is a critical talent management priority for many organizations, and doing it well is a practice of high-performance organizations. However, a review of outcomes reveals that organizations are not getting their return on their efforts to transform high potential into high performance.

In this 3-part blog series, we’ll explore the ins and outs of developing a successful high-potential program. First we explored how to identify and assess high-potential leaders and then we discussed leadership transitions and the need to clarify expectations with high potential leaders. Today we’ll cover best practices for building a successful HiPo development program.

Success Factors in Program Design: Overcoming Common Stumbling Blocks

Avoiding four of the most common stumbling blocks to HiPo development will lead to better outcomes in program implementation.

1. Failing to engage with senior-level leaders weaken critical alignments

Approximately 72% of HR professionals think that communication with executives about the link between the program designs and business outcomes is their biggest challenge. By contrast, defining strategic priorities (15%) and designing programs (13%) are relatively smaller challenges according to a recent AchieveForum poll. Leveraging program design and implementation partners in conversations with executives is big step in securing better outcomes from investments in HiPo development. Leveraging the perspective of consultants is a common success factor in winning executive buy-in.

2. Tendency of managers of HiPos to focus narrowly on their interests at expense of the benefits of talent mobility

Leaders tend to focus on their own units rather than the whole organization. Hanging on to critical talent is a legitimate concern. This me-first view often hinders the quality of HiPo learning experiences. Engaging executives about the business case for HiPo development provides the rationale for what can be a challenging sacrifice for leaders to make in “do-more-with-less” work environments.

3. Failure to integrate leadership development activities with company values, business principles, and the other elements of the talent management system

Hiring methods, promotion practices, performance management systems, and compensation/benefits programs have a big influence on the impact of HiPo development programs. Devoting time to building these alignments is a critical investment in the follow-through that determines ultimate success.

4. Lack of follow-up suppresses accountability in participants and leaders

Beyond accelerating the ability of HiPos to overcome the skill application challenges they face, ensuring that career moves occur is an important follow-up activity. Thus, evaluating the impact of these programs on: 1) skills that increase promotion readiness and mobility, 2) the executive ratings of promotion readiness they assign in talent reviews, and 3) successful performance in new roles are important follow-up activities. Reviewing the impact on HiPo programs on these indicators helps keep key stakeholders focused on the steps that optimize development.

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