Your Organization’s Strength is Only as Strong as Your High Potentials’ Strengths

RevDoorWEBSo now you’ve identified your high potentials, how are you planning on keeping them and why is it important? First let’s look at what high potentials can do for the organization.
A recent Gallup study suggests that employees who are engaged are more likely to have a higher level of commitment to the organization and are more productive. Moreover, they are better able to tolerate difficult business situations. If you’re a numbers person, engaged employees are:

  • 16% more productive (Lueneburger, 2009)
  • More committed to the organization by 32% (Spreitzer, Gretchen and Porath, 2012)
  • Capable of bringing up shareholder return by 9% (Stomski and Attkinsson, 2013)

At issue is the fact that high potentials are leaving organizations at record rates that are as high as 21% (Martin, Schmidt, 2010). What organization can afford to lose so much productivity? Therefore the next big question is how do we keep high potentials engaged and on board?

So let’s get it straight from the horse’s mouth. According to HR Magazine, high potentials are not looking for attractive pay and benefit packages as they can get those anywhere. Rather, they are looking for the elements that differentiate an organization from the pack. They want more opportunities to directly influence and direct their own careers and more challenging assignments with risks and rewards to match that risk (Grossman, 2011). Therefore, if organiztions are going to strengthen their succession bench, they must find ways to engage and retain their top talent. One of the first steps is to identify the strengths of each high potential.

North of Neutral uses a quadrant system to determine the strengths of high potentials. This system and looks something like this.

Quadrant 2

Enjoyable tasks aligned with person’s strengths, talents, and values

Quadrant 1

Frequent and enjoyable tasks

Quadrant 3

Infrequent but necessary tasks that are not enjoyed.

Quadrant 4

Unsatisfying but frequent tasks.

X axis = Level of enjoyment of task
Y axis = Time invested in a task

From their research, they were able to develop a “Three Phase Engagement Model.” Their findings collaborate previous research published in the Free Press and by Tom Rath with Gallup. Their findings assert that the more regularly one uses one’s strengths the more likely they are to be up to ix times more engaged than those who don’t use their strengths on a regular basis.

This research is also backed by research from the flip side of the positive perspective to that of negative reactions. Ron Bonnstetter, Ph.D., is Senior VP of R&D with TTI SI and Target Training International, Ltd. Dr. Bonnstetter states:

Our experiences, and the emotional connections tied to them, largely shape
            our strongest and weakest skills — from leadership and management to
            organization and teamwork. When a person has a negative association with a
            particular skill, he or she is less likely to master it in the future. We concluded
            that the emotional baggage we carry around different skill sets is an
            indicator of how high our propensity is to develop those skills
            in a professional setting. If you show an aversion to creative thinking
            [for example], it will be more difficult to develop than a positive or
            neutral reaction. Through this research, we were able to see authentic,
            unbiased reactions to skills, which hasn’t been done before in our industry.

Therefore, our brains have an even stronger reaction to tasks we dislike. Be that as it may, high potentials must still deliver effective appraisals and other disliked tasks. Further, selecting a good development program to find and grow the strengths of high potentials and to keep them engaged is critical. Here are a few examples of how others are accomplishing this task.

  • Shell, realizing keeping high potentials is even more challenging in the multi nationals arena, has developed a position for career stewards. These stewards meet regularly with high potentials gauging their engagement levels and making recommendations for any necessary adjustments.
  • Norvartis uses a simple checklist.
  • A manufacturing company uses an online discussion board led by the CEO to keep his finger on the engagement pulse of high potentials.
  • John & Johnson has a LeAD program. In this program, utilizing the services of outside coaches, participants enjoy advice and periodic assessments. In addition, they must develop a growth project for a new product, service or business model. These are not just “academic” type assignments as these projects must add real value to the organization.
  • Proctor & Gamble’s program identifies top potentials and uses their strength for such assignments as “brand manager for a leading product or director of marketing for a new segment or region.” This program has proved quite effective as “more than 80% are ready to take on critical leadership roles each year.”
  • Sleepys Worldwide, has a corporate university. New talent is trained for 30 days by the senior leadership team. Sleepys’ CLO states, “Having the president personally involved energizes all of our efforts and positively affects performance metrics.”

Current leaders must have the ability to guide high potentials along their career path. Further, high potentials and their bosses should be held accountable for developing future leaders around their strengths. You cannot fight your competition without strength for now and the future. Many development programs fail. A big reason for such failure is that organiztions use an “off the shelf cookie cutter” program. This plays to no one’s strengths and rarely works. No one program fits every organization. The development program your organization selects must fit its culture and be aligned with its particular business strategies and goals. Therein lies the key to the effectiveness of high potentials, the strength of your organization, and its bench for growing and sustaining profitability.

Thank you for reading this blog. If you want assistance identifying and keeping high potentials email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or call 404-320-7834, or visit Graphic Credi

CEO, High Potential,