Three mistakes that can devastate your HIPO development

When fast-tracking your high potential staff up the leadership ladder, there are a number of pitfalls to avoid which can threaten to derail your efforts in a snap

Three mistakes that can devastate your HIPO development
Given the importance of high potential employees – also known as HIPOs – it is essential for HR to identify, test and develop these individuals in the proper manner. We talked to two experts about the common pitfalls experienced and how to avoid them.
Forgetting about the 95%
When focusing on the five per cent of workers who have been identified as HIPOs, Alan Ovens, director of CIPD International, warns that a one size fits all approach is actually detrimental to organisational performance.
He advises against the vertical career ladder, instead encouraging HR to engage all staff through multiple career paths. This can include strategies such as deep career paths for tech experts or spiral approaches for leaders to gain broad experience.
“It is important to have a strategy that caters for all staff if we consider everyone has talent and we are trying to engage our people.”
A reliance on psychometric testing
While psychometric testing can be used as a small component of the HIPO selection process, Ovens warns HR against relying too heavily on verbal, numerical and abstract reasoning.
Scoring highly in these areas has absolutely no effect in how an individual performs as a future leader, he adds, as these tests merely measure intellectual abilities and ignore the vital aspect of emotional intelligence.
Additionally, those who perform poorly in areas such as verbal or abstract reasoning can still perform well as leaders.
Merely doing things ‘to’ HIPOs
In the development stage, there is no doubt that high potential employees actually want to be involved, Roland Smith, senior vice president, Asia-Pacific and managing director from the Center for Creative Leadership, told HRD.
“Everyone talks about the war for talent and the talent pipeline, but nobody spends time looking at what it means to be high-potential. We have found HIPOs often feel as if things are being done to them rather than with them.”
“People get caught up in identifying which box a person goes in rather than understanding their relationship with that person,” he added.
The expectation of involvement will only increase with Gen Y and the Millennials wanting to know exactly which options are open to them, what context for success there is and the reasons why they should stay with an organisation.
“HIPOs in general expect organisations to be less transactional,” he said. “They want employers to take the first step towards them to show they care about their future, before agreeing to release more energy to that employer.”
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