Beware of your High Potential Programs

Everybody needs to have a Hi Potential program, it´s the name of the game, if you are an HR professional, you should have one.  Even better call it a “Talent” program. And you will be the envy of the HR association.

I personally see 6 problems with HiPo programs, and only one solution.

Problem Number 1-  Predicting the Future.

Can we predict the future? NO

Is performance based on situational factors? YES

So how can we predict how someone will perform in the future, in a context that does not exit?

Especially in the age of speed of change it …

So… what is a high potential?

The best answer I got to this question is people who learn and adapt fast, which in turn helps them to understand de context quickly and perform at a highest standard… what is called learning agility.

I believe it is a great concept and I fully agree people who have learning agility probably will perform above standard… but does that make them a hi potential?

The new context will require new skills, which probably we cannot even describe today…. So beyond been a fast learner, what do people need to learn…

Problem Number 2 – Who makes the call

Who makes the call? Who says that person A is a High Potential.

The Manager of the manager that saw him or her do a presentation that he or she liked 6 months ago (like many companies do)… or is it the assessment of many senior leaders… that in the end reach a somewhat consensus to call someone a high po.

What is the presentation had gone wrong, or if there was no “connection” or the person shared bad news, or his/her English is not so good…

Mediocre people hire mediocre candidates.

Mediocre Managers make Mediocre Talent calls… and organizations are full of mediocre managers.

Then you have a lot of assessment tools, which I´m sure have validity…but can they predict future performance in an unknown context.

What they provide is the excuse that “we have used a series of tools and assessments to determine the individuals talent call” ….. bullsxxt!.

Problem Number 3 – Do we tell him/her do we tell the rest?

As most of the Hi Po programs are still Witchcraft most companies do not tell anyone.

Some tell the Hi Po’s they are Hi Po’s and what that will mean to them (But please don´t tell anyone). So everybody is trying to guess who is who and why and a lot of energy is wasted in this process.

Others tell the everybody (In do not know of one..but assume there might be some) and with that motivate the few Hi Po´s and disengage the great majority. (Not a good Idea)

Problem Number 4 – Now what do we do with Pay, Careers and Development.

OK. We found the Diamonds in the Rough!!  Now what do we do…

Pay them more so we can retain them, Give them lots of training, Pump them up and Promote them!!

Pay: Who much more and why?

Training: There is no harm in training people more, the harm can be if you do not give enough training, so this is not a problem.

Pump them up (see problem 5)

Promote them. This is CORRECT (kind of). I believe critical experiences (not always promotions) are what really build a career, and you can test the learning agility of an individual.

Problem Number 5 –How do we manage expectations?

Calling a Hi Po a Hi Po is Pumping him/her up, you will make commitments and will need to carefully manage expectations, if not (like any unfulfilled expectation) it can backfire, and you might end up losing great talent.

Problem Number 6 – Is he/she a Hi po for life?

What do we do when he/she is not a Hipo any more.

Umm. Really this person is not a hi Po…what do we do?

Reduce the salary?, Tell him/her… manage expectations @#!!!

You just wish this had never started.

Solution 1-

Be Humble: We know very little about the human brain and human behavior-

Be Realistic: We cannot predict the future

Be Practical:  Keep your eyes on people that learn fast (I like one company that just calls those who believe can move faster “people to watch”) , give them challenging assignments, coaching  and training, se how they do and take it from there.

A career is build step by step, experience by experience.

Just don´t implement a Hi Po program.

©2019 by Miguel Premoli.

The content in this site expresses my personal opinion and not that of my current or former employers