How do you bring out the best from the best in your org? Try nurturing your high-potential employees.

We’ve seen how the pandemic brings out the worst in people. And, there’s no denying that it has also brought out the best in many.

For instance, we’ve always known healthcare workers and medical practitioners to be dedicated people.  But we didn’t realize till now how passionate they truly are – clocking in more than 36-hour work shifts to tend to the sick and dying. How they’ve stepped up to the plate with limited resources, consistently putting others’ needs before their own.

We’ve also seen how teachers have had to adapt to an online setup – creating and recreating lesson plans till the wee hours to cater to the changing needs of the student.  Or the parent who found himself/herself out of work but found alternative sources of income to make ends meet while caring for children at home. How about that neighbor who offered to buy groceries for the next-door senior who couldn’t buy essentials herself?

Or take into consideration local nonprofits who deal with hunger and homelessness. Their service pool has expanded exponentially with long food lines and threats of eviction or foreclosure. Yet their volunteers work tirelessly to help those whose safety nets have collapsed leaving many in free fall.

Why nurturing high potential employees matters

The stories are many and all of them strike a familiar chord. As a collaborative work culture consulting firm and group dynamics advocate that licenses our collaborative work culture and leadership resources to internal and external HR specialists, champions like these are exactly the type of people who make an organization stand out.

They have initiative because they are driven. They get “it” and they simply want to do good.   To put it dramatically, if I were going to “war”, they’re the ones I’d fight tooth and nail to be with.  They’re passionate. They know that a sense of community is necessary for survival. And while the risks are apparent, the shared objective (to survive COVID-19 while helping the community) fuels them forward.  I won’t be surprised if these same people are the ones who do exceptionally well in their workplace.

Where to find driven people when the goal is to nurture your high-potential employees?

How do organizations find driven individuals like them?  Better yet, the more appropriate question would be How can organizations retain people like them?

While the pandemic has made people hang on to their jobs for dear life, its reckless to think that they won’t leave.  Someone right this very minute, may be thinking of resigning, accepting the retirement package, or moving to another organization.  And now isn’t exactly a good time to let go of key people.

From experience, here are non-negotiables when it comes to nurturing (and retaining) high-potential people in your organization. 

Identify your high potentials

Consider past and present performance, as well as their learning agility.  Their inclination for growth provides a clear picture of who among your pool has the highest potential to take on a leadership role. 

Boost learning and engagement

Its painful to see high-potentials leave only because they feel that their growth has stalled or plateaued.  I’d accept dissatisfaction over compensation, but this is less of a factor in my experience.   In many instances, the solution is painfully simple – mentoring and leadership training.  The type of training referred to here isn’t a one-off event.  Its strategic, targeted, customized training.  It’s a bespoke and measured process designed for organization-specific improvements. It is also learning that can be accomplished in steps and through learning circles.

Get them involved with high-visibility Assignments

The key to keeping performing team members engaged is to involve them in highly visible and meaningful assignments.  This may be achieved in various forms – rotating an employee to a partner/supplier/assigned branch, enjoining them in a new company initiative, or even swapping positions in a different department.  The objective is to give the top-performing individual opportunities to gain visibility, experience, and depth.  

When it comes to high-potential employees, measure progress consistently and frequently

Instead of waiting for the year-end review to evaluate, implement a quarterly performance review or catalytic coaching that gives them more immediate feedback.  This feedback can be used to improve performance in the short-term.  

Get them out of their comfort zones

Growth is necessary, but more often than not, its uncomfortable.  We expect employees to be experts for the job they were hired for. No problem with that.  But this alone is insufficient to mold engaged team players and team leaders.  Holistic development must always be included in the mix.  It’s a balance of soft and hard skills – one that I always promote and encourage in my TIGERS® Team Fundamentals.   I encourage even those in upper management to constantly try new things, acquire new experiences, and new skills.  It isn’t as elementary as it sounds.

Nurturing high-potential employees is often a risk. Invest and they might up and leave in an instant.  Don’t invest and you risk having them lukewarm performance and meager productivity. But when I am posed with this dilemma, my knee-jerk reaction is to rethink the use of potential.

Instead of zeroing-in on locking high-potential for a 30-year tenure, push them to perform NOW.  Drive the importance of learning, unlearning, and relearning so that it helps your organization NOW.  Last but not least, align their personal aspirations with the organization’s roadmap.  High potentials thrive when they are truly accountable for something. It communicates the philosophy that they MATTER.

Copyright TIGERS Success Series, Inc. by Dianne Crampton

About TIGERS Success Series, inc.

TIGERS provides a comprehensive, multi-pronged and robust system for improving your workforce behavior, work culture, profitability and project management and team leadership success. We offer licensing and certification in the use of TIGERS resources to build high performance collaborative teams and leaders.

We specialize in building cooperation among employees and collaboration between departments for profitable agile, high performance team outcomes.  Scaled to  grow as your organization and leadership performance improves, our proprietary TIGERS Workforce Behavior Profile, Micro-Training technology and group facilitation methods result in your high performance team outcomes and change management success. We also license and certify elite internal and external consultants and project managers to use our resources for similar outcomes. Schedule a consultation to learn more.