Should We Tell Employees They Are High Potential?

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Does your company have a policy for identifying, informing and developing your high potential employees? Sometimes it can be as simple as a boss/manager informally mentoring one of their team members. In other situations, there can be a formal high potential leadership program the company uses to identify high potential employees and selecting them for leadership training. Either way, I think it’s more important to ask:  Is it beneficial for employees to know they have been labeled by the company as someone who has “high potential” for development and advancement?

Recently I posted this question on several Executive and HR groups on LinkedIn. The responses were varied and informative but most respondents agreed that announcing someone as high potential in a public setting was like the “kiss of death”. Nobody likes to be labeled, especially in front of other people, since it usually creates stress and difficult working relationships with those not chosen. Jealously, resentfulness and other negative behaviors can enter the picture when it’s obvious certain people were selected as high potentials while others were not.

A better way to handle high potential employees is through “intentional time”. This means a boss/manager should spend time with the high potential employee to help them further their growth and development. If the company does offer a leadership training program, be sure to include high potentials, as well as other employees who request leadership opportunities.

One consideration to keep in mind with high potentials is the importance of recognition. Regardless of whether an employee knows they are a high potential, anyone working to get promoted will want to be recognized for their efforts and hard work. If one of your high potential employees feels they aren’t receiving the proper recognition, then they will be tempted to look for a job elsewhere.

The important factor to remember is to find the balance of identifying and recognizing the efforts of those employees you want to develop into future leaders in a way that doesn’t ostracize them from the rest of the team. Most of the nurturing of high potentials can occur one-on-one and the intentional time a leader takes to grow the high potential.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Were you told you were a high potential employee? Did it change how you worked? Share your personal experience and opinion on high potentials. I look forward to hearing from you.

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