5 Reasons to Rethink High Potential Programs

We all talk about high potentials being the next best thing since sliced bread.   They are the employees in our midst that seemingly can do it all and we recognize them for their efforts.   We come to rely on them whenever there is something we need to get done and done well.  They are thought of first for projects and are primed for promotions.  Where does that leave everyone else, though?  High potentials are a small number from a much larger pool of employees.  If you don't engage this larger group, how will you know what their potential even is?

Let's face it.  You would be hard pressed to find many people that  wake up in the morning and say to themselves, "I want to be a mediocre employee today".   We all understand that people want to work in a job where they feel valued and understand how their contributions tie to the organization's goals and objectives.  They want meaning in what it is they do. There are many professionals speaking about employee engagement and how detrimental a disengaged workforce is to your business.   What role does the focus on high potentials have toward driving some of the low engagement?   Many times, we hear that disengagement is the employee's fault, so we don't bother scratching below the surface to identify where we are contributing to the problem.

When you keep going back to the well for the same people, your high potentials, aren't you risking the very real possibility of failing to tap into more high potentials in your midst?   I realize not everyone is going to be a superstar, but I can assure you talented people that don't feel valued, aren't given opportunity to prove themselves and be recognized end up in your "disengaged" group.  They will also be looking for a new job. Why stick around?   If the opportunity with your company isn't one that is meaningful to them, they will get it elsewhere.

It is our job as leaders to tap into all of the talent within our ranks and not just focus on a select few for all of the brain power.   Essentially, you need to build your bench strength.   With only a handful of high potentials and a group of employees behind them who are being left out of meaningful opportunities you have to challenge them, you're doing everyone a disservice.   Your high potentials are on the radar of other organizations as passive candidates. so they may not always be there for you.  This is especially true if they are hungry to move up in an organization and you are unable to offer them rapid movement.   High potentials tend to burn out due to the additional burden placed upon them.  With a deep bench, that individual will impose less of a negative impact should they leave.

To summarize, here are 5 reasons you should put others in the game:

  1. High potential programs breed dissension among those that are not in the elite group
  2. High potential employees tend to burn out and/or get plucked by other organizations
  3. You need to have as many people that you can rely upon as possible - develop bench strength
  4. You need stronger team cohesion
  5. You need to decrease the number of disengaged employees


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