Tips for developing high-potential employees
As a manager, you’re responsible for your team’s collective accomplishments — but you’re also responsible for the individual team members’ development. And it’s not uncommon to recognize that some employees demonstrate significantly more potential than others. So how can you help them develop their skills to their advantage — as well as to that of your company?
Define “high potential” to identify candidates.
In general, “high potential” indicates the capacity to grow and advance to a position of more responsibility. However, this is a broad interpretation that refers to the individual’s potential to grow in any organization. If you’re going to be investing time and resources in an employee, you want to ensure that his or her growth will have a positive impact on the advancement of your organization. In other words, the skills and qualities the employee can develop must benefit the business. In addition, the employee must be aligned with the organization’s mission and objectives — otherwise he or she can easily take all the acquired skills and knowledge elsewhere. For this reason, it’s advisable to only invest in employees who meet these criteria.
Create a learning program that aligns with your organization’s strategy.
There are various ways your high-potential employees can acquire the skills and knowledge they need to help your organization advance. You can offer them the opportunity to complete formal training via online courses or seminars. You can also offer on the job training through stretch assignments that challenge their skills, as well as job rotations or cross-functional assignments that allow them to use their abilities in different environments. And as Kate Ashford advises in her Monster article titled “Develop Talented Employees,” you can place them in outward facing roles where they have to apply their communication skills and problem solving abilities to interact directly with clients or customers.
Involve business leaders.
In their Harvard Business Review article “How to Hang on to Your High Potentials,” Fernández-Aráoz, Groysberg, and Nohria advise involving your company’s executives as mentors, teachers, and networking resources. This invites discussions about the learning program and gives the employees visibility with your organization’s leadership team.
Regularly review progress.
Take some time every month to meet with your high-potential employees and review their progress. This gives you the opportunity to determine where they stand — and if necessary, make adjustments — while offering them the chance to address any concerns they may have.
Keep in mind that your organization’s talent is its most important asset. So by helping your most promising employees develop their skills, you’re simultaneously helping build the talent your organization needs to remain competitive — now and in the future.
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