Posted on October 17, 2014

Performance and potential are two very different things, and to grow an organization successfully, leaders must be able to correctly distinguish high performers and high-potential employees, and manage them accordingly.

Obviously, you need high performers, those associates who are great at what they do and bring value every day to their position. Being great at one role, however, does not necessarily mean an employee will make a terrific manager or supervisor down the road.

Meanwhile, high-potential employees might be working in positions in which only some degree of their talent is being used. To build a thriving workplace, you must identify those “HiPos” and develop a challenging, fulfilling path that keeps them engaged and maximizes their abilities.

Step 1: Identify

High-potential employees are almost never low performers but, at this stage in their careers, they might not yet be the highest performers, either. That can make them difficult to spot. To make sure they don’t get lost in the crowd, the HR team and executive leadership should formally write out the attributes and abilities most valued in the organization. After all, how can you find something if you don’t know what you’re looking for?

Once you’ve named these big-picture characteristics, managers will have a better framework within which to evaluate their employees. Instead of just looking at the easy-to-find, right-this-minute results, they’ll be able to think longer term and look for signs that an employee has leadership potential or the ability to make other strategic contributions.

Step 2: Assess

Employees, of course, are individuals—no two are exactly alike! But all will fall into one of these four quadrants:

* High performance, high potential
* High performance, low potential
* Low performance, high potential
* Low performance, low potential

You organization should assess where each employee fits and create development plans accordingly. Each category requires a tailored strategy for performance improvement and talent management.

Step 3: Develop

If only all employees were high performers with high potential, right? But in the real world, managers must have an approach to every kind of employee, with the goal of moving them to higher performance if not also higher potential. Here’s one plan to try:

* High performance, high potential: Consider promotion and provide greater independence.
* High performance, low potential: Offer constant encouragement, challenging assignments and soft-skill development.
* Low performance, high potential: Pair with a high-performing mentor, move to a new role that aligns better with the employee’s skills, provide training and offer greater responsibility.
* Low performance, low potential: Institute a performance-improvement plan or, if necessary, terminate.

Creating mentor relationships can benefit both parties. Often, high performers can have “loner” mentalities; they want to be left alone to get things done. Partnering them with high potentials brings the high performers back into the fold and can give them a stake in something bigger than their own work. The mentee, naturally, gains the benefit of the mentor’s skills and experience.

High potentials also can thrive by being challenged with new and larger responsibilities or cross-training opportunities. If they succeed, it might signal that it’s time for them to be moved into a different role full time.

Bolstering your talent pipeline can have a huge effect on your organization’s long-term future. For more such insights, download our free whitepaper, The HR Pro’s Guide: 5 Ways to Make an Impact at Work.

Source: The New Talent Times