How to Transform High Potential Talent Into an All-Star Team

How to Transform High Potential Talent Into an All-Star Team

For businessmen, it has become a sort of tradition to select candidates with extensive experience because it would save them effort, money, and time in training the employee to do the job. This should not be the norm — at least, not if you want your business to succeed.

While it may be tempting choose this easier route, it will be more rewarding to invest in high potential talent (also called “HiPo”) in building your all-star team.

To achieve this, it is important that you learn more about the difference between people with high potential from those with longer experience, what you should do to spot and bring such talents onboard, and how you can transform them into a team that will drive your company’s success.

High Potential vs. Experienced Talent

Typical hiring processes involve checking out the applicant’s educational background, skills, and work history. But what if the applicant has the right skills for the job and the education to support it, but has only worked on one or two jobs since he graduated from college? Does that mean he isn’t the right fit?

Well, not necessarily. In fact, he might even be a better fit for the position. You just have to know him better first by digging deeper into his motivation, intent, and ambition to determine if he can go the extra mile.

Startups often see experienced talent as the obvious choice since people who already know what to do can function as they should without needing close supervision. While that may be true up to a certain point, it won’t necessarily be the best choice for startups. It all boils down to one term: growth.

Between experienced and high potential talent, there is more potential for growth in people who have just started working but are highly motivated to grow with the company. Since these firms are just starting out, high potential talents who are willing to learn and establish themselves in the industry are the better option. After all, you can’t train a person to have high potential — it should already be innate in him.

How to Look for High Potential Talent

Looking for high potential employees doesn’t need to be difficult. In fact, it can be achieved just by adjusting some parts of the traditional hiring process. Below are some of the things you can tweak when screening for high potential employees:

  • Look for numbers, not verbs

Rather than listening to verbs during the interviews, you should look for numbers. That is, the quantitative results of how they were able to improve things for the previous employer or organization they worked with in the past.

  • Adjectives and adverbs can indicate motivation and passion

When interviewing applicants, you must always listen for descriptive words used when they explain their experiences both inside and outside the workforce. This is because these words serve as great indicators of how deep their passion for their craft is and how motivated they are to excel in the industry.

  • Ask the right questions

You must never forget to ask questions related to four key topics, namely: company, strategy, industry, and personal experience.

Company-related queries can help you see if the person has a mindset that fits your firm’s goals (and whether he researched about your business) while strategic questions focus on his immediate plans that will reflect his ambition, motivation, and goals. Meanwhile, industry-related queries can help determine the depth of his understanding and interest in the field he is starting out in.

Finally, you should also ask about personal experience in line with the work he did in the past. This will let you know how the candidate can act on real-world scenarios and measure his potential.

7 Steps for Turning High Potential Employees into an All-Star Team

After hiring high potential employees, it is time for you to turn them into an all-star team. Below are seven steps you can follow to make this happen:

Step #1: Create a Strategic Plan

Strategic planning can help you pave ways for high potential employees to reach their full potential within the company. This means you should be aware of possible job openings within the company and plan for them ahead of time. Some scenarios that you can apply this to include (but are not limited to) a C-level executive expressing his interest to open his own firm or a high-level employee nearing his retirement age.

You also need to make sure that you revisit these plans regularly to ensure that you are ready to fill in the posts with the right employee when the need arises. Doing this also gives you the opportunity to prepare the high potential employees you will choose for what is to come (e.g., provide training, coaching, and exposure to the job) to ensure that they perform their best in the position.

Step #2: Identify the Right Candidate/s

Once you’ve determined the posts that need to be filled, you must now determine which employees deserve to be developed.

Based on research conducted by Harvard and MIT experts, many companies already have some people in mind when it comes to identifying their high potential employees. However, it is better to see their work up close to determine which ones are especially suited for a specific role.

Step #3: Know Their Potentials Through Assessment

Aside from observation, an assessment of their weaknesses and strengths is necessary to determine the right high potential talent for the job. It will also help you outline the training and other opportunities you need to open for the high potential employees to reach their full potential.

Doing this ensures that the person you choose will not only do great at a specific job, but also have the potential to grow further and help bring the company to new heights.

Step #4: Recognize Employees Before It’s Too Late

Recognition is an important step in keeping that high potential employee onboard— a fact that has been confirmed by 77 percent of respondents in a study conducted in 2014. To top that off, the same study shows that those who have been recognized informally are more likely to look for another job than those who had a more formal type of acknowledgment.

When recognition comes too late, an employee tends to think that he is better off with another company since he is unappreciated and undervalued. Because of this, it is important that you let that high potential employee know about your plans for him in a formal manner.

However, you should never forget to do this in a way that won’t spark envy and destructive competition among your employees. Make sure to let the others know that you value their work, too.

Step #5: Open Opportunities

Providing training and opening more opportunities can help you achieve two goals: provide formal recognition for your high potential employees, and prepare them for a higher position that will open up in the future.

To accomplish this step, you must consider providing them with:


  • Enrichment courses for their strengths to help high potential employees become the best they can be;
  • Training for their weaknesses to improve their efficiency and overall performance;
  • Mentoring to initiate close encounters with their future responsibilities while gaining access to expert advice, and
  • More responsibilities to help retain and reinforce the things they learned from the enrichment courses, training, and mentoring.


Step #6: Establish a Personalized Track for Them to Follow

While it may be easier to copy a training track that helped one employee succeed, it may not be the best thing to do if your goal is to push high potential employees to their full potential. After all, every person has different strengths and weaknesses.

Because of this, you should establish a personalized track for each of your high potential employees to ensure that they get the most out of the training. This means you have to adjust the pace and encourage each of them to work independently. It would also be wise to have them track their own progress to make sure that they remain motivated throughout the course.

Step #7: Never Forget to Reward Their Hard Work

Motivating a high potential employee is very much like parenting — you must provide them with incentives to do the work and reward a job well done. You should make sure that your employees are satisfied with how they are compensated to keep them onboard. This way, you can ensure that you get the most out of the time, money, and effort you invested in training and coaching them.

A Promising Future

High potential talent may be your best bet at bringing your business to new heights. To achieve this, it is important that you know how to turn them into an all-star team by understanding their importance and learning how to develop them to reach their full potential.


Salma El-Shurafa is an experienced Executive Coach and founder of The Pathway Project. She is a Professional Certified Coach by the International Coaching Federation (ICF), a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach from The Coaches Training Institute (CTI) and a graduate of CTI’s Co-Active Leadership program.

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