Saturday, May 14, 2011

High Potentials vs. High Performers

Recently, I went to the Performance Conference in Chicago, where I had many interesting discussions regarding HIPO's. In HR slang HIPO's are defined as an organization's high performers. But as I delivered a presentation with my colleague Sue Bond from Halogen Software, it became crystal clear that high performers and high potentials are two very different types of employees. I am a fan of segmenting employee populations just like we do consumers as I think you can really gain insights on employee behavior and employee needs by analyzing segments versus all employees.

So what about high performers and high potentials?

According to me, (for what it's worth) a high performer has a track record of delivering results to the organization.

A high potential has the ABILITY to deliver results (at a future date) to the organization minus the track record. The high potential just needs to gain more experience and possibly skills to become a high performer.

So, how do we move a high potential to a high performer? Good question. I think this is both an art and a science as the tipping point, is motivation. Motivation is a tricky thing as it has many drivers. In my experience you can move a potential to a performer in the following ways:

1) Make sure the potential employee has a clear set of expectations for his current role.
2) Make sure rewards and recognition are given in a timely fashion.
3) Make sure the manager understands this person has potential. The manager is the key in this transition from potential performer to high performer. The manager is the coach in this relationship.
4) Sometimes the high potential employee doesn't recognize his own potential. See #3 above. Manager needs to communicate the traits that he sees that will make the employee a high performer.
5) Make sure the high potential employee knows what you are planning for him. If he is on a succession plan, make that explicit to the employee.

Can you have a high potential that is not performing? YES, I see that combination all of the time.
What can you do about that high potential that is not performing? To me, this is the trickiest scenario and a common one at that. Remember you need motivation for a person to perform. And sometimes, no matter what we do as managers we can't drive the employee to perform. It could be a matter of personal issues or just a bad job fit. This situation is also one of the most frustrating as managers often feel responsible for the non-performance.

So, let me hear from you, what have you done in a similar situation? Please comment below and give me your scenario and advice!

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