In the war for talent, high potential employees are one of any organisation's most valuable resources. They have what it takes to succeed, tackle difficult projects, and eventually function as a leader within your organisation. However, if they are not engaged or properly motivated, they will oftentimes leave in search of more challenging or fulfilling opportunities. Needless to say, the loss of a high potential employee can be devastating and their replacement costly.
In Japan, the population of 14-24 year olds has halved in the last 10 years. So, we have to recognize we are going to have to do a lot better at retaining people. What we don’t want to see are our highly trained people going across to our competitors. The dainishinsotsu phenomenon, where new employees out of university are departing 3-4 years into the job, will potentially grow to epidemic proportions, as a bidding war erupts to secure a diminishing supply of young workers.
Let’s explore five ways to keep your high potentials engaged and productive.
1. Throw down a challenge. Sounds a bit trite, but think beyond the sound-bite. High potential employees are personally motivated to be better and they need to be continuously challenged. More importantly, they want to be actively involved in decisions that impact the success of the organisation. We all own the world we help to create, so let them be part of that construction team. High potentials embrace challenges and are ready to take them on in order to make a positive difference. Channel their natural abilities and deputise them to take the lead on difficult projects.
Don’t forget to give them praise and recognition. Often, they are highly independent and self-motivated and we think "Oh, they don’t need praise". They don’t need it, but they want to hear it. They want to know they are being recognised for their contribution, that they are valued by the organisation and that they are special.
2. Put learning to immediate use. Develop a system where your high potential employees learn new skills in small chunks and then immediately apply them in real world situations. High potentials learn most effectively by doing, and this will ensure they retain the information and skills they learned. Knowledge unapplied is a waste. We all watch the TED videos, read the magazine articles, buy the business books, attend the seminars etc. The key though is how much of that new information and knowledge gets translated into outcomes and output. We need to transfer knowledge and insight into results. So, linking the learning process with the production process is a win-win for everyone. The team feel they are making progress, as they see the fruit of their input implemented, as they learn new skills and the organisation benefits because we are growing the team’s full power.
3. Promote collaboration. Create a series of "innovation team projects" comprised entirely of high potentials and assign members to have the opportunity to lead one of the teams. Set the expectation that each high potential innovation team leader will facilitate the discussions and that their teams will offer at least one new idea, process improvement, or recommendation. This engages high potentials in the coaching and development of all employees. This also creates a sense of competition, which will motivate others with as yet untapped potential to work harder, to be included in this elite group.
4. Offer rotational assignments. Enable your high potentials to gain functional experience across a wide range of areas within your organisation. Allow them to learn a variety of different skills and see how each contributes to the success of the organisation. High potentials can bring a fresh set of eyes to each new challenge and can oftentimes provide a new perspective to a challenging situation. Challenge them to report at the end of their rotation, what they will do differently now, as a result of that learning experience.
5. Provide virtual learning options. By bringing a dispersed group of high potentials together through technology, they are able to collaborate to work on critical projects. Create opportunities for them to work with each other and get face time with executives to maximize productivity and engagement. Create connections between leaders within your organization, regardless of distance, and track their progress on challenging projects or problems.