HR HiPOs: Identifying HiPOs, How to Find and Hire Them and Add Value


HiPOs, or high potential employees, increase the valuation of any business. These talented staff might have strong leadership traits and need little to no training. Here’s how to identify, hire and train them to increase the ROI for your business:

Identifying HiPOs in the Workplace

Great companies identify something larger than transactions to provide purpose and meaning. Harvard Business ReviewOpens a new window

Employers rely on their staff to meet business objectives and customer demands. If you work in HR or you own a business and you’re looking to hire great talent, you may or may not know about HiPOs. HiPO stands for a high potential employee and these represent the cornerstone of any organization. This is not to be confused with staff that might be just high performers. HiPOs have the drive for future leadership in the business or firm and it shows in their character as they handle larger responsibilities.

Bringing in New Talent

One of the first goals in a business is to determine the amount of talent that is needed and then decide which positions can be filled by employees where anyone can do the job and those that are the talent the organization wants to invest in long-term, i.e., the HiPOs.

According to IED and Stanford Business School’s,Opens a new window Six Key Elements of Successful Succession Planning, important factors in hiring talent an organization finds can fill senior management roles include:

  • Strategic Planning: Determine the roles that need to be filled
  • Talent Assessment: Gauge current talent and then determine who to hire
  • Recruiting: Develop a pipeline for available jobs in the company
  • Performance Assessment: Show staff they are valued and expose them to career advancement opportunities
  • Development: Utilize training, learning sessions, and workshops
  • Engagement and Retention: Show the scope of assignments, areas of development, and reward completed work

Why HiPOs Matter

CEB research showsOpens a new window that HiPOs can produce about 90% more work and will give about 20 percent more effort than non-HiPO staff. HiPOs may be the future leaders of the business as they grow and are groomed into corporate management roles, and they may also serve another purpose.

In their position in the workforce, HiPOs:

  • Require minimal supervision and work quickly and efficiently
  • Are exceptionally fast learners and take on complex roles
  • Can be easily cross-trained and are very reliable
  • Are able to complete any task and take on new functions
  • Work well under pressure and rally teams well
  • Display aspirations to rise to leadership positions
  • Demonstrate commitment to the roles even when challenged

As a high potential employee, they are loyal to their business, show the drive and tenacity to help the business grow, and add value.

Hiring HiPOs: What to Look for

HiPO’s can be hard to spot. About 50% of human resource staff haveOpens a new window expressed concern regarding HiPO programs as they might not be sure if they are hiring the right people at times. So how do you know which candidates are HiPOs?

Some businesses differentiate potential from performance when gauging who might be a possible HiPO with their hiring practices and incorporate a 9-box talent matrixOpens a new window which is a performance potential graph. HiPOs will score higher for competencies and goals. Office managers can even develop questions to ask interview candidates based on:

  • Leadership abilities and behavior qualities
  • Past performance and initiative for advancement
  • Overall competency and confidence when challenged

Managers may specifically look at ability, future aspirations, and commitment to the firm or business. It’s the firm’s role to hire and develop (groom) employees based on the organization’s culture, their leadership demands and overall growth strategies and expectations for their staff.

To know if you have a potential HiPO candidate, ask yourself, “Would I trust this employee with the firm?” HiPOs are pivotal to your growth and strategic partnerships can help mold them into future leaders with your business based on the foundation that is established early on.

Training HiPOs

A way to help gauge your HiPO talent before you start training them is to benchmark them based on how they compare with competitors – externally. By making external best-in-class comparisons, this can help to determine the level of talent you have to track talent trends and update training to facilitate HiPOs.

The next step is the training process. When HiPO candidates have been identified, to help them as they grow into critical positions, managers may use:

  • training resources and seminars
  • employee surveys
  • career advancement opportunities

While some businesses rely on coaching, offsite training, classrooms and workshops, an alternative approach to training HiPOs is on the job through experience. When a HiPO is faced with real-world situations and not isolated simulations, it can help improve their overall job performance. Research has shown that 70 percent of what we learnOpens a new window comes from our overall experiences.

When putting HiPOs in highly visible roles where they will be tested as they face important challenges, they can learn to gauge their experience and training to find solutions that will lead to success for not only themselves but the firm that is investing in these talented minds.

By establishing a strong foundation with your HiPO employees early-on and offering fulfilling and yet challenging roles, the firm or business can get a better return on their investment based on the valuation of the HiPOs over time through the training they are provided as they build value for the firm or business.