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Tip of the Week: Implementing a High Potential Program–Things to Consider

Tip of the Week: Implementing a High Potential Program--Things to Consider


Tip of the Week: Implementing a High Potential Program–Things to Consider

When planning and implementing an integrated program for early-stage high-potential development, there are many things to consider.
The most critical part is that the organization agree upon and support the goals of the proposed development program.

Specifically, the organization must justify the program by answering the following questions:

·         Why do we need a high-potential program?
·         How will it support our business strategy and improve our competitive advantage?
·         How will it benefit the organization, the high-potentials and the rest of our employees?
·         How will we measure the success of the program, and what dollar value will we place on high-potentials at different stages of     development?

Once the organization’s goals for the program are clear, the next challenge is how to develop a relatively larger group of early-stage high-potentials at a fraction of the budget of late-stage candidates for senior management.

Here are some cost- and resource-efficient best practices that top-performing organizations use when implementing a successful early-stage high-potential program:

·         Specialized leadership development tracks: In a recent research study on Fortune 500 organizations, most companies reported having a well-defined leadership curriculum in place. Yet a majority of respondents indicated that the curriculum was more voluntary than mandatory in character. Only a few organizations referenced having specialized, highly customized, mandatory leadership development tracks for their high-potential employees. For those that did, there was a tendency to identify the program as being distinctive and highly effective in elevating the leader potential of their organizations.

·         Multi-disciplinary rotation program: Another experience-based leadership development tool is the rotation of managers across disciplines, divisions and geographies. The fixed-choice component of the same study found less than half (45 percent) of organizations use rotational or developmental assignments as a regular component of their leadership development package. In contrast, significantly more top-performing development practitioners utilize this technique to provide a more diverse base of experience and perspectives for their future leaders.

·         Unlimited learning opportunities: Most organizations restrict the number of courses available to all employees. This helps both to control costs and to reserve coveted development opportunities for peak performers later in their careers. While it’s important to focus high-potential employees’ attention on priority topics and not waste time on the mastery of less relevant knowledge, they tend to seek and absorb behavioral skill building at a much greater pace, and top-performing organizations provide them unlimited access to self-paced learning programs that accelerate their growth.

·         Leverage technology: Recent studies indicate that technology-enhanced learning is now independently sufficient to improve leadership behavior on the job. The combination of synchronous and asynchronous tools and content, especially when paired with reinforced group application, can not only improve the high-potential employee’s performance, but can do so at a fraction of the time and cost of classroom training. (Up to 90 percent reductions were reported CNA in 2005).

·         Action learning: By taking development initiatives outside of the classroom and putting employees to work solving real-world business issues, action learning is taking over as the classroom trainer’s interactive simulation. Groups of high-potentials and mentors are put into a situation and must solve the challenge. Many organizations are migrating to this approach as a way to expand high-potentials’ perspectives on how the business operates.

·         Mentoring: According to a recent study by the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD), approximately 71 percent of the Fortune 500 use internal mentoring programs to develop high-potential employees. Through pairing with internal senior mentors, high-potentials are introduced to years of knowledge and experience.

Cost-efficient techniques make it possible to effectively develop large numbers of early-stage high-potentials with limited internal budgets and resources.  If we want to maintain our growth rate and unique competitive advantage, it will be helpful for us to consider the above suggestions for implementing a high potential program within our organizations.

The above tip is an excerpt from an article ‘Best Practices in Developing High Potentials’written by:

Nancy Zentis, Ph.D  -CEO, Institute of Organization Development offering online OD Certification Programs.  Dr. Zentis has over 30 years experience in  Organization Development Consultant, Human Resource Development, Talent Management and Organization Development Using an Action Research Approach she helps clients to develop and implement strategies for Succession Planning, Talent Management, and Leadership Development Programs &

Mike Schick, Organization Development Consultant with over 25 years in the field of Talent Management and Training.  He has a track record in helping clients implement Succession Planning and Preparing High Potentials for future critical positions. 


 J Snipes, Chief Learning Officer, ninthhouse.com, November, 2005 
David B. Peterson, HR Magazine, March, 2008 

Additional Information

Creating a Talent Pipeline is a topic and session in the Talent Management Certification Program (TMCP). To learn more or to register for this Certification Program, please click on the relevant links below:


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