8 Keys for a world-class HiPo program


Dr Gail details the vital pieces to developing a robust and successful HiPo program with your organization.

Be sure to check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

1. With the CEO as champion, the program gets linked directly to business strategy, and becomes a priority for the Board of Directors.  When you start with this approach, your HiPo program has the best chance of succeeding in the long term.  Linking your human capital strategies to the business strategy means you sit at the table when discussions impact succession, leader requirements, and development.  Having your CEO lead the charge signals to your HiPos – the program matters, has profile and teeth.  Putting your CEO and senior executives front and center assures your program remains relevant after the initial launch halo dims.

2. Aligned to mission, values, vision, policies, and integral to all four major talent management activities – Recruitment, Selection, Development/Performance Management and Succession Planning, with disciplined process management.  When you thoughtfully plan and build in stickiness through opportunities to lead, you create leadership bench strength.

3. Plan to mix talent globally, be inclusive and sensitive to generational differences in values, benefits and requirements.  HiPos are your global leaders. Remember companies don’t go global – people do. HiPos often come with multiple languages and interest in global assignment development and opportunities for polish.  Avoid starting and remaining a localized pilot. Keep the long-view to roll out across your entire organization.  When you execute the long-term plan, draw/develop/transfer HiPos enterprise wide. HiPos shared that they prefer more immediate rewards like challenging assignments and opportunities to prove themselves over stock options and retirement benefits.  May HiPos juggle younger families, mortgages, and even education debt.  Arrange for benefits programs with flexible options selected by the employees to become a destination employer for HiPos. Imagine the power of achieving a strategic business outcome and having your MBA debt wiped away.

4. Build leadership capacity to anticipate current and future business needs by engaging HiPos in business strategy and operationalizing plans. Develop talent for the timeframe anticipated in the strategic plan.  Build mission critical skills in HiPos to eliminate the high cost of recruiting and parachuting in experienced leaders with these mission critical skill sets. Get Talent Development to set hard targets for internal recruitment into strategically visible roles. Show every HiPo that their investment will pay off with high profile future roles.  Consider your internal pool first, as it reinforces you becoming the HIPo magnet and underscores on-going commitment to their development.  A big Win/Win!

5. HiPos are organizational assets rather than owned by one business unit so the interests of the organization trump individual divisions. Otherwise career progression gets blocked by the selfish needs by line leaders and the organization fails to benefit from the development. Your HiPos leave to advance. Note that Learn2 has a unique War for Talent Game that allows leaders to transform this dysfunctional behaviour.

Your executive leaders may prefer to keep all HiPos reporting into a division lead.  If you run into this, have HiPos also dotted-line report into Talent Development for development and monitoring engagement. HiPos remaini personally responsible for high-performance and seeking/accepting development opportunities.  HiPos who fail to continue high-performance and appear to become entitled should experience performance management.  HiPos describe the folly of being un willing to take the tough decision and remove HiPos from your program when they under perform or become a liability due to disruptive, entitled behaviors.

1. Leadership integrity and values are demonstrated in any communications and all talent management processes.  HiPos notice incongruent signals.  If your values say one thing and different behavior gets rewarded, then your HiPos note the inconsistency and begin to question organizational statements. 

2. Communication remains consistent, simple, dynamic and reflects engagement from committed senior leadership. Behavior speaks more loudly than words. Avoid executives with poor leadership hygiene as they create massive disconnects. Focus on the executives who get the value of having a strong bench.

3. Good line management is table stakes for HiPos.  Otherwise they look externally for opportunities. Learn2 discovered that pairing Business Leader Programs for HiPo Managers can transform retention and engagement. Include the HiPo in the direct reporting manager of HIPO is integral to program success and his/her bonus goals include developing leader capacity.  Support is provided for HiPos taking on risk and challenge assignments.

You Want Your HiPo Programs to Build Organizational & Individual Capacity

You know different levels of leadership come with different levels of complexity, challenge, and ambiguity.  High-potential leaders rushed up the promotion ladder may be derailed as senior leaders if they miss out on a seminal developmental experience.  Critical experience, domain knowledge and leader capabilities are ideally created in a lattice approach. A lattice approach creates a well-rounded business executive with the context and understanding to really lead into the future. At the very least, leaders want to experience trust, respect, and honesty and have them combine to “create the conditions for exceptional performance” (The Work Foundation, 2010).  High-potential leaders expect good management and great leadership role models.  Your executive team may require support in sponsoring HiPos. Its become so important, that Learn2 created the Executive Sponsorship System to help clients avoid the risks of executives failing to develop or engage hi-po leaders. 

Stream Your HiPo Programs

Consider streaming your HiPo programs into a) early-career HiPos, b) mid-career HiPos, and c) senior leadership HiPos. 

Get clear on the experience and investment required. Avoid the temptation to make your HiPo program about learning and development rather than leading and achieving business results. Select assignments that develop skills and traits while expanding capacity by solving complexity, challenge and ambiguity.  The CTOs warned that HiPos who are fast-tracked, rushed or transitioned-poorly into overly-challenging opportunities may derail.



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