The secret to engaging HiPos


Engage Your HiPos!

Engagement is the alchemy that retains HiPos when competitors and head hunters target your talent.  Engagement can be defined as a “state of substantial emotional and cognitive investment” (Kahn, 1990).  Engagement is not just an isolated activity, engagement is “driven visibly and charismatically by committed leadership” (PWC 2010).  Engaged HiPos advocate for their organization, want to stay, and invest discretionary efforts to meet organizational goals.

3 Engagement Program Elements – Overview

HiPo engagement should not be considered an isolated activity.  HiPo engagement results from a confluence of thought-out talent management strategies, solid line management, and great communication.

– HiPo engagement delivers bottom-line shareholder value.

– HiPo engagement improves the sustainability and retention of high-value human capital assets your organization invested in.

1. Accelerated Development Track Selection
Loyalty is fostered from a relationship that is linked to trust and a perception of an ethical employer.  Engagement is enhanced when organizational values, like corporate social responsibility, align to individual values.  Engagement rises when there is selection transparency into the HiPo program with simple, dynamic communication about how selection happens, availability to all versus just a division or territory, and aligned with values and policies. Tracking participants then becomes about increasing challenge levels associated with the readiness of each stream of HiPos.

2. Senior Executive and Board Networking Opportunities
Hewitt’s survey on Performance Management and Career Development, found 89% rated career opportunities as one of the most important drivers for engagement and retention.  This makes sense as strong leaders fail to remain challenged in maintenance positions. The action leading elements of your HiPo programs identify individuals who deserve to be recognized for their results.

3. Senior Executive/Board Presentations and Results Reporting
The Conference Board finds management effectiveness a top 3 driver for improving engagement.
  Including the HiPo’s direct reporting manager transforms them from a potential roadblock who wants to horde the talent into a vital enabler in the engagement system.  Immediate managers impact engagement by releasing HiPos to career opportunities, recognizing great work and holding HiPos accountable for individual and collective results.  “One of the most important factors determining a rising star’s engagement is the sense that he or she is being recognized – primarily through pay.”

H036 refers to the learning curve required in tough new assignment,

”I like the willingness of the organization to let me stretch and take a risk and I’d like them to not look for stellar results in the first six months.  I like meaty assignments to gain experience on something I don’t know.”

HiPos crave challenge and demonstrated this in the quantitative data by rating the top four development elements relating to on-the-job assignment challenges.  17 of 45 HiPos mentioned assignment challenges as their biggest motivator.  H01’s comments were illustrative of many,

“I like enough rope and let me run with it, a chance to drive change through stretch assignments.  Trust me enough to give me the opportunities to develop, make mistakes and learn how to influence without authority.” 

High-potentials are moved out of his/her comfort zone to be seasoned with global roles.  By trusting them with practical stretch assignments, executive experience and acumen is fostered. 

“The very best programs place emerging leaders in “live fire” roles where new capabilities can – or, more accurately, must be developed.”   C08 described these roles as, “[w]e have ‘career changer’ roles that we consider as crucible roles i.e. country leads or in divisions where the leader has P&L to run the business end-to-end.  We can get scale and complexity in some organizational roles i.e. service but may be missing functions that are end-to-end for P&L.  We then integrate some roles together to build the role profile to enable the HIPO to have development in a career changer opportunity.  We also find that product management and some key sales roles are more easily moved cross geographically and can bring perspective that an emerging market may not yet have seen.  It’s good for the organization, good for the business market and great for the leader’s development – a true win/win approach to the business.“

Management effectiveness is one of the top three drivers for improving engagement.  Including the direct reporting manager in the program ensures he/she is part of the engagement system versus a potential roadblock or detractor.  Immediate managers have strong impact on engagement by accelerating career opportunities, providing recognition for good work and holding high-potential leaders accountable for individual and collective results.  The CTO’s mentioned that the communication programs were not effective when the manager was responsible to relay messages and C03 expressed a concern about management level blockers to HIPO identification.  HiPos emphasized the importance of their manager, for example H08 “I have a great manager who helps me shine.”  H12 said “f you have a good coaching boss, they will identify what you need and source courses for your development.”  H24 summed up the general sentiment with, “Great Boss is #1 and can be a sponsor.  I can put up with an average boss if I have a great sponsor but only for 18 months or so.”



Each person has a natural communication style.
Understanding yours can and will impact how effective you are when dealing with friends, co-workers and clients.