By Roy Saunderson
It’s hard enough to keep and retain high-potential employees, but it can be even more challenging to give them the right recognition that is meaningful and effective.
Exiting Baby Boomers, reduced demographics, and a war for talent has made succession planning challenging at the best of times. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there was a 15 percent drop in the number of 35- to 44-year-olds in 2010 available in the workplace. More people are exiting the workforce than entering it. This creates a shrinking pool of potential leadership candidates to fill the vacating corporate leadership positions.
Most succession planning strategies focus on identifying leadership requirements, identifying a pool of high-potential candidates, assessing and then developing leadership competencies, and eventually selecting and developing leaders from the pool. However, few companies draw upon the power of recognition as an added uplift to everything they are doing.
Some of the more typical recognition programs and incentives used for the majority of employees will not cut it with these high-performing high-potential employees. Two principles to draw upon for recognizing high potentials is the use of the prestige factor and integrating recognition into everything done to develop them.
Honoring Organizational “Leaders”
Following a rigorous assessment of leadership skills and required competencies, 360-degree feedback from manager and peers, corporate preferred profiling, and endorsement from senior leaders, high-potential candidates usually are selected to become part of a potential leadership pool and placed in an accelerated program of leadership development.
Being in this elite group is an opportunity for leaders to give immediate recognition by communicating internally through all the accepted communication channels about their selection and what they will be doing over the next defined number of months. This elevates them in the eyes of their peers and acknowledges the high-potential individual for qualifying for this experience.
Senior leaders can enhance this honor further by sending a personally tailored letter to the high potential stating why the leader recommended him or her for evaluation. Leaders also should consider sending a congratulatory letter to the candidate’s significant other(s), depending on their living situation, perhaps accompanied by a small token of appreciation for their ongoing support of the employee.
Proving Through Stretch Opportunities
Another way to recognize these top performers is by stretching them through challenging work assignments. This action acknowledges their innate skills and abilities and gives them a chance to shine through the assigned task.
When looking at high-potential candidates, it is important to tease out the differences between good performance and solid potential. An individual may have expertise and skills to produce excellent operational results and achieve objectives assigned to them. But how are their leadership skills? You need to see them in action to learn if they can convey the vision of a new business initiative to a team; achieve production timelines with staff under stress and with limited resources; or even develop innovative practices and solutions for dealing with recently announced creative services from the competition.
Provide Positive Professional Relationships
A meaningful perk for high potentials is the ability to associate and rub shoulders with senior leaders within the organization. Besides leadership development through formal training, give candidates chances for mentoring and coaching from senior leaders they admire and look up to. The key here is not just to learn how to do the right things and getting the right results. A critical insight learned from wise mentors is how to be a leader—the becoming versus the doing. Learning and applying first-hand the attributes required for leadership is an education that cannot be gained from a university or formal learning programs.
Another potential method for developing professional relationship-building skills is permitting, encouraging, and funding membership and participation in leadership positions within professional associations. This is a great way to see how a high potential’s leadership skills are transferred beyond the workplace and gives them further recognition.
Never rely upon traditional recognition programs and practices for high-potential leaders—they won’t work. Instead, integrate high-potential recognition into how you communicate and develop these individuals. Give them the prestige and pedestal to be recognized by their peers and senior leaders as the potential leaders you want them to become.
Roy Saunderson is author of “GIVING the Real Recognition Way” and president of the Recognition Management Institute, a consulting and training firm specializing in helping companies “get recognition right!” It focuses on showing leaders how to give real recognition to create positive relationships, better workplaces, and real results. For more information, contact mailto:RoySaunderson@Rideau.com or visit http://www.RealRecognition.com.