By Stu Crandell, Senior Vice President, Solutions Portfolio Group, PDI Ninth House
High-potential leaders provide an impressive impact to their organizations’ bottom line. In fact PDI Ninth House Pulse on Leadersresearch shows that high potentials can provide their organizations with a 20 percent increase in project success, or approximately $25 million in increased revenue.
As such, it’s no surprise that organizations often allocate a significant amount of talent management spend to their high potentials. The belief: The more they invest in high-potential talent, the more business benefit, and the more likely they will keep these employees engaged and satisfied for the long term.
But is it working? Are organizations putting the right resources behind their high-potential programs? Do organizations really understand what their high-potential leaders want?
Many organizations assume compensation will keep their employees around. However, according to a PDI Ninth House Pulse on Leadersstudy, high-potential talent consider non-tangible elements such as stimulating and engaging work and a belief in the organization’s mission much more important in a job than traditional perks such as compensation and advancement opportunities. In fact, less than 10 percent of leaders surveyed selected those two factors as the most important aspects of a job.
Smart organizations recognize this shift among their high-potential talent and are looking for new, more innovative ways to keep them engaged and committed to their organization. And organizations are finding impressive results through initiatives that provide high potentials with:
Stimulating and challenging work. High-potential employees don’t need a promotion to be satisfied at work. They tend to be driven individuals and they care most about the type of work they do and how it challenges them. As such, proactively align high-potential employees with stretch assignments that are critical for business success. Global electronics distribution firm Arrow Electronics understands this best practice. While Kim Disandis, vice president for Arrow’s central sales region, had held leadership roles with the company over her 20 years with the company, she recently was assigned a new role whereby she is responsible for a sizeable piece of the company’s business. In this role, she also faced geographical challenges as she was responsible for the middle third of the country. As a high-potential, highly driven leader, Disandis was excited about the challenges of her new role.
A sense of personal accomplishment. Employees like to be rewarded. For many high-potential employees it’s about rewards such as more responsibility and power within the business. For others it is meeting—or exceeding—the goals and objectives outlined in a specific “stimulating” or “challenging” work assignment. When asked about his career goals, one high-potential leader, who was general manager of retail operations for a large financial services firm, spoke about making a greater contribution and wanting increased influence on the organization’s strategic direction. In fact, throughout his career, he continually was placed in roles where he had to overcome significant business challenges—from turnarounds to startups to shutdowns. All of these were invaluable learning experiences. While individuals may seek different rewards, it’s important they are publicly recognized and acknowledged for successful efforts.
A clear belief in the organization’s overall mission. High-potential leaders must believe in what the organization they work for stands for and how it operates. They expect to see consistency among top leaders’ actions. They also want the ability to influence an organization’s mission and should be informed about how their role connects with and affects the broader organization. Finally, for companies on the rebound, it’s important that high potentials believe in the integrity of their organization’s leaders and that they trust them.
Individualized perks or benefits. Managers must find out what is important and valuable to their high-potential reports. For example, some employees might value flexible work schedules. Others might value recognition among peers. Creating customized benefits for high-potential leaders can go a long way when it comes to a productive, long-term employee/manager/company engagement.
The tools needed for success. Make sure high-potential employees know they are valued by providing them with the resources they need to excel. Looking back at Arrow Electronics’ Kim Disandis, it is clear the company and her manager understood the importance of this best practice. With Disandis’ expanded responsibility, she needed to manage at a different level and also wanted to be a more inspirational leader. Arrow provided Kim with an individual coach to help her get to the next level of her professional development. The coach started with 360-degree interviews, which revealed Disandis’ strengths and areas of opportunity. Then, the coach and Disandis met face to face and through phone meetings for a six-month period to provide her with the coaching required to help her become a more effective leader. One simple change made a big difference. Disandis started to block out a two-hour window each week where she could reflect on her week. She recorded in a journal what worked and what didn’t, and how she would handle it differently in the future. The result: It worked. Disandis connected with her coach quickly; new practices such as the journaling process helped her better review, assess, and adapt to the current situation that was so fast paced; and her manager and colleagues saw visible development gains from the start to the end of the program.
As important as these initiatives are, it is just as essential that managers of high potentials are heavily involved in their reports’ development and check in with them frequently. They need to see how they are doing from a performance and a development standpoint. They also need to ask about their overall happiness as an employee. Frequent temperature checks are essential and can help alleviate issues or concerns that often go undetected for months—or worse until the high potential leaves without anyone knowing he or she wasn’t happy.
“My leadership team first approached me about the coaching opportunity and I was thrilled with the investment they were making in me,” says Arrow’s Disandis about the coaching program. “In the end, my coach provided me with feedback that allowed me to make a great breakthrough in my strategic thinking abilities. Today, I am much better positioned to be part of Arrow’s transformation and can better involve my team in the efforts. I cannot say enough about the program.”
As the jobless rate continues to improve, employees will have more and more options. Organizations that recognize the value of their high-potential employees, and take the time to create programs and initiatives designed to address what high potentials want, will be better positioned to keep these employees for the long term.
Stu Crandell is senior vice president, Solutions Portfolio Group, at PDI Ninth House, a global leadership solutions company that helps organizations across the globe maximize their success by improving the quality and strength of their leaders. For more information, visit http://www.pdinh.com.