High Potential Individuals(HIPOs) - A Valuable Asset or a Hidden Concern

Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on October 09, 2015

“The people who work with us work because they want to work not because they are made to work. Our employees are extremely talented individuals and they get to work on the problems that affect over a billion people”

This was the statement made by ex-CEO of Google, Larry Page, when asked how he manages to attract the best talent in the world, and also preserve his company’s reputation as the best company to work for. This statement made by Mr. Page briefly sums up how important an asset high potential individuals (HIPOs) can be to a company.

Image: pixabay

In a scenario where ideas are implemented at a breathtaking pace and competitiveness between companies make competition extinct, companies can stay ahead of the curve by investing in HIPOs. But the crux of the problem lies in the way these companies manage and mold that talent.

Source: executiveboard

The way companies like Tesla Motors, Facebook, Apple etc invest on HIPOs make it amply clear that investing in such individuals is the way forward to solve the next generation issues. In this day and age, as an organization, you need to differentiate yourself from your competition, and the difference lies in people, in the sense, the ideas these people bring to the table, and how well they execute these ideas. In short, investing in human capital is like investing in prime real estate. So, very obviously, when this investment in human capital is not managed well, it can turn the company hostage to these individuals and their whims. It is a known fact that Steve Jobs, the visionary behind the iconic company Apple, during the declining sales of Apple’s Macintosh in the mid-eighties blamed everyone else except himself for the slump.

The customers were unsatisfied with the not as “perfect” as expected Mac and consequently, the rising tension between the shareholders and the management forced him to leave the very company he had helped found. It was only, in his own words, when he went away and developed a more humane side to himself, did he return to take Apple to the incredible heights it now occupies. This instance makes perfectly clear how brilliant individuals can be assets to their organizations, if they take people from the organization along in their ambitious plans.

While it may seem like a rosy picture for management to hire such HIPOs, and wait for the magic they spray on their organizations, the truth is that there are other numerous issues involved. HIPOs are not usually very good team players. They can be non-receptive to others’ ideas, and non-appreciative of someone else’s achievements. Because they have amazing insights and ideas about work, they prefer going with solo projects of their own, rather than contribute to someone else’s ideas. Another issue is that such individuals work extremely hard, which leads to stress and fatigue over a period of time, impairing their performance and harming the organization. Having looked at these reasons, it is not hard to imagine that HR departments across organizations are starting to suspect their high potential training programs. A recent global study revealed that part of the problem is that managers assume that employees who perform well now have great potential for a future leadership role, and this is not necessarily the case. There is certainly a case that owing to one or more of the reasons listed here, HIPOs are having a tough time moving on from promising a fulfilling career to actually having one.

In essence, a company can be the leader it so aspires, if it converts the HIPOs into assets and continues to let them make the mark and take the organization forward with them. For this purpose, the primary motivational aspects of these individuals need to be met - make them work on challenging projects. A strategy used by Infosys Limited under the guidance of its new CEO Dr. Vishal Sikka can serve as an example here. Infosys identifies its HIPOs every quarter and makes them work on the next generation technology. These individuals felt that such opportunities made them stay committed to the organization. Another interesting solution for the organization could be to make them work with similar such HIPOs, thereby inculcating a broad sense of sharing and by giving learning opportunities to other team members.

The performance evaluation should also be reflective of such practices. Another important thing that came out of a recent survey is that around 60% of employees selected as HIPOs by the management left the organization in the next five year. As such, a more conservative selection can help more the entire process much more effective. The combination of careful selection, and responsible ownership can add more teeth to the entire process, and help make useful assets out of those high potential individuals out there.

This article has been authored by Krishna Aditya Gundimeda and Vipul Puri from XLRI Jamshedpur

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