Three Ways to Drive Away Rising Stars

For the last several years most high-potential employees (HIPOs) have lowered their career expectations to accommodate slowing promotion rates and developmental opportunities.

Simultaneously, according to Corporate Executive Board’s 2012 Global Labor Market Survey, companies have asked their HIPOs to put forth more effort. HIPOs are 50 percent more likely to have taken on additional responsibilities in the last three years compared to their peers and work close to eight hours more per week than non-HIPOs.

As the labor market shows signs of life, organizations that continue to ask more of their stars without a corresponding increase in rewards may drive them away. There are three common mistakes that companies are making:
Delegating HIPO management downward: HIPOs are 15 percent more likely to say they have an ineffective manager compared to non-HIPOs. Further, more than half of HIPOs expect to be working for a different manager in 12 months. The combination of disruption and ineffectiveness stunts HIPOs’ growth and increases their likelihood of departure.

Inadequate HIPO differentiation and recognition: With limited rewards available, most companies have tried to evenly spread them in an attempt to make all employees happy. This doesn’t work with HIPOs. The importance of recognizing HIPOs for their contributions has increased by 15 percent since the start of the economic downturn.

Limiting HIPOs’ exposure to corporate strategy: HIPOs are aware of their organization’s health and direction. They want a voice in defining that direction. Limiting their exposure to senior leaders disenfranchises HIPOs and limits senior leaders’ ability to accurately assess bench strength, which can lead to poor promotion decisions.

Brian Kropp is managing director of Corporate Executive Board, a member-based advisory company. He can be reached at