“The better you are at surrounding yourself with people of high potential, the greater your chance for success” – John C. Maxwell
The Harvard Business Review defines a high potential employee as someone who consistently and significantly outperforms their peer groups in a variety of settings and circumstances. While achieving these superior levels of performance, they exhibit behaviours that reflect their companies’ culture and values in an exemplary manner.*
Today’s fast paced business environment means that organisations must adapt and plan for the future if they are to remain competitive. Initiatives that got companies to where they are today won’t translate into profits/success 20 years from now. As a result, recruitment and the development of high potential employees (HiPo’s) should be on everyone’s agenda.
But when it comes to hiring candidates with the most leadership potential in transport and infrastructure; how can you attract them to work for you and what sets them apart from the rest of the market?
Attracting High Potential Employees
1. Demonstrate opportunity
Having a solid leadership development programme in place for HiPo’s, involving coaching and external leadership courses, is key. But no matter how many elite programmes you put people on, it will never help you to attract the best candidates unless you publicise it.
Social media is a blessing when it comes to being able to communicate development opportunities to the masses. Show examples of employees that progressed up through the ranks quickly and have them provide testimonials explaining how the company helped and developed them to achieve their goals.
2. Consider candidates ready for a step up
Many of our clients come to us to find them an exceptional Director that is already doing the equivalent job at a competitor.
Understandably, they want someone to come into the role with the expertise and market knowledge only gained from experience. However, what you really need to ask yourself is, if they are a high potential employee, will they make a lateral move?
An alternative approach is to deliberately search for candidates at the next level down who are ready to step up but lack progression opportunities with their current employer.
3. Pay & persuade
Attracting the best of the best is going to take some coaxing and who better to do that than the top dogs in the company. At interview, involve senior executives who can explain the long-term business plan and persuade HiPo candidates that by joining the company they will have the opportunity to develop and progress. Even better yet, involve senior leaders who have been through the process themselves.
The top 5% of candidates are also going to come with a higher price tag, if you aren’t willing to offer competitive remuneration packages then you risk losing out.
Spotting High Potential Employees
Once you’ve attracted applicants to your role, one easy way to whittle down the HiPo’s is by analysing their CV.
A candidate with strong leadership potential will have a well written, concise CV (3 pages maximum, probably 2) with a strong business focus. It will clearly demonstrate not just their role responsibilities, but will also highlight key achievements that they have made throughout their careers so far and how they have contributed to the wider business.
A long waffling CV which list’s every GCSE (good or bad), and that they are captain of the chess club and enjoy long walks is a good indication that they aren’t a necessarily a high potential individual. Good candidates understand the crucial information they need to communicate.
Steady career progression will also be obvious for HiPo candidates. People don’t tend to just wake up one morning with a sudden desire to progress. One key thing to look for when identifying HiPo’s is a steady upwards trajectory throughout their career.
At the most they would’ve made one previous career mistake, so lots of regular changes should be a red flag. Many people will slip-up at some point in their career and move in to a role that wasn’t what they expected or what was sold to them. What set’s a high potential employee apart is that they will often make the mistake work even if it’s not what they wanted.
5. Willingness to take risks
Look out for candidates that have made risky career choices and made a success of it. Individuals who seek out and volunteer for new and uncertain business ventures or overseas projects demonstrate that they are willing to take chances in order to succeed and know that more often than not, the route to success isn’t always the easiest one.
Because of this, we often see that candidates selected as HiPo’s have some previous international experience.
6. Desire to learn
Self-awareness is a particularly common personality trait to look out for. While good candidates will know where their strengths lie, exceptional candidates will know what their weaknesses are and what needs to be developed. They will generally be confident and open to discussing these weaknesses.
High potential candidates will constantly be looking to learn new skills and have an appreciation for functional disciplines other than their own. They often seek out development courses independently if companies won’t support them.
7. Good communicators
The ability to build good rapport with everyone in the business regardless of seniority or background is a strong indication that they have leadership qualities.
A high potential hire will be capable of communicating across functions in a way that is understood at all levels.
Identifying and attracting the top candidates in the market isn’t always an easy task. Our hiring process results in a quarter of the candidates we recruit for our clients being promoted within their first 18 months, compared to the industry norm of 3 years.
If you are looking to make any additions to your senior teams, then get in touch to see how you can benefit from our extensive network in the transport and infrastructure sectors.