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Performance Reviews Performance Management

What Makes High-Performing and HiPo Employees?

September 23, 2021
7 min read
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Performance Management, Supercharged


This article on high-performing and high-potential employees (HiPos) was last updated in January 2017. It was most recently updated to include new information and statistics about top performers and HiPos in September 2021.

High-performing employees are every company’s dream. Their output is high, their attitudes positive, and they’re always looking for ways to improve. They often have leadership skills and a clear career path they plan to follow. It would be difficult to find someone who doesn’t want a high performer on the team.

High-potential employees (HiPos) are an asset, too. They are skilled employees with a knack for their roles whose talents can thrive when effectively managed.

But what defines high performers and high potential employees (HiPos)? What makes them such valuable members of your workforce? How can you keep these high performers from leaving and help their performance qualities infect the whole company?

We’re breaking down the qualities of high performers and how you can empower them. We’ll also discuss how to nurture high-performance qualities in your HiPo workforce.

The cost of replacing your top performers and #HiPos can be as much as 400% of their salary. Learn how you can spot, #engage, and retain your best employees from @ClearCompany:

Defining High Potential Vs. High-Performing Employees

Brendon Burchard is a best-selling author and high-performance coach who has extensively covered the topic of high performers. His definition of a high performer is a person who “succeeds above and beyond standard norms over the long-term.”

On the other hand, high potential talent, or HiPos, are employees that have a clear aptitude for their jobs. They have the potential to make a much larger impact on your company. Developing these high-potential employees can turn them into high performers and move them into leadership roles at your organization.

So, what are the qualities that high-performers possess that other employees don’t? Burchard offers five traits that set high performers apart and that can help you identify high potential employees:

  • Clarity: High performers know what they want and can work with others to get it. They have strong values and a sense of purpose that helps them reach their goals.
  • Energy: Top talent are constantly motivated to improve themselves, and others feed off their energy. Due to their high levels of focus and discipline, they can create and sustain that energy. 
  • Courage: Taking risks is a natural part of their rhythms, and they’re not afraid of facing difficult challenges. High performers are more likely to speak up and take action. 
  • Productivity: Clarity, energy, and courage enable higher output. High performers produce more work in the same amount of time as other employees.
  • Influence: High performers can talk to other people in a way that makes people like them, leading to better networking skills. Their attentiveness to others draws respect and admiration from their colleagues.

All of these factors combine to produce employees who are more focused, productive, and who seek out new opportunities. High potential employees have many of the same qualities, but often need mentoring or training to help them flourish.

The Benefits Of High Potential And High-Performing Employees

High-performing and HiPo employees give your organization more bang for its buck. High performers’ productivity levels are as much as 400% higher than the average employee. High potentials have a positive effect on the entire team’s productivity, too, raising it by about 15%.

HiPo employees are 91% more valuable than non-HiPos, according to research by SHL. They’re making your organization a better place to work, enabling effective succession planning, and increasing overall output.

Did you know?  High performers’ productivity levels are as much as 400% higher than the average employee.

The cost of replacing valuable employees ranges from 50%-400% of their salary. So when you identify high potential and high-performing employees, you need to make every effort to keep them around. Retain top talent by challenging them, recognizing their contributions, offering growth opportunities, and not pigeonholing them into management too quickly.

Maximizing, Motivating, And Retaining High Performers And HiPos

Now you know which qualities indicate high performers and HiPos and why they’re so important to your organization. Next, we’ll look at how to make the most of their skills and keep them engaged at work. Both are essential to ensure they are part of your company for the long term.

Recognize Top Talent

77% of high potential employees say it’s important to be recognized as such by their employers. The same whitepaper also notes that formally recognizing HiPos (telling them directly) means they are less likely to be looking for a new job. That means recognition of high performance and high potential has an immediate impact on retention.

We know that recognition goes a long way when it comes to increasing employee engagement as well. It makes sense that it matters to top talent. Including recognition in your engagement strategy doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as saying thank you and recognizing milestones like work anniversaries and birthdays.

You can also enable workers to publicly appreciate their colleagues with tools like Shout Outs. When utilizing performance management software, Shout Outs and recognition can be mentioned during performance reviews. This ensures that the record of the employee’s Shout Outs and other recognitions can factor into their evaluation. Having access to this record helps high performers and HiPos make the case for future promotions and professional development opportunities.

Recognizing your #HighPotential employees leads to higher retention and #engagement! See more ways to identify and nurture high performers and #HiPos from @ClearCompany:

Support Growth Initiatives

One of the biggest reasons high performers outperform their peers is because they take initiative. High performers don’t wait to be told — they figure it out.  If they lack knowledge or want to gain a new skill, they seek out help.

It’s important to support those who show initiative. A lack of growth opportunities is a top reason high performers and HiPos leave their organizations. That proves that these employees have a desire to improve, refine their skills, and continue contributing to your organization.

You can empower high performers and HiPos by providing access to training resources. You can connect them with mentors and peers they can turn to across the organization. A mentorship program at your company enables employee growth and development and is part of creating a welcoming, supportive company culture. Mentorship and growth opportunities also improve engagement and job satisfaction, some of the main drivers of retention.

Did you know? Employees promoted within three years are 70% more likely to stay with their organization.

Prioritize Meeting Goals Over Micromanaging

Like most other employees, HiPos don’t like to be micromanaged. It has negative effects on their productivity and engagement levels. Instead of micromanaging, you can empower your high performers and HiPos by setting goals and giving feedback consistently.

Use performance reviews as an opportunity to review their accomplishments and see how they’ve grown. That’s also a good time to create plans for the next step in their career development. High-potential employees also benefit from regular evaluations and feedback. There, managers can offer learning opportunities and help HiPos see where their strengths lie.

Setting goals, evaluating performance, and providing regular feedback are easy with the help of performance management software. Performance management tools allow companies to support the needs of high performers and HiPos and keep them long-term. The combination of autonomy and support shows high performers and HiPos that your company trusts its intuition and is committed to their growth and success.

It’s important not to overlook high potential employees in favor of high performers. Employees with potential are a strong, reliable source for your company’s talent pipeline and can make succession planning easier. Support professional development and create a performance management strategy to help top talent build their skills, stay engaged, and climb to a higher level at your organization.

ClearCompany’s Performance Management and Employee Engagement tools have enabled our teams to identify, engage, and retain our own HiPo and high-performing talent. Regular performance reviews from peers and managers allow us to spot employees who meet and exceed their goals, earn frequent recognition, and show initiative for growth.

You can do the same for your company’s workforce with ClearCompany. Align company and individual goals, develop top talent, and keep them at your company for years to come. Enable every employee to become a high-performer or HiPo. Sign up for a demo of ClearCompany’s award-winning suite of Performance, Engagement, and Goals tools today!

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