What does a “Hi-Po” landscape look like in your organization? You know … those with high potential. These individuals are essential to the growth of your business. Developing high- potential performers in your organization should be a top priority in any successful executive’s strategic plan. In a talent management study by Louis Carter and Brian Fishel, they discovered that 82 percent of the companies surveyed had either a formal or an informal talent management program. Your company should too.

In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share four action steps that help you launch a talent management program to attract, grow and retain high-performing employees.

1. Put people first. Of course your talent development program needs to align with your corporate strategic objectives. But the best theoretical plan in the world will accomplish little unless your people have a stake in it. Mentally review your staff and make note of the superstars you want to develop. Start by asking these people what they want. Talk to them about what they are good at. Ask where they see themselves in the company five years from now. Let them have a say in designing their own futures.

2. Stretch their strengths. Not every high-potential employee is suited to every job. Tailor your development program to their specifics. If you spot people with creative talents, or the ability to speak well in public, give them a project that will stretch them. But start slowly. If you push them off the deep end with difficult tasks right off the bat, you’re setting them up to fail, and they will be reluctant to take a chance on the next challenge you throw at them.

Place people in situations that encourage gradual, balanced growth. You don’t want your top performers to be spread too thin with multiple and competing challenges. But at the same time, you can’t allow them to hide out in their comfort zones. Walk a fine line between maintaining the status quo and placing them in situations that stretch and challenge their capabilities. Then support them with coaches and mentors, so they have great role models, feel safe and have a place to go for assistance when the going gets tough.

3. Accept the challenge. Never be afraid to hire and nurture people who challenge you or who reject corporate norms. Some managers feel threatened by challengers, especially young ones. But it’s a worse mistake to surround yourself only with people who agree with you no matter what. This may feel safe to you, but it leads to mediocrity and stagnation. As a real leader, you must demonstrate the maturity and confidence to encourage respectful disagreement and differences of opinion. When you do this, you will avoid creating a culture of fear where your future leaders care more about their own reputations and positions than they do about the good of the business. When you encourage open dialogue, you set an example for your company’s rising stars, promote sharing and collaboration, and produce superior results.

4. Talk about it. Give your program a high profile, both inside and outside the company. Internally, you need to facilitate communication connections between people. Let them inspire each other and feed off each other’s success. Openly share company goals and objectives. Develop trust levels that stay intact and provide stability during troubled times. Externally, you need to develop a reputation for hiring and growing top performers. When people know they have a chance to excel and get on the fast track to upper management, attracting people with new competencies can benefit those on both sides of the equation.

In order to thrive in today’s business climate you need creative and capable leaders. Start growing them now and you’ll be prepared to meet both current and future challenges.

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Source: Joel Garfinkle is recognized as one of the top 50 coaches in the U.S., and the author of seven books, including Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level. He has worked with many of the world’s leading companies including Google, Deloitte, Amazon, Ritz-Carlton, Gap, Cisco, Oracle and many more.