Employee Engagement

How to Turn Employees into Leaders


If you’re concerned about your company’s succession planning, the looming retirement of a number of employees or just the development of employees, it may be time to implement a high potential program at your company. High potential programs identify high potential candidates (or “hi-pos,” as some say) and create a formal development plan for these employees to become future leaders, managers and executives.

High potential programs can be extremely effective for career development and succession planning, but there are some unique aspects of creating this type of program that you’ll really want to get right the first time. Take a look at these four steps to developing a high potential program.


This time, you’ll be recruiting candidates to participate within your own company. You can do so by asking employees to submit an application or asking supervisors to nominate employees. Whichever method you choose, begin by defining the criteria and qualifications you’re looking for, then let employees and supervisors know exactly what that it. This will help to avoid confusion and accusations of favoritism. It’s important to keep in mind that while 20 or so employees accepted will be excited about the opportunity, dozens of others will probably be disappointed that they weren’t chosen. Keep the process as transparent as possible, communicate what the purpose of the program is and inform all applicants or nominees about future career development opportunities.

Create a Plan

One of the first things you should do after launching your program is to schedule time with each high potential participant to discuss their career goals and aspirations. This will assist with tailoring the program to meet their needs and also give you a chance to share your vision for their path at the company. This isn’t a time to make promises, but rather to create a conversation. This plan should detail their time in the program and far beyond. Discussing their future at the company will help them to see where they fit in the company, even when other employers come calling.

Challenge Instead of Reward

It’s likely that other employees will see their co-workers’ acceptance into the program as a reward, whether they believe it’s truly deserved or not. In all actuality, the high potential program should provide more challenges than it does rewards. Praise feels great, but challenges provide a chance to grow.


If you’re looking for real results, the most important aspect of your high potential program will be the training you provide to participants. You’ll want to connect those high potential employees with successful leaders within the company. This will not only help them to learn more about operations of your company, but also will expose them to varying management styles and practices. Some high potential programs even create a mentorship between leaders and participants. A focus on critical thinking, management/leadership skills, and motivations ensure that you’re not just shaping company-knowledgeable employees, but you’re also developing effective leaders.

Has your company implemented a high potential program? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

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