The Definition of a High-Potential Employee

3 min read
Jan 17, 2017

high-potential employees

No two employees are carbon copies of one another. It’s not always easy for managers to make apples-to-apples comparisons of their workers — the engineer handles vastly different responsibilities than the accountant does. But in a very general sense, it is easy to see which members of the team have more potential than the rest in their respective areas.

These skilled workers are called high-potential employees. Quite simply, these are the staffers who not only bust their tails day in and day out but also possess the innate skill sets and motivation necessary to take their organization to the next level. High-potential employees aspire to assume more responsibilities and are thoroughly engaged with the work they do.

According to the Harvard Business Review, roughly 5% of any organization’s employees are high-potential. As a manager who’s interested in growing your company, chances are you likely know who your high-potential employees are already. But here’s a refresher if you need some help. 

High-potential employees:


01. Take the lead whenever they can

Working in group settings, high-potential employees often assume leadership roles. If, for example, five team members are working on a project together, the high-potential employee is likely to delegate tasks and serve in a coordinating function. In addition to producing great work on their own, they also strive to make sure their teammates are doing amazing things too.


02. Show initiative

Instead of sitting around waiting for management to come up with new ideas, high-potential employees show lots of initiative. They are constantly brainstorming new ideas and don’t mind taking on additional responsibilities to make the company even stronger.


03. Can get things done on their own

While many employees need lots of guidance to do their jobs, high-potential employees do just fine working autonomously. They are motivated, determined, and never miss a deadline.

Of course, there are certain situations where managers have to tell these folks what needs to be done. High-potential employees don’t mind taking orders when the situation calls for it.


04. Meet their goals — always

High-potential employees are as reliable as they come. To a certain extent, managers don’t even have to track their progress because they deliver time and time again.

high-potential employees


05. Ask a lot of relevant questions

Because they want their organization to continue growing and becoming even more successful, high-potential employees are always asking the right questions. They see shortcomings where others might not. They notice things that are brewing before their peers do. Since they are interested in the company, they actively devise ways to make it better.


06. Make strong decisions in fast-paced environments

High-potential employees have their sights set on moving up the corporate ladder. To this end, they are always trying to get their bosses to notice their skills and their competence. Great leaders need to make decisions quickly. Understanding this, high-potential employees have the ability to make the right decisions in fast-paced environments.

Once you’ve identified your high-potential employees, you need to nurture the relationships they have with your organization. After all, these individuals may very well be tomorrow’s leaders of your company. So take them under your wing and support their development. The future of your company may very well depend on it.



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