High potential (hi-pots) employees are identified in succession planning or organizational development processes as the future leaders within the organization.

Not all organizations identify high potential employees simply because developing bench strength is not important they or the size of the organization does not call for the investment.  Even in large organizations there are limited high potential employees in the development cycle because it requires significant financial and management investment.

Whether or not an individual knows they are a high potential within their organization varies by company philosophy however, there is always once clear sign – you are on the fast track.

Being on the fast track means that you have sponsors, mentors or human resources executives in the organization that help manage or recommend specific career moves. You will be tested in a variety of experiences to decide if you are the leader they want to continue grooming.

Often these career moves or assignments come in rapid progression with short durations of one year or less. Expect to move often because you go to where the experience is and not wait in your current location for something to materialize. This is one of the key characteristics that set high potentials apart from others –their development timing is compressed.

 Types of High Potential Employee Assignments

When someone is selected to be in a high potential program, the organization designs a series of challenges to decide if you are creative, resourceful, flexible and have the emotional and intellectual capacity to develop into an executive.

The internal career moves high potentials make test abilities in countless ways, such as:

  •  Depth of knowledge
  • Breadth of responsibilities
  • Functional ability
  • Generalist application
  • Effectively managing business cycles – start-up, growth, stable, cash cow, decline, transformational
  • People skills
  • Leadership and management skills
  • High stress
  • Ambiguity
  • Resources scarce

Being a part of a high potential program lasts about 3-4 years. Once exposed to the fast track, expect to be placed into a position for a couple of years. Your first “regular” assignment or career move gives you the opportunity to own the results in that position.

While on the fast track, the intent is exposure and short-term results and less about measuring long-term results. Now is the time to put into practice everything you learned to show how you excel in that role.