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3 ways to address the “low potentials” in your organization

The term “high potential (HiPo)” employee is quite in vogue as a term to describe those poised for increasingly responsible roles in an organization as a  leader of others or leader of leaders, or higher. However, they are definitely not the normal employees, nor are they going to be the majority of your headcount. So, what should you do with the rest of the employees who are typical or “low potential (LoPo)?” If people are performing at an adequate level, they shouldn’t be ignored or even necessarily considered low performers. 

Here are 3 ways to address those employees who don’t fit the “high potential” category:

  1. Even a HiPo is very likely a LoPo early in a new role. If he or she has been stretched properly, he won’t be living up to the expectations of the role for some time. Often it takes 6 months to a year to get up to speed in a new role. Don’t immediately dismiss employees as failing. If you can see the effort being made on both sides (employee and employer), you should continue to coach and develop new employees.
  2. Not everyone will be a rock star in their current role.  Even if not, we may have chosen to keep them on as contributors. Why? While most employees may not be poised to take over the company some day, they deserve and should get our best coaching and development. Let’s face it, they are critical players and perhaps they are often more critical than a high-flyer who may move on and create a gap. Additionally, employees should be challenged to grow in their present roles and create more impact.
  3. If someone is truly a LoPo, he is likely not performing in his role and will probably not last. And, while he should benefit from our best leadership, coaching and development, for whatever reason it may not result in any meaningful change.  It shouldn’t take too long to tell.

Just because individuals are not moving up the ranks or do not demonstrate the need (or ability) to jump from company to company to advance their careers does not mean they shouldn’t receive our best as leaders. If you think someone is a LoPo, then ask yourself if you have done everything you can to develop them in accordance with his or her strengths. If you haven’t done everything possible, then give some development of that person a shot, and he or she may surprise you. If not, then either way you will have helped them find a better path.


Article by Tom Cox.


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