The Call to Action for Talent Management

Why stepping up to identify your high potentials matters now

What are the most important and valuable assets that any organisation has? Beyond the services your organisation provides or products it manufactures or perhaps distributes, the most valuable asset in every organisation is of course its people. 

The talent that an organisation is able to acquire, will make the difference to the pace your organisation can operate at, how happy your customers and stakeholders will be, and will ultimately offer the key differentiators between success and failure, within teams, departments and your organisation as a whole.  

With this in mind, like anything we enjoy in our lives, by taking care and investing time and attention into those things, we’re able to hold onto and enjoy those things for far longer. 

Unsurprisingly the same principles apply to the people you have within your organisation. Recruiting talent at any time is hard, but as most HR professionals will attest, finding quality, highly-skilled individuals, offering the right blend of knowledge, aptitude and behaviours that align with your organisational values is even harder. 

In a pandemic, a chief people officer can make or break a company

A recent report in the Economist, depicts that the Coronavirus crisis has not lessened the worry that CEO’s and HR professionals are having about skills shortages, with four fifths actively concerned about how this will impact their hiring plans, up from half in 2012. 

But if we as HR professionals understand how steep the challenge is to find talent, then what call to action must we make in the wake of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic? The answers lie in our talent management strategies, the robustness of what these include and how we now step up to deliver on our organisational commitments to retain and develop the leadership stars of our future.

Talent Management for Troubled Times

Talent management at its core is an organisations strategy to predict and anticipate its future potential needs. Even the most skilled and experienced hire will have the capacity for growth. When we consider that every organisation will in essence be unique, with their own nuances, opportunities and challenges to overcome, it’s evident that the development of talent in the context of each organisation is essential. 

There’s no mistaking the world is undergoing troubled times, with the global pandemic leaving behind a fall out of company closures, restructures and forthcoming, inevitable M&A activity.  But even for those companies who are being faced with the challenge of reorganising in response to financial issues brought about by Covid-19, Talent Management must remain a critical strategy focus. 

High street retailers across the UK are facing a bleak winter

Great uncertainty in business however, calls for a different kind of Talent Management, one that can contend with the demands of stretched supply chains, operational concerns and contracting resource availability. Talent Management for troubled times must meet the demands of uncertain environments and an unpredictable road that lays ahead.

Who Are Your Stars?

Who are your organisation’s stars?  The precise purpose of Talent Management is to identify, develop and deploy the star individuals who are considered particularly valuable. And whilst there are many different interpretations of what talent is, this broadly in HR terms comes down to those individuals who will make a significant impact to organisational performance, through the contribution they’re able to make now with the existing skills they have. Or in the future with the potential they offer. 

Stars in the talent acquisition process remain easy to spot, candidates by their very nature commit to doing their best to ensure their skills, talents and unique capabilities stand out to potential employers. It’s the primary objective of any candidate to shine a light on what makes them unique, what skills they have that can make a solid contribution and to highlight aspects of their capability proven in previous similar roles. 

But the difference between a star candidate and a star employee is far more nuanced. Once an individual has been hired to an organisation, the probationary period successfully passed, it’s all too often that candidates who looked like they had the potential to become a star employee, cease standing out all together. These individuals often provide organisations with the internal human capital infrastructure in order to operate, but they may not offer an answer to future leadership conundrums. 

By managing talent strategically, organisations can build a high-performance workplace, encourage a ‘learning’ organisation, add value to their employer brand, and improve diversity management

Yet talent management as an active process, enables people managers and HR to identify individuals who demonstrate not only strong capability in their current role, but also the necessary key behaviours, aptitude and tenacity to suggest they have the ability to take on larger or more complex roles in the future. These people are usually classed not only as high performance, but also high potential – The future leaders and stars.

What is a HiPo?

High potential employees could well be considered as the most valuable assets in your organisation. These standout individuals are easy to spot by management due to their ability, engagement and application of their skills, combined with current experience as part of their role. HiPo’s are members of an organisation who are typically highlighted by management to Human Resources as being the ones to watch and most likely to become significant contributors to the organisation in the future. 

Employees who are high potential, often demonstrate an ability to grow faster, achieving greater levels of success than their peers as part of their careers. These individuals often demonstrate a desire for senior positions in their career, possessing evident drive, tenacity and plans to accelerate as quickly as possible. 

Those considered to be HiPo, are typically those who possess greater degrees of natural talent than those around them. As such, there is an element of risk attached to high potentials in that they recognise their own ability and desirability to employers, placing them in a position of strength that can result in them moving away from roles quickly if they don’t feel valued, nurtured or invested in. 

Development of high potential employees or HiPo’s as they are often referred, is fundamental to retain that talent to ensure your business can benefit from their ability

Yet the value to be gained through the identification of high potential employees is great. When evaluating output and organisational results, they often find that it’s the high performing few who deliver the greatest series of results overall. The advantages therefore for an organisation to identify their high potentials is clear, not only are their skills and abilities there to be leveraged for maximum results, but they are also the future leaders to be primed for the future.

What Does a HiPo Look Like?

If your organisation is yet to adopt a strategy of identifying high potentials, and talent managing them to maximum advantage, then knowing what a HiPo looks like is a good place to start.

#1: Drive

High potentials are driven to succeed – Their high performance is often not enough for high potentials, they’re motivated and driven by good not being good enough. These individuals are aware of what it takes to get to the next level in their work and careers and will strive to achieve it.

#2: Ability

These individuals demonstrate clear ability and consistently show up in their role, with clear expertise and strong outcomes. Their abilities are visible as being those that will translate well to more senior positions, as is their day to day performance.

#3: Desirable Behaviours

HiPo’s typically demonstrate the sorts of behaviours considered to be desirable by managers and HR professionals. These can include a cooperative style to working with others, showing a high capacity for learning and adopting new skills, along with good levels of emotional intelligence. These individuals are often equipped with good social skills and able to adapt to a range of different personality types and styles. All of which suggest the potential for leadership, where having the ability to adapt to different people and styles effectively is necessary.

#4: Calm Under Pressure

HiPo’s may feel overwhelmed with the challenges presented by a situation, but any underlying stress is rarely externally visible. Often, those with the propensity for HiPo present themselves as being somewhat unflappable. They’re able to adapt, pivot and perform in even the most unnerving of circumstances, suggesting a strong inner compass and indicator of adaptability.

#5: A Desire to Lead

High potentials have the will and desire to lead, extending this desire to both themselves and others around them. An early indicator of leadership skills can be seen in opportunities granted to lead smaller teams, where HiPo’s often display strategic thinking to accommodate challenges and opportunities as they arise.


The call to action for talent management in these troubled business times is clear, identify those who stand out as your high performers and invest in supporting their development. The value that high potential, high performing employees can give to a business can be exponential. 

A key contributor to an organisation successfully identifying talent, is through the effective partnership of HR software, like Sage HR. The Performance Management module of Sage HR helps you to answer the questions on who your future innovators are, who the top performers are and what impact they are making. 

From the goal setting and OKR’ function to keep track of progress, whilst aligning individual goals with your organisation’s vision. To engage your HiPo’s further through providing 360 feedback, your managers and HR teams will benefit greatly from having the data on who’s standing out, readily available with SageHR’s reporting tools and insights. 

Sage HR Human Resources Tech

Finally, it’s worthwhile remembering that talent management is there to support the organisation in reaching its objectives all whilst having fantastic benefits at the individual level too. 


Sage HR

For companies where people are paramount to success, Sage HR  helps businesses overcome the complexities of managing their people, so they can focus on growing their business.

Written By

Jade Taryn Graham

Jade is the founder & CEO of Inspired a people & talent consultancy working with the most innovative early stage companies worldwide. Founder & CCO of Inspired Talent Media Ltd and contributing writer for Sage HR where Jade writes about people, leadership, work/life balance and change.