The development of young employees with leadership potential

Young employees with potential are people who in the future can occupy key positions in the organization. Today, there are many definitions and even more names for this category: high-potentials, high-flyers, fast-track employees, etc. in Russian, the term “high-po” from the English abbreviation high-po (high potential) begins to be adopted.

An example of identifying young employees with potential.

The American multinational corporation is among the high-ranking employees of the organization who meet the following requirements:

  • age up to 35 years;
  • the presence of at least higher education;
  • knowledge of English and another foreign language;
  • the presence of potential in order to rise two levels up in the organizational hierarchy.

The essence of working with this category of reserve managers is to identify and strengthen the development of employees who have the potential to occupy key positions in the organization in 10–20 years. General Electric has two thousand young leaders, whose development is given special attention, since it is from these that the top management of the company will be formed in the future. It is interesting that their composition changes annually: unjustified expectations are removed from the list (but not from the company), other leaders take their places.

The process of planning and developing young employees with potential is in many ways similar to the process of working with understudies and successors. At the same time, it has a number of features.

In contrast to working with successors, the training of employees with potential is not targeted – the organization prepares them to take up not a specific position, but a managerial position in general [2]. Particular attention is paid to understanding the specifics of the organization’s activities and its culture, absorbing the corporate spirit and developing a sense of commitment to the organization. The organization’s management also seeks to acquaint employees with the potential with various aspects of the organization’s management, to provide them with the opportunity to work in various departments, functional areas, and geographical regions. Another important aspect of the preparation of this category of reserve is the provision of the possibility of constant updating of managerial knowledge by attending seminars, continuing education courses, etc. In training specialists with potential, all available methods of professional development are used, from briefing in the workplace to rotation and training with separation from production.

The selection of young employees with potential is the most difficult step in working with this reserve group, because based on an analysis of the current situation, it is necessary to assess what will happen to the person in 10 or 20 years. Drawing a portrait of the ideal leader in 2015 is an extremely difficult task. Some organizations use portraits of today’s ideal leaders to select young employees with potential, but this approach is not optimal.

A key role in identifying employees with potential is played by employees of the human resources department, who must have professional skills for early identification of potential. Psychological methods for assessing potential are becoming increasingly popular, the reliability of this means of determining potential is increasing, and the number of consulting companies specializing in organizing centers for assessing potential is increasing. However, when using testing, it is necessary to take into account the specifics of the organization – the leaders of IBEC should have a different set of characteristics than the leaders of the Vladimir Tractor Plant.

Many leading companies are engaged in targeted selection of young employees with leadership potential. For this, company representatives (often top managers) travel to leading universities and business schools and conduct interviews with future graduates. During the selection process, the leaders conducting it must be aware of the specific characteristics that they would like to see in their future leaders, therefore, often the candidate’s assessment form is developed on the basis of an ideal portrait of the head of this organization.

For hi-po hired people, many organizations create special development programs lasting several years, which include working in various positions and divisions, participating in cross-functional groups, specialized professional training, and so on. The U.S. American Corporation has a special program for the development of future leaders, designed for two years. The corporation is recruiting graduates of leading business schools, which are initially trained at the company’s headquarters, and then work in its various branches, every six months moving to a new unit.

The senior management together with the human resources department carries out a periodic assessment of the development of young employees with potential (in many large companies there are specialists exclusively engaged in preparing the reserve). During such an assessment, the main focus is on how the employee demonstrates and develops his potential, and not on the specific results of work in today’s position (the evaluation of the latter is carried out during the certification). Based on the results of the assessment of progress, changes can be made to the employee development plan or a decision is made on the futility of further efforts to prepare him for a leadership position.

The system of work with young employees with leadership potential can be an important factor in improving the management efficiency of any organization. However, for this, this process must be well thought out and consistent with the strategic goals of the organization and its culture. The following practical principles for creating a system for selecting and training employees with potential (in addition to what was said about working with successors), formulated on the basis of the experience of hundreds of companies, can be useful for any organization:

  • “More is better than less” – it is better to include two candidates without potential in the list than to miss managerial talent. At the same time, the number of employees in the reserve should be managed (from 2 to 5 per thousand employees of the organization);
  • keep the list open. The ability to get into the reserve should be retained for all employees who meet formal criteria, including those who did not get into it or were withdrawn from it at some point in time;
  • Do not create untouchable castes. Inclusion in the reserve should not entail any privileges or guarantees of professional growth. It is no accident that many organizations do not inform employees that they have been selected as a reserve;
  • Do not lose sight of development goals. The training of future leaders should be as specific as possible and should be assessed to achieve progress in implementing the main goal – the formation of future leaders of this organization, and not of leaders in general or simply educated people;
  • ensure the participation of senior management. Until the head of the organization participates in hi-po work, it will remain an abstract exercise of the human resources department that does not have a real impact on the development of the organization.


Modern organizations are actively engaged in the development of their employees. One of the forms of such development is the process of planning and career development, which in one form or another exists in most of the leading companies in the world and consists in determining the professional interests of employees and the targeted planning of their professional training and advancement in the organization. Career development involves the joint efforts of the employee, his immediate supervisor and specialists in the field of personnel management (often referred to as the “Career Development Partnership”) and can have a positive impact on the organization by optimizing the use of personnel, strengthening its motivation, and focusing on professional training.

Particular attention is paid to the organization of training employees for key positions – managers. In modern organizations, a special reserve management system is being created, including the definition, development, appointment of future managers to a new position. The success of the entire organization depends on how efficiently this system works, so managing it is one of the top management priorities. The same is true for working with young employees with leadership potential, the early identification and development of which will ensure the organization’s competitiveness in the future.