I was intrigued by the article “High Performers and High-Potential Employees Are Not One in the Same” , by Andre Lavoie. So I did a bit more investigation and found some other references out there. The consensus was:
High Performers achieve your goals today.
High Potentials help you achieve your future.
High-potentials have the ability and aspiration to be successful leaders within an organization. A high-performer may also have high potential but not necessarily. They may be great at their job and take pride in their work and accomplishments, but don’t have the potential (or desire) to assume a leadership role. Lavoie lined out four traits of high potentials vs. high performers:
1. Proactive vs. reactive – High potentials take a proactive approach to problem-solving, planning for the future versus waiting until a problem occurs and reacting.
2. Leaders vs. followers – High-potentials are characterized by their ability to go above and beyond. They don’t leave the office the second the clock strikes five. They don’t focus on themselves but on the team as a whole.
3. Receptive vs. unreceptive to feedback – Employees who are truly receptive to feedback will take immediate action, not to save their own skin, but to become an all-around better worker. Employees with high potential will avoid making the same mistake twice.
4. Knowing the business vs. knowing the job – High performers and high potentials both strive to reach peak performance, but high potentials aim above that peak. They can clearly see how their work contributes to overall success and set out to achieve the company vision through achieving their individual work goals. Whereas high performers seek to do well as individuals, high potentials desire to do well as a company. High potentials have that entrepreneurial spirit.
So what should companies be looking to retain? High performers for today. But high potentials for tomorrow. And we need those future leaders. These are the high potentials you should be identifying and sending to leadership development programs. Everyone need not apply.