In today’s competitive talent market, all companies are vying to attract the attention of top talent. Leadership development, therefore, needs to be a core part of any business’ workforce management strategy. Building a force of strong talent begins with identifying, nurturing, and engaging high-potential employees at all hierarchical levels.

This includes the top 5% of all employees that companies want to retain for the long-term and invest in. Before looking at ways to engage and nurture ace employees, let’s learn to identify them through their key qualities.

The Qualities of High-potential Employees

Unique skills and abilities

While talent exists in everyone in a raw form, it is the focused effort that converts it into skills. Ace employees have distinct skills that they have honed over a period, rather than being gifted. These skills could be technical, leadership, or interpersonal. No matter what these are, ace employees manage to rise above the crowd by applying and practicing these skills in a variety of situations.

The right attitude

A positive attitude focuses on the positives rather than on the negatives. Star employees have a growth mindset that dwells on positives in every situation and forget the negatives. These are the employees that take constructive criticism and grow out of it. With the right attitude, ace employees grow and foster an organization along with their individual capabilities.

High emotional intelligence

The ability to manage one’s emotions comes into play when working in a corporate setting which is rapidly facing challenges and growing. When ace employees face an environment of hurdles and stress, they cope with their emotions and come up with solutions. They perform under stress because they are able to manage the pressure by stabilizing their emotions.

Confidence and willpower to aim and achieve

A high-potential employee will set the bar too high for themselves. These individuals are forever on the journey to the betterment and rarely give themselves a pat on the back. They believe in setting high-enough goals each time they meet the last one. Then, they work confidently to achieve those objectives.

Comfort in discomfort

High-potential employees cannot be kept in a comfortable setting for too long. They breathe better when challenged. Ace employees lose motivation and the will to perform when their workplace lacks challenges. These are the individuals who get thrilled by the idea of a challenge. They like to stretch their limits and test themselves when times get rough.

People skills

Star employees don’t walk alone. They know that success takes a team effort. This is why, high-potential employees have interpersonal skills that allow them to work efficiently in teams, manage and encourage people to perform at their best, and bring out the highest potential in everyone involved, including themselves. People skills are a critical indicator of high-performing employees.

How to Identify Star Employees?

Now that you know the identifying qualities of star employees, you can bring out these qualities in them in a variety of ways. It helps you to conduct intermittent tests to gauge the technical and core competencies of all employees. Technical proficiency could be one factor by which you filter out high-potential employees. While, to measure other qualities that might be difficult to bring to the surface, look for managerial feedback.

Often managers are able to spot the shining stars in their team, and they will promptly point them out. A third way is to analyze team results and look at an individual’s performance throughout their working period. A high momentum and consistent growth point toward an employee who is always striving to get better.

Nurturing and Retaining High-Potential Employees

Here are a few ways how organizations can nurture and engage their high-potential employees:

  • Never underutilize your ace employees. This is what drives them away. Allow them to work on challenging tasks that drive their motivation. Anything less is an underutilization of their talent and skills.
  • Refrain from micromanaging your star employees. While they might not be able to tell you how what they are working on fits with your goals, trust that they are working toward a higher goal and not just on the day’s work.
  • Group your star employees together as they get inspired by each other and their effectiveness multiplies in high-potential teams.
  • Invest in training, courses, and conferences for upskilling your ace employees and helping them advance their talent and abilities.
  • Help your high-potential employees showcase their proficiency by encouraging them to participate in relevant activities organized externally as well as by your organization.
  • Accept their proactiveness as ace employees like to proactively take on projects and feel discouraged when they are frowned upon for doing so.

The Benefits of Retaining High-Potential Employees

More leaders now want their entire workforce to be thriving and flourishing, which is a mighty goal for any organization to track and achieve. High-potential workforce attracts more of similar talent to your enterprise, raise the bar for everyone involved, and encourage everyone to get better at what they do.

Overall, when managed properly, ace employees can impact the overall quality of your organization. They will help you attract more star employees and also help you showcase a better brand to others in your competition.

According to the Harvard Business Review, the Pareto principle (aka 80/20 rule) applies to ace team members. Studies show that a large proportion of any organization is driven by a small proportion of the workforce.

Ensure that you retain the top talent in the right manner to foster a healthy working environment within your organization.