Every company wants to hire and retain the best employees possible. The question is: How do you know who is the best? And what is the right way to identify and recognise talent in your company? In a high-pressure work environment such as the hospitality industry, this could be a real challenge. While it is common practice to seek high performance employees, HR practitioners have recently been paying more attention to high-potential employees, also known as HiPos. 

This article will help you recognise, train and retain high potentials. It highlights the tools you can use for understanding what makes a high-potential employee, and how to engage them for the long term.

The Difference Between High Potential and High Performance

The High Performer’s Traits and Characteristics 

Traits and Characteristics of High-Potential Employees  

Tools To Determine the High-Potential Employees on Your Team 

Three Steps for Developing High Potentials 


The Difference Between High Potential and High Performance

It is easy to get confused with the terms high potential and high performance. Often, HR and hiring managers are unable to distinguish between the two. Why is it important to know the difference? Because depending on the company’s needs, you may value one over the other.


The High Performer’s Traits and Characteristics 

Do you have goals or targets that need to be met immediately? Then you may be right to choose the high performer, the one who possesses a track record of getting things done effectively and efficiently. These candidates are consistent and dependable. You can rely on them to deliver and meet your hospitality company’s objectives from day to day. They like to be challenged and find satisfaction in achieving excellent results within the scope of their job description.

There is no guarantee, however, that when promoted to a leadership position, these same “high-performance” employees will do as well.  They may even do quite poorly. Following the Peter Principle, they could have been promoted to their level of incompetence. (1) They may not even be interested in a higher position in the hospitality business, and prefer to remain as a team member rather than a team leader.

Unfortunately, the tendency to focus exclusively on high performance doesn’t allow you to recognise and benefit from a high-potential employee. While the results and benefits derived from a high-performance employee are more immediate and felt in the present, the high-potential employee has an eye on the future. It’s more of a long-term view.

→ 🙂 Does your hospitality business have a system in place to fill key positions in the next 3-5 years? Check out this article on succession planning to create one for your business!


Traits and Characteristics of High-Potential Employees  

A person is considered a high potential (HiPos) if they can take on leadership roles in the future. High potential combines abilities, knowledge, and motivation. You might say that these employees are like making an investment that yields big gains in the future. There is a high likelihood that they will make substantial contributions to and will become key players in the business. You are also securing a bright future for them, so there is a mutual benefit.

People considered high potential employees share some common traits and characteristics. These are the three main attributes to look out for: 

1. They Achieve and Surpass Goals Credibly

High-potential talent not only meets the company's targets but surpasses them. They do this without alienating their colleagues, and can build a strong relationship by gaining trust. As a result, the high-potential talent will have people on their side once they reach the managerial position. This, in turn, will create a better working relationship among all the employees in the company.

2. They Have the Ability to Become an Expert in Many Things 

It is only natural that a high-potential employee will need to develop and gain new skills to succeed as they progress up the ranks. They take the responsibility and effort to master advanced technical skills, and soft skills such as communication, critical time management, problem solving, and delegating, among others.  These skills are mutually beneficial. 

3. They Know That Behaviour Is Key to Success 

High-potential talents recognise the need to portray exemplary behaviour to their coworkers.  They believe in setting the right example for the rest of the team. Also, high potentials can easily relate to and engage with the rest of the team, creating a relaxed atmosphere in the workplace. People will quickly open up to them when challenges arise in the business. As a result, issues can be solved quickly.


Tools To Determine the High-Potential Employees on Your Team 

When it comes to evaluating employees, companies usually depend on the opinion and observations of the employee’s direct manager. Employee performance reviews are also used as the basis for promotions. The caveat of these reviews, however, is that they don't consider the future capabilities of the employee. You’re better off applying an objective and scientific approach when determining high potential, so that you get a comprehensive view of their strengths and weaknesses. 

There are several tests, methods and companies that specialise in assessing potential.  In 2006 e.g., Ian McRae and Adrian Funham developed the High Potential Trait Indicator. “It was designed using an ‘optimality’ model, which assumes that certain personality traits can be considered ‘optimal’ according to the requirements of a job role.” Having too much or not enough traits, such as Conscientiousness, Adjustment, Curiosity, Risk Approach, Ambiguity, Acceptance, and Competitiveness may indicate and even affect an employee’s potential level of success.

Great People Inside is another company that offers assessments based on: reasoning, numerical and verbal abilities; personality traits; interests; values; as well as fits to specific positions. (2)

The Hogan’s High Potential Talent Report, on the other hand, is an assessment designed to identify and close the skills gap between what your company requires in a leader and what is in your talent pipeline. (3)

Regardless of the method you choose, you should have a standard of what a high potential could look like for your hospitality business before administering these assessments. The most important part is that the person can excel in a leadership role in the future.


Three Steps for Developing High Potentials 

1) Identify 

First and foremost, companies need to correctly identify their high-potential employees. Most high-potential programs fail because the wrong person was identified as a high potential. This may waste company resources, and could cause you to restart the entire process again. You can get the right picture by using unbiased methods like assessments. Once you have correctly identified HiPos, it’s important to let them know that you recognise their potential. Even if you have correctly identified and measured an employee’s high potential, the value is in further training and development.

2) Train 

The next step is coming up with a customised program. Look through the assessment report and review the candidates’ strengths and weaknesses. Enrol them in courses where their talents and skills can be further developed. Let them attend seminars so that whatever shortcomings they might have would be minimised. Give as much feedback as possible, so that the individual becomes aware of things that need to be improved on. Targeted training is key. Assign a mentor who can show them what they will be doing in the future. This will boost their confidence and reassure them that you recognise their potential as a huge asset in the future.

3) Engage and Retain   

It’s not a secret that changing attitudes and lifestyles post-pandemic lockdowns have affected employment opportunities. Just like your company, most hospitality employers are competing for the same potential employees who have become more conscious, and demand better working conditions and incentives other than higher pay. So, how can you keep talent engaged and retain them over a longer period? Start by examining what you have to offer them. Are you offering employees recognition, work-life balance, and great benefits? Is your workplace known for its good leadership practices and the excitement of different projects employees can get involved in?  Do people feel safe, understood and valued at work? Is your company an employer of choice? If you answered yes to all these questions, you’re on the right track. Make use of surveys to capture this data if you’re not sure of the answers, so you can tweak the process and keep your employees thriving. Engagement and retention go hand in hand. 

The Way Forward 

The acquisition of talented employees is as important as their engagement and retention.  We encourage you to keep recognising your high-potential employees, and enriching their work experience with the promise of a bright future. This will give your hospitality business a competitive edge, especially in times of a talent shortage. 

→🙂 Do you know how to make your managers effective leaders in your company? Discover how you can train them to be great leaders in the future.



(1) https://tinyurl.com/3tdy4xdm 


(3) https://tinyurl.com/2n7ctxcz