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Leaders always keep a lookout for them, companies set aside resources to groom them and workers across ranks strive to be seen as part of the set of high-potential employees, or HiPos.

#ihrchat, the trending Twitter chat for leaders last week, focused on the issue of HiPos in a conversation with S.V. Nathan, talent director for the India region of the Deloitte US firms, and a host of other international leaders and HR experts.

The conversation began by noting the traits that set HiPos apart from others. While there is a certain subjectivity that creeps in, depending on the context of the firm, there are some universal characteristics for HiPos. Nathan (@Nathansv) noted that HiPos are resilient and goals-oriented, as well as passionate and collaborative in their approach. Meetu Khanduja (@hrdictionary), a human resource (HR) practitioner from Canada, said they are enthusiastic, eager to learn and grow. They know how to work across the organization and create strong and powerful networks.

The key differentiator seems to be growth orientation as well as a mindset of success. As Ankur Sethi (@ankursethi), founder of Noida-headquartered Corporate Shiksha, which offers learning programmes for students and young professionals, said, it is clear that these people like what they do; it shows.

A good way to identify HiPos is to mentor employees early. All individuals have potential, provided they are nurtured and guided with the right approach. Adopting a strengths-based perspective allows an organization to have a roomful of HiPos. So a lot depends on the approach used to identify a high-potential employee. As Nathan put it, to find a high-potential employee, look for a hungry performer. Many organizations use their own competency framework and assessment centres to identify high-potential employees. However, Jaya Narayan (@nohrgyan), a Bangalore-based HR expert and coach, said there is a need to be careful as assessment sometimes gets potential and performance mixed up. Indeed, some participants highlighted that high potential without high performance means nothing, and one has to be cautious and keep the distinction in mind. US-based Melissa Karaviotou (@MJK60631), who is involved with leadership development and learning at Kraft Foods, also cautioned about the need to manage those who feel left out when excessive attention is given to HiPos.

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A great deal of discussion ensued on how one can become a high-potential employee.At the end of the day, the ownership of one’s career is with each individual performer. Education strategist and coach Meeta Sengupta (@Meetasengupta) was of the view that employees need to set goals, align their tools, deploy resources and be willing to go the extra mile to get noticed. Nathan’s advice was to think ahead, think deep, and think win-win for all.

He noted that to be a HiPo, one must desire, think and act like one. Gurprriet Siingh (@JoyAndLife), India head of consulting firm YSC Ltd and a leadership coach, advised aspirants to focus on execution, put the interests of the organization ahead of their own, see the bigger picture and delay gratification.

One thing is quite certain: Organizations may enable potential but the ownership of it lies with the individual themselves.

Tanvi Gautam is the founder of Global People Tree, a consulting and training firm. #ihrchat is Asia’s first trending Twitter chat for leaders. The next chat will be on 26 November.

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