Empowering Top Talent – ‘Hi-Po’ Culture

Empowering Top Talent – ‘Hi-Po’ Culture

In a post-pandemic world where work, workplace, and workforce have undergone a fundamental reset, human resources leaders are taking charge of inventing a new vision for the future of work. In the All Things Talent webinar series, we collaborate with the most influential minds in Human Resources where they share powerful, thought-provoking insights and lessons learned with our listeners on workforce transformation, employee empowerment, future of work, learning, technology, and much more post-COVID-19.

The aim of these webinars is to bring together the HR fraternity, promote an environment of mutual growth, and inspire HR professionals to discuss, share ideas and develop as leaders by learning from the experiences of industry stalwarts. These talks take place once a month and are available virtually to enable people to participate and interact with our panelists.

In the third episode of the ATT webinar titled, ‘Empowering Top Talent – Hi-Po Culture’, we had the pleasure of collaborating with two extremely experienced and dynamic senior leaders –

Pradnya Kulkarni, Regional Head, Talent & Learning at Western Union
Ekta Singh, CHRO at AGS Health

In a conversation with Prashant Sharma, Manager – Marketing at Info Edge India Ltd, our esteemed panelists explore everything from cultivating a high-performance culture to retaining hi-pos and share insights that can help you empower and develop your top talent.

1. What has been one personal positive and one professional positive for you in these last 18 months of the pandemic?

Ekta Singh: On the professional front, I had ample time since I couldn’t travel due to the pandemic and had to stay at home. Earlier, I used to travel for three weeks a month. So I used that free time to do a lot of reading that I used to miss out on. I also binge-watched a lot of documentaries and tv series. Personal positive for me has been getting to spend time with my family and discovering that I am a good mother.

Pradnya Kulkarni: On the personal front, I spent time on mundane things like learning a new language (German) and doing terrace gardening where I have managed to freshly produce all kinds of vegetables and fruits. I also managed to attract some beautiful exotic birds to my balcony. Professionally, I have mastered the art to say ‘no’ without being apologetic. I have learnt to politely refuse late night/ early morning calls, and I feel comfortable doing that which I wasn’t before.

2. How to identify current and future employees in a judicious manner?

Pradnya Kulkarni: The key aspect is to ensure you are able to differentiate performance (behaviour demonstrated while completing various tasks) from potential (capabilities and aspirations of an individual). In many cases, managers confuse performance with potential and mix up the two. Needless to say, potential can’t be a substitute for performance. Only when the two of them gel together well, we have something to build on.

Having said that, the important thing is to spot the difference between these two and that is why having a Talent Management function is important. Most of the time, a potential employee is hiding in plain sight—someone who can read between the lines, who’s not afraid to stick his neck out and take risks, and someone who demonstrates strong execution skills. This is the hallmark of a high potential employee. I would advise managers that when you are assessing and hiring talent, think more enterprise-wide and the potential for that talent to move around.

Also, the talent’s values should align with the organization’s strategic vision. That would then make sense for the organization as a whole to invest in that talent. And finally, when hiring, organisations need to be aware of biases.

Ekta Singh: For me, a high potential employee is someone who steps up to the plate without being asked. Someone who has the drive to learn, wants to do more, wants to do something out of the box but won’t compromise on their own job.


3. How should we communicate to HiPo’s that they are the chosen ones? 

Ekta Singh: I believe we need to maintain complete transparency whenever we have this conversation with the employee. I always let the individuals know that they are high potential, give the reasons why I believe so, and most importantly, advise on how to continue and sustain being a high potential. Here, transparency in communication is crucial.

4. While empowering top talent and promoting hi-po culture, is there a need for internal mobility, is vertical progression a must?

Pradnya Kulkarni: Most people look at development as only ‘vertical development’. The importance of retaining hi-pos can’t be overstated—they are more likely to leave and look for other jobs. With the competition for top talent intensifying, talent assessment is crucial but talent engagement has become more crucial than ever. One of the ways you can engage the talent is through ‘Job Rotation’.

I personally used to change roles every eighteen months. Another way you can engage employees is by ‘changing the scope of the role’. This will give hi-pos new challenges, new stakeholders to deal with, expand their horizon, and make them understand the organization better. Hence, vertical progression is not the only way to develop talent, internal mobility plays an incremental role in promoting hipo culture significantly

5. What would be non-monetary methods to retain hipos?

Pradnya Kulkarni: The monetary rewards matter to certain roles (from an early career perspective). Once you are at slightly senior roles the monetary aspect doesn’t motivate you as much, it is the other aspects you start looking for. For example, what kind of quality of work and challenges you are getting, the degree of respect, learning opportunities, etc. Enabling hi-pos to make independent decisions, allowing them to experiment and make mistakes, letting them have a seat at the table, will allow them to grow and help organizations to retain them.

Ekta Singh: In my opinion, there are three important non-monetary methods to retain hi-pos. Firstly, giving hi-pos cross-functional/ global projects to make work challenging and interesting. Secondly, ‘job shadowing programs’, where hi-pos are invited to strategic meetings to observe their superiors and other people. This will help in developing their skills and abilities, as well as their understanding of how the organization functions best. Thirdly, mentoring and coaching, which can help in fostering mutually beneficial relationships and increase retention.

6. Your favorite best practice for retaining top talent?

Pradnya Kulkarni: I am a strong proponent of investing in the immediate line manager.

Ekta Singh: For me, it is managing by being a coach.


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