I was so inspired this summer as I read the biographies of all the McKnight’s Women of Distinction. Likewise, the incredibly talented Rising Star honorees sparked feelings of pride and optimism.

Think about it: All of these women began their career journey somewhere. Many started as direct care and service providers or frontline supervisors in a senior care community. Doesn’t that make you wonder about the rising stars in your organization?

With waning talent in the marketplace, diligent attention must be placed on retaining the great performers we already have and aggressively building their talents. As a learning and organization development professional, I’ve been involved in the design, development and implementation of many targeted programs to identify and nurture high-potential employees. Whether you call your stars “Up and Comers,” Future Leaders or MVPs, high-potential programs are aimed at creating a talent pipeline that gives you a competitive edge and secures the sustainability of your organization.

What distinguishes “high potential”?

High-potential employees not only consistently perform at high levels but also show potential to grow their capability to make greater contributions. This might mean expanding the scope of their job, assuming larger responsibilities or promoting them to higher-level leadership roles. 

Although you may have many solid performers, future leaders in-the-making stand out as having additional attributes that distinguish them as exemplars. “High potentials” tend to make up a small percentage of an organization’s workforce (the top 3% to 5%), but they can be found at all levels. Through the research of psychologist and expert in talent management, Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, three general markers or characteristics indicate high potential in employees:

1. Ability

The employee shows evidence of the cognitive abilities required to excel in a bigger, more complex job. For example, they are quick learners, are capable of big-picture thinking and/or are skilled at solving challenging problems. 

2. Social skills

In addition to intellectual power, they show strong interpersonal and emotional intelligence skills. They establish and maintain cooperative relationships and are able to influence others, even without formal authority. They show resilience under pressure and are able to effectively self-manage their response to challenging situations or adversity. 

3. Drive 

The employee has the ambition to work hard and do what it takes to get the job done. They are motivated to achieve. They show willingness to take on extra duties. These are the people who persevere in the face of challenges, go above and beyond, and are driven by a strong work ethic.

These markers serve as a framework for identifying your rising stars who have the potential to become skilled leaders within your organization. 

Unfortunately, many managers spend more time and energy managing mediocre or low-performers rather than investing in developing high-potential employees. And when you don’t support the growth and development of your rising stars, they will most likely take their talent elsewhere.

Who are YOUR rising stars?

The value of identifying and nurturing rising stars comes not only from their exponentially more significant contributions to your organization but also from the bar they set for others. It’s estimated that a high-potential employee boosts their team’s effectiveness by 5% to 15%. Now is the time to identify your rising stars — and leverage the talent of these high potentials to advance your organization’s purpose and priorities. 

Nancy Anderson, RN, MA, is the SVP of Engagement Solutions for Align. She provides strategic leadership and supports development of solutions to help providers build and sustain a culture of engagement.