High-Performance vs. High Potential Candidates: How to Find the Balance

Thad Price, CEO at Austin-based talent attraction platform, Talroo writes on how business leaders can transform high potential employees into high-performers.

High-Performance vs. High Potential Candidates: How to Find the Balance

There’s a lot of talk about high-performance candidates, or those who have a proven track record of brilliance across roles or companies. We also hear about high potential candidates, who have the capacity to do great things, but perhaps don’t hold as strong a record just yet. My favorite candidates are hungry, humble, and smart, which can mean either a high performer with a good amount of humility and accountability or a high-potential candidate with a drive to excel. 

While all business leaders must find ways to attract great talent, ensure that candidates want the jobs they're offering, and eventually make the best out of whichever candidate accepts the role, I have generally found the greatest success in striking a balance between these two groups of applicants by focusing on the high potential group. If you hire and truly invest in them, you can transform these candidates into high-performance ones.  

Your focus as a leader should be to turn all employees into high performers, all working toward the mission that your organization is headed for. I choose to do this through mentorship, appreciation efforts, and a value-based company culture. 

Mentorship is crucial for any company to run successfully, especially when it comes to investing in your employees and turning them from high potential to high-performance candidates. When mentoring a high-potential candidate, you can recognize quickly if you can unlock long-term value for your company. While unlocking the candidate’s value, investing in them, and mentoring them with walkthroughs, check-ins, coffee chats, and more, unrivaled loyalty may develop, helping the candidate transform from high potential to high-performance. This talent that you’ve mentored along the way will become your secret weapon down the road.

One hugely important piece of a company’s culture, especially right now as we’re experiencing one of the most competitive labor markets in history, is employee appreciation. To attract either high-performance or high potential candidates in the current climate, you’re going to have to improve your salary, benefits, or perk offerings. Employee appreciation as a whole is an effort to make employees feel that they really are a part of the company and more than just a worker. Moving beyond traditional (or maybe some untraditional) benefits and appreciation efforts, you should go above and beyond to praise members of your team. If your team is having regular 1x1s with high performers, they already know they are crushing expectations, but getting to know them and their needs better will be an even stronger way to nurture them. The same goes for high-potential candidates: how are you validating them, giving feedback or steps for improvement, and allowing them opportunities to step out of their comfort zone and excel?  

Finally, most things start with your organizational culture. Team members use your corporate values as the blueprint for decision-making. Therefore, you should have strong cultural values and try to ensure that all of your hires truly align with them. To do so, first, gather your leaders and hold a workshop to understand the meaning of “high performance” for your organization. Do your corporate values reflect this in some way? If not, how can you more accurately align? When you set your corporate goals, you can start to define “high performance” for each department and use this to guide department goals to reach your corporate goals. With stellar values in place, high-potential candidates will want to jump on a ship going great places, and high-performance candidates will want to be part of a culture that is as passionate, goal-oriented, and talented as they are.

As mentors, leaders, and hiring managers, we are in a life-changing business. Change an employee’s life, and loyalty will follow. Show me a high-potential candidate and I will show them a path to success. The choice is theirs. When an employee is unable to convert from high potential to high performance, you must make the call to keep your company’s standard high. Otherwise, you risk sending a misaligned message and losing some of your high performers.   

About the Author

Thad Price is CEO at Austin-based Talroo, the award-winning talent attraction platform, where he provides leadership, strategy, and guidance to all departments. With more than 17 years of experience in online recruitment and the job search vertical, Thad is a recognized thought leader in the HR & Talent Acquisition space.

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