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The Curse of the High Performer

June 2, 2014
“Devika worked hard every year. Received a meets expectation rating twice and an exceeds expectation once. Won an award twice for demonstrating efficiency. But there’s something missing. She looks around and realizes that there are some who are valued more than her. She sees them get the pick of jobs, assignments and other developmental inputs. She sees them being mentored, coached and sponsored. She sees them receive all this attention and she begins to wonder what this means for her.
She wonders why it’s not her. She wonders if someone will talk to her and she wishes someone would explain to her exactly what it would take for her to be a member of “that Club”. But no one does. She decides to strive harder, puts her head down against the wind and moves forward with a stronger resolve, committed to making it the next year. And when she doesn’t she is none the wiser.”
Organizations the world over have woken up to the importance of talent. Companies big or small, old or new are putting processes in place to identify, engage and develop talented employees. However, the definition of talent now needs to be reconsidered.
Organizations largely define talent, as individuals who have future leadership potential. This is appropriate. But it creates a conundrum viz. What do we do with the High Performer? That steady, dependable individual who meets expectations year on year and consistently delivers results.
If we were to look at percentages most organizations would rank order individuals into 20%, 50%, 15% and bottom 15%.
Which means that 50% of the population are High Performers. And all of them experience an attention deficit similar to Devika. What is the potential impact of such a selection bias?
  • Disengagement? Certainly.
  • Attrition? Quite often.
  • Loss of organizational productivity? What do you think?
This means that attrition & disengagement are going to impact the largest and most important demographic of your organization, but there is no strategy to address this issue. 
I believe it is time organizations and the Leadership community put on their thinking hats and find solutions for HOW to address the development needs of these Steady-Eddies.
Some suggestions are:
1. Clearly differentiate between HiPos and High Performers in a manner that the individuals know what is being measured
2. Give a chance to the High Performers to attempt to develop their skills and move into the HiPo pool
3. Have developmental and career conversations with High Performers so they can see that they are valued and have a future in the organization. Also that the organization has a plan for them.
4. While HiPos would experience significant vertical growth, High Performers would benefit from broad-basing their skills and finding enrichment in widening their job skils.
It is time the High Performers are respected and actively engaged by the organization. The organizations that achieve this, will have a competitive advantage over the others.
What are some things your organization is doing in this space? What are some suggestions you have around how this can be addressed?
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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 3, 2014 11:39 am

    very interesting piece of writing, I had written something on similar tone here

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