Organisations are now operating in an age where company loyalty doesn’t mean what it used to. Australia’s stagnant wage growth and high costs of living have given millennial employees a reputation for frequently seeking greener pastures in the job space.  

Consequently, the capacity to retain your top talent has become a point of competitive advantage. The retention of your high potentials (HIPOs) – those employees that consistently and significantly outperform their peers - will ensure substantive growth for years to come, based on a competitive advantage.  Successful retention of talent also helps to ensure satisfaction amongst consumers, colleagues, and supervisors, and generates a culture of success.

For an employee to be truly considered a HIPO, they need to a proven performer with three distinguishing attributes:

  • The ambition and potential to rise to leadership roles
  • The ability to be more effective in more responsible and senior roles
  • The engagement to commit to remaining in challenging roles

Conversely, failing to retain these HIPOs can have dire implications, with recent findings suggesting that the average cost of replacing an employee through HR recruitment often exceeds 100% of the annual salary of the vacated position.  This is in addition to the ‘hidden’ costs associated with the loss of your top talent, such as other employees asking themselves ‘why’ high-performing individuals have opted to leave an organisation, and potentially following suit.  This in turn may result in a potential loss of productivity, general disengagement from the company, or even additional turnover.  Furthermore, it is often the case that the new, in-coming employee will be far less skilled than the HIPO worker that they are replacing, which has the potential to significantly impact on the company’s work chain.

Just as your highest performers continue to strive towards excellence, so to must HR managers and professionals when searching for new initiatives to further promote the long-term employment of their high potential employees.  Many practical organisations are striving to ensure retention of their top talent through the implementation of these Human Resource solutions.

1. Ongoing Training and Development

Employees want to have an idea as to how their career can develop/progress while at a company. This presents managers with numerous avenues to help retain their HIPOs. HIPO programs provide employees a myriad of ways to develop the core competencies required to ascend within an organisation.  

Training courses, coaching/mentoring, and online e-learning sessions make it clear to staff their futures are being invested in.  Task HIPOs with the most stimulating tasks that align with their passions and let them put their new skills to work.  This conveys a clear message to your high performers that they are the future of the company, and are able to move into more senior, leadership roles in the future.

2. Flexibility

With the rise of modern technology, gone are the typical 9 to 5 working days, which have instead been replaced by more fluid working practises, such as remote-working, online teams, and flexible work hours.  Such practises have now become so common that many employees have come to expect them as the norm, and may opt to leave a company which cannot make such accommodations.  

Employers should consider implementing more flexible working conditions wherever possible, to allow staff the chance to better balance their working and personal commitments.  Where this is simply not viable, the emphasis should instead be on educating employees as to why this is not an option, ensuring that they understand the reasons behind this, and thereby avoiding issues in the future.

3. Value Employees

Recognising the efforts of your HIPOs is a simple, yet effective means of showing your employees that you value and appreciate them.  When individuals feel as though their managers notice and value their contributions, this can serve to increase their overall motivation and loyalty to the company.  Organisational commitment and engagement are strong drivers that severely decrease the likelihood of turnover.  Wherever possible, managers should reward HIPOs for their hard work by promoting from within, as well as through letting staff know about upcoming roles for which they are ideally suited.  

4. Honest and Open Communication that Encourages Feedback

Barriers to effective communication and feedback between managers and employees are among the greatest contributors to individuals becoming frustrated in the workplace.  In order to retain top performers, managers should strive to do two things.  

Firstly, to provide constructive feedback to their employees (recent findings reported in the Harvard Business Review indicated that over 90% of survey respondents felt that performance feedback from managers was essential for improving performance).  

Secondly, they need to be willing to listen, really listen, to employee concerns.  Allowing time for consistent, face-to-face meetings with your staff, to promote the free exchange of feedback and ideas, can have a marked impact on talent retention.  This should therefore be considered with the utmost importance. 

5. Set Clear Expectations and Goals

Setting goals, and ensuring that your employees know what is expected of them, has been shown to promote greater staff retention.  Paint a picture for your top earners, one which shows what success in the company looks like.  Tailor goals specific to their level of skill and experience, so that they continually have realistic targets to strive towards. Ensure that your employees share your future vision for the company.

6. Link Work to Company Vision

Employees want to feel that what they do is making a difference, be that to the company itself, or to the industry as a whole.  In fact, recent findings suggest that over 40% of employees consider ‘meaningful work’ to be the primary motivator for them considering taking a job.  Your top talent need to know why they are doing the things they’re doing. By linking their roles and responsibilities with the overarching aims of the company, managers can set themselves apart from the competition, and promote greater company engagement amongst top operators.

These HR solutions are simple and easy to implement. Nonetheless they can play a pivotal role in retaining your top talent, ensuring the long-term profitability of your company.  After all, in the words of American business consultant Jim Collins, ‘great vision, without great people, is irrelevant’.

As noted above, a common psychological marker that can signify HIPO employees is Ambition. The use of a psychometric personality assessment can identify those within your organisation that have the drive to succeed.

The Business Personality Reflections® is a personality questionnaire that measures business-related competencies to assist in selection and personnel development decisions.  Developed by Psych Press, this assessment contains 70 personality scales that can be specifically tailored to any organisation’s needs.  Below is more information about the Ambition scale in the Business Personality Reflections®.


Ambition refers to an individual’s desire to achieve.  It is the willingness to obtain success in both workplace and personal settings.  Ambition itself embodies capitalistic and economic growth ideals: it is one of the foundations – and indeed a necessity – for economic prosperity.  Therefore, a business aspiring for growth needs employees aligned with similar motivation. 

A sample item for the Ambition scale that you may see in our questionnaires could be:

“I am constantly aware of the need to be better than my colleagues”.

Research has identified the importance of measuring employee ambition.  Firstly, Huang et al. (2014) conducted a meta-analysis which showed ambition – as an aspect of extraversion – to be predictive of adaptive workplace performance.  That is, ambitious individuals were more likely to easily adapt and thrive in changes within the workplace.  Similarly, Judge and Kammeyer-Mueller (2012) showed ambition to be positively associated with general mental ability (GMA).  GMA is in turn, predictive of job success (Hogan & Holland, 2003).

Oh, Kim and Van Iddenkinge (2015) found extraversion, a higher order factor of ambition, to be positively related to managerial job satisfaction and labour productivity.  They found extraversion to be indirectly related to firm financial performance – this effect was moderated (i.e. strengthened) - through labour productivity.  Most pertinently, however, Hogan and Holland (2003) found high levels of extraversion-ambition significantly predicted improved job performance.

Higher scorers on the Ambition scale are more likely to enjoy challenges and will pursue workplace goals shrewdly, particularly if such goals develop their career further.  
Conversely, low scorers likely value job security and reliability over career advancement and will complete allocated tasks satisfactorily.  However, they will not tend to exceed this standard, whereas high scorers will likely go beyond what is satisfactory. 
You might want to consider using the Ambition scale in your development and training processes if you need employees that: 

  • Are devoted to expanding the organisation
  • Uphold and enforce your company’s ideals
  • Have a willingness to go above and beyond the norm in order to achieve

Organisations consisting of ambitious employees will reap the benefits in workplace culture, employee job satisfaction and business growth.  If you were interested in learning more about the Ambition scale, or the Business Personality Reflections® Personality questionnaire, please simply enquire now for a free trial.