How to identify and assess a high-potential (HiPo) employee

Written by Raji Oluwaniyi
Identify assess high-potential hipo employee
ShareShare on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

High-potential employees, also known as HiPos, are individuals within an organization who possess the skills, knowledge, and motivation to take on leadership roles and drive the company’s success in the future.

Identifying and investing in them can contribute to long-term growth and stability. These employees require specific development opportunities and support to reach their full potential, but the payoff for your business is well worth the effort.

In this article, we’ll describe HiPo employees and their qualities, explain the process you can follow to identify and assess them, list the benefits of identifying HiPos, and discuss best practices for setting up an effective HiPo employee program.

We’ll also tell you about high-potential employee assessment tests like our Leadership & People Management test, which can help you identify HiPos who suit your company’s needs.

What is a high-potential employee?

HiPo employees have abilities that enable them to succeed in critical, high-level roles. By nurturing these employees and giving them challenging tasks, you can position them to become effective leaders in your organization.

They possess unique skills and characteristics that distinguish them from their peers and make them especially valuable assets.

Identifying a HiPo employee can be difficult. However, you can discover them by looking for the characteristics below:

  • Strong performance: HiPos constantly deliver outstanding results and exceed expectations in their roles. They have a track record of success and often handle challenging projects and assignments without close supervision.

  • Leadership potential: A HiPo employee can lead and inspire others. They may be naturally inclined to take on leadership roles or show their leadership potential through their communication and cognitive skills.

  • Adaptability: HiPo workers can adapt to change and thrive in ambiguous and uncertain situations. They are open to new ideas and can solve problems creatively without constant reminders.

  • Continuous learning: A HiPo employee has a strong desire to learn and grow. They constantly seek out new opportunities to develop their skills and knowledge. They’re also open to constructive criticism.

  • Passion and drive: HiPos are highly motivated and engaged. They have a strong passion for their role and a drive to succeed.

How to identify a HiPo employee

identify a hipo employee

Identifying HiPo employees within your organization is a walk in the park when you use the following five methods:

1. Frequent performance evaluations

Evaluating employees’ performance can provide insights into their capabilities and potential for advancement. You can use performance evaluations to identify employees who consistently exceed expectations and show the characteristics of a HiPo.

You should conduct these reviews frequently and informally instead of just performing a standard annual evaluation. A survey conducted by SHRM found that successful companies open lines of communication and provide regular feedback and coaching to workers. 

This means that a review program consisting of more frequent and spontaneous evaluations can make all the difference.

2. 360-degree feedback

Another useful method is 360-degree feedback, which involves evaluating an employee’s performance and potential by gathering feedback from supervisors, peers, subordinates, and even external sources such as customers.

This approach provides a comprehensive view of the employee’s strengths, weaknesses, and growth potential. In addition, 360-degree feedback enables your organization to gather insights into employees’ ability to lead, think strategically, and work with others.

3. Assessment centers

Assessment centers are a formal method of evaluating employees’ potential for advancement. Employees must complete exercises and assessments that simulate real-life work scenarios and test their skills, abilities, and characteristics.

4. Succession planning

Succession planning involves identifying and developing employees who are capable of filling key roles within the business. By discovering HiPo employees early on, you can begin developing and preparing them for leadership roles.

5. Talent management

Talent management is the process of attracting, developing, and retaining top talent. By implementing a talent management strategy, you can identify and nurture HiPos to ensure they are ready for leadership roles in the future.

Benefits of identifying HiPo employees

Whether you identify HiPos during or after recruitment, they can help you achieve your business goals.

The benefits of identifying and developing HiPo employees within your company include the following:

  • Succession planning: Discovering HiPo employees enables your organization to keep a pipeline of talented leaders to handle key roles and cultivate the company’s legacy. This is crucial given that poor leadership transitions are estimated to cost almost $1tn a year among the S&P 1500 alone.

  • Improved performance: HiPos are often high performers and can use their qualities to drive business success, deliver outstanding results, and exceed expectations.

  • Engagement and retention: HiPo employees have high motivation and satisfaction with their work. Identifying and creating a development program for your HiPo will help ensure you have a highly engaged employee who stays with your company.

  • Improved competitiveness: HiPo employees strengthen your talent pipeline, giving your organization a competitive edge in the market.

  • Cost savings: Developing a HiPo employee from within your company can be more cost-effective than recruiting from outside.

How to assess high-potential employees

assess high-potential hipo employees

Rather than relying mainly on subjective criteria to evaluate employees’ potential, you should explore several analytical strategies. This will help you find out if employees have high leadership, management, and initiative potential.

One of the best methods for assessing HiPos is using skills assessments. These tests evaluate an employee’s abilities and skills to determine whether they have exceptional potential.

You can use our Leadership & People Management test to assess whether applicants can manage tasks and team members. Our Communication test evaluates their verbal and written communication abilities, and the Critical Thinking test assesses how well they can use their reasoning skills to solve complex problems.

You can also use a high-potential trait indicator or psychometric tests to measure employees’ personalities, soft skills, and behaviors.

4 best practices to set up an effective HiPo employee program

Practices effective hipo employee program

If you want to make the most of your HiPo program, you must do so in a way that doesn’t neglect other employees but rather motivates them to qualify for the program.

Below are four best practices to follow when developing an HiPo employee program:

1. Clearly define program goals and expectations

It’s essential to establish clear and specific goals for the HiPo employee program and communicate them clearly to all participants. This helps ensure that everyone is on the same page and working toward the same objectives.

2. Provide targeted development opportunities

HiPos require tailored development opportunities that align with their specific skills, interests, and career aspirations. These can include mentoring, coaching, and specific training programs designed to help them reach their full potential.

3. Encourage networking and diversity

You can improve your program by providing opportunities for HiPo employees to network and collaborate with their peers and leaders, such as cross-functional team projects, networking events, and leadership development programs.

It’s also a good practice to recruit skilled candidates from diverse cultures and backgrounds to share their experiences with each other. Statistics show that 95% of professionals agree that face-to-face connections are key for successful long-term business relationships.

4. Measure and track progress

Establishing a system for measuring and tracking HiPo employees’ progress is crucial. This can include regular performance evaluations, feedback, and assessments, which can help you identify areas of improvement and celebrate successes.

Discover HiPo candidates with TestGorilla

Although the HiPo concept is popular for identifying exceptional employees, you can also use it during recruitment. Using pre-employment tests in your hiring process is the ideal way to find HiPo applicants to invite to an interview.

A credible prescreening test platform like TestGorilla enables you to identify and hire HiPo employees from the outset, ensuring you build a formidable workforce that will boost your company’s success.

We have several skills tests that will help you identify HiPo qualities, such as leadership, personality, organizational, and cognitive abilities. Take a look through our test library to find the right tests for your open role. You can also get started for free right away.

Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare

Hire the best candidates with TestGorilla.

Create pre-employment assessments in minutes to screen candidates, save time, and hire the best talent.

The best advice in pre-employment testing, in your inbox.

No spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

TestGorilla Logo

Hire the best. No bias. No stress.

Our screening tests identify the best candidates and make your hiring decisions faster, easier, and bias-free.

Free resources

Anti-cheating checklist

This checklist covers key features you should look for when choosing a skills testing platform


Onboarding checklist

This resource will help you develop an onboarding checklist for new hires.


How to find candidates with strong attention to detail

How to assess your candidates' attention to detail.


How to get HR certified

Learn how to get human resources certified through HRCI or SHRM.


Improve quality of hire

Learn how you can improve the level of talent at your company.


Case study: How CapitalT reduces hiring bias

Learn how CapitalT reduced hiring bias with online skills assessments.

Case study

Resume screening guide

Learn how to make the resume process more efficient and more effective.


Important recruitment metrics

Improve your hiring strategy with these 7 critical recruitment metrics.


Case study: How Sukhi reduces shortlisting time

Learn how Sukhi decreased time spent reviewing resumes by 83%!

Case study

12 pre-employment testing hacks

Hire more efficiently with these hacks that 99% of recruiters aren't using.


The benefits of diversity

Make a business case for diversity and inclusion initiatives with this data.