Guide to High Potential Mentoring Programs

Jenn Labin
High Potential Mentoring Programs

Are Your High Potential Leaders Ready To Step Up? Mentoring Can Help!

These days, organizations face some major challenges when it comes to making sure they have the right people in leadership positions. This is of major importance because organizations are increasing their global footprint and experiencing structural and technological changes at breakneck speed. As current senior leaders leave the workplace to retire, smart organizations are already identifying potential leaders and they are using high potential mentoring programs to get them ready to step up!

World Bank has estimated that global trade in goods and services will reach a massive $27 trillion by 2030. This type of business environment is characterized by volatility, complexity and uncertainty and there is a rapidly growing need for leveraging agile individuals in leadership positions to navigate teams through these continual changes. Identifying high potential employees, and then preparing them for these roles, can often be the difference between a company that remains competitive and one that fails.

Leadership Pools Are Drying Up

Another escalating challenge to rapid marketplace change is the shortage of qualified leaders to take on critical positions, as the current generation leaves the workplace.

According to Statista, by 2020 approximately 70% of the workplace will be occupied by Generation X (born between 1965 – 1979) and Millennial workers (born between 1980-1994), with only 6% of the Baby Boomers employees still working. This leaves a large gap between those who possess the leadership experience and institutional knowledge and those with primarily functional knowledge.

Set Up Your High Potential Mentoring Program to Help Solve These Issues

Companies recognize the urgency to identify high potential employees for a variety of reasons, including those listed above. However, most initiatives to identify these “Hi-Po” employees fail due to a lack of planning and not offering the correct type of challenges and opportunities for professional growth. One often-missed opportunity occurs when companies rely solely on Human Resource groups to identify high-potential employees. Instead, companies should cultivate a culture where potential is recognized within functional departments and have these “Hi-Po” individuals engage in impactful mentoring relationships earlier in their career.

Cross-functional programs or peer groups are especially effective at this stage, as this gives the participants an opportunity to gain an appreciation for the organizational strategic goals and to form meaningful connections with co-workers throughout the various departments. The most effective high-potential mentorship programs create an opportunity for identified participants to receive guidance, support, sponsorship and an opportunity to practice learned skills, which result in a more robust leadership talent pipeline and increased retention of key talent.

Which High Potential Development Strategies Are Working at Real Companies?

MentorcliQ customers, Fortune 14 Cardinal Health and global staffing firm Adecco, have created impactful high-potential mentorship programs with strong results. Both Cardinal Health and Adecco’s success is attributable to the efforts spread across the organization, rather than being solely the responsibilities of HR.


Cardinal Health has built a multi-layered leadership development program which enables skills development and connection at all levels of the organization, from emerging leaders through executive readiness populations. Cardinal Health’s ATD Excellence in Practice Award-Winning high-potential mentorship programs create self-sustaining groups and promote diversity & inclusion, as well as developing leadership competencies.

Planning tips:

  1. Have a team of leaders to help ensure program success; senior leaders as program sponsors,
    as well as individuals to fill program manager and coordinator roles.
  2. Have specific goals set for the program that will meet your business objective.
    All successful programs have measurable goals.
Adecco map for high potential mentoring programs

Adecco is executing high-potential mentoring on a global scale! Mentoring is actively happening in 65% of their operating countries. Their goal is to identify and develop high-potential everywhere. Raising visibility of up-and-coming leaders to executives across regions and business functions – this effort is shared across the company, again, not solely owned by HR.  Internal champions have taken on some of the effort so the program can continue to be successful. This creates internal excitement for the leadership talent emerging from their mentorship program:

“Not long after my mentoring relationship ended, I was promoted to the
Group Executive Team in Australia.”
-Adecco Participant Mentee

“Across different countries & different cultures we were able to share client contacts
over the borders and help the other one to make more business & revenue!”
-Adecco Participant Mentor

Take Action on High Potential Employee Development

Take a page from these two successful programs and look at how high potential mentoring efforts are being enacted currently in your organization. By taking a broader look at what it means to be “high potential”, you may find it easy to identify ways to incorporate that mindset throughout the company and find your talent pipeline becoming more robust by the year.

3 tips to elevate your HiPo program and improve employee engagement: 

  1. Incorporate meaningful, project-based challenges, in which individuals can apply their learning to solve a real-life issue for the organization
  2. Expose participants to senior leadership as well as subject matter experts in their respective fields with structured connection opportunities to build working relationships
  3. Expose participants to all functions of the organization to build a robust contextual vision of the company

Are You Ready?

Do you want to see how mentoring programs powered by mentoring software can impact and improve your high potential employees? Connect with MentorcliQ to learn more.

Read More Articles by Jenn Labin

Jenn Labin

An email you’ll actually love

Get into a relationship with our newsletter. Discover the best that mentoring has to offer.

Subscribe to the newsletter