Retaining & Gaining an Edge with HIPOs — 4 Tested & Proven Strategies

Improving a company’s leadership bench is a top priority for 62% of HR leaders, according to a recent Gartner study. However, a whopping 87% of companies aren’t confident that they have a strong bench for the future. This is alarming, considering that fast and strong leadership is necessary for companies to remain competitive. 

Consequently, many CHROs are tempted to source new employees for leadership positions from the outside. They usually target outstanding professionals, but outsiders need time to familiarize themselves with the organization before they can start working their magic. 

Oftentimes, many CHROs don’t consider using their own HIPOs to strengthen their succession pipeline. These HIPOs end up leaving for other organizations, taking valuable talent and productivity with them. The traditional approach to retaining these crucial employees no longer works. Fortunately, the four solutions discussed below work impressively well. 

HIPO Retention Strategies

Organizations with strong succession pipelines grow their revenues and profits twice as fast as organizations with weak pipelines. HIPOs can strengthen an organization’s succession pipeline, which is why CHROs should retain more of these employees. However, many HIPOs are highly likely to be looking for a job elsewhere, and the traditional retention practices don’t work well enough. 

An organization has a better chance of retaining and gaining edge with HIPOs through the following practices: 

Don’t Prioritize External Hires & Forget HIPOs 

Many CHROs rush to hire external superstars when they need to fill positions, as explained. What’s more, some CHROs don’t think to consider HIPOs who may be suited for the role. This gives HIPOs the impression that they are not valued, leaving them feeling disenfranchised. 

HIPOs are diligent and dedicated, as explained. They are also ambitious – two of the five job attributes that appeal to HIPOs are the future career opportunities offered by the organization and the compensation package’s competitiveness. They will not get either unless they climb up the ladder when they deserve to. 

Consequently, 47% of HIPOs feel that internal applicants stand a lesser chance of filling the posted vacancy than external applicants. This is enough motivation to make them apply for better positions with other organizations. 

CHROs can make HIPOs feel included by discussing their career prospects and noting which positions they are interested in. More importantly, CHROs should include HIPOs in the recruitment process. It also helps explain to HIPOs why someone else got the job, but they didn’t – and reassure them of positive future prospects. 


Be Genuinely Sensitive to Their Personal Circumstances 

HIPOs give their best to their roles and responsibilities in the company. They feel (and are) entitled to a little flexibility. Consequently, they expect the company to accommodate their needs and preferences after a life-changing experience. This can be anything from becoming pregnant to falling sick. 

The extent to which a company allows an employee to balance their private and professional lives is one of the five job attributes that attract HIPOs. Consequently, HIPOs who feel that their companies are inflexible are 1.5 times more likely than non-HIPOs to be looking for a job elsewhere. 

Companies can be more flexible to their HIPOs’ needs by conducting periodic stay interviews to learn more about their situations. Stay interviews are meant to give the CHRO an insight into any problems bothering the employee. Consequently, the company can solve these problems before the HIPO gets a better offer with another organization. The show of concern will also help in gaining edge with HIPOs. 


Don’t Overload Them with Collaboration Projects 

HIPOs engage in as many projects as they can, as mentioned. However, everyone needs their space. But many HIPOs report that they have been dealing with 51% more people in their day-to-day work than a 31% increase reported by non-HIPOs. 

Senior leaders pick HIPOs to lead important projects because they trust them to get the job done. However, most leaders don’t consider whether these responsibilities are overwhelming. They often are, as many HIPOs can be tasked with multiple projects simultaneously. Many HIPOs can only take so much, and 45% of those who feel overwhelmed are more likely to look for a less taxing job elsewhere. 

As such, it is advisable to consider how much a high-potential employee has on their plate before assigning them more projects. It is also advisable to coach these employees to balance their work and learn when to reject assignments. This can reduce their likelihood to leave by up to 15%. 


Call Out Toxic Work Culture

The issue of equality is dominating headlines today as more people stand up to discrimination and harassment. HIPOs are well aware of this, as they are observant and tend to keep up with current discussions. 

Many companies have been accused of facilitating or turning a blind eye to gender, ethnic, and racial discrimination. This disgruntles all employees, especially HIPOs, who find the issue sensitive. To this end, as many as 61% of HIPOs who witness or experience harassment at the workplace are more likely to seek employment elsewhere. 

Companies that facilitate, or at the very least, ignore harassment are facing calls for boycotts and experiencing negative press worldwide. As such, it is important to promote equity and respect for everyone at the workplace. Eliminate discriminatory practices and make it clear that harassment will not be tolerated. This will appeal to everyone (including HIPOs) as it will make them feel safe and respected. 

Leaders are Made

Leaders are made, and HIPOs are well on their way to becoming excellent leaders. They can get there quicker with some coaching. But coaching isn’t only for them. In fact, through coaching, even your current leaders can learn how to better handle HIPOs to maximize talent retention, and ultimately, positively impact your bottom line.

Sounding Board is on a mission to make and perfect leaders. We offer virtual and scalable enterprise solutions to meet all of your needs. Get in touch to learn more about how we can help. 

Subscribe to Our

Stay up to date with new releases, features, how-tos, leadership tips, and more. (Don’t worry, we won’t flood your inbox or share your address.)

We Develop The World's Most Impactful Leaders

Sounding Board offers virtual and scalable enterprise learning solutions that are flexible enough to adapt to rapidly changing work environments. Powered by behavioral science and core leadership capabilities, our proven coaching methodology drives measurable business impact.

Niall MacGearailt

SVP of Finance
Niall MacGearailt leads Sounding Board’s finance division as the SVP of Finance and Operations. Niall earned a solid track record of improving P&L and operational expense management for leading companies such as Whirlpool, Logitech, Avaya and most recently Soraa, where he prepared the business for acquisition by leading hi-tech lighting company, Ecosense. In his role, he is responsible for building and leading the finance & relevant operations functions for the company.

Ron Buell

VP of Engineering
Ron Buell is the VP of Engineering at Sounding Board and an accomplished software professional with extensive experience in leadership, software engineering, project management, and product management. Ron has led the development of highly scalable systems and applications across a variety of technologies for companies including OpenFeint (acquired by GREE), Rdio (acquired by Pandora), Lyris Technologies, and Lotus/IBM Software Group. In his role at Sounding Board, Buell is responsible for all engineering efforts in developing, deploying, and maintaining the enterprise software platform and team for the company.

Tommy Perkins


Tommy is at his best helping clients think through complex challenges in order to create a positive impact on their organizations. He thrives when interacting with others whether helping his team succeed or working with clients to build long-term partnerships. He has extensive experience consulting with organizations on driving their employee experience, guiding organizations through change, and working to ensure organizations are moving the needle when it comes to their results.

Most recently, Tommy was a Client Services Leader overseeing some of GP’s most prized accounts on a global level. His responsibilities included overall client growth strategy, retention, and satisfaction. He represented all of GP Strategies’ major business lines including leadership, coaching, and engagement, digital transformation, outsourced services, and technology implementation solutions.

Before GP Strategies, Tommy spent several years with TTEC Digital (formerly rogenSI) where he led the sales team,  eventually becoming the regional Learning & Performance practice leader for North America. While managing the P&L and sales team he also led the largest global relationship for the firm (Deloitte Globally). During his time at TTEC, he focused on delivering blended learning solutions that incorporate technology and hands-on training. Before TTEC Digital, he spent several years dedicated to strength-based leadership disrupting the business landscape regarding performance management and employee engagement with thought leader Marcus Buckingham at The Marcus Buckingham Company / TMBC (now ADP).

Tommy has had the privilege of working with some of the most well-known global brands in professional services, retail, technology, and healthcare including Deloitte, Facebook, Microsoft, Bank of America, Novartis, Gap Inc., lululemon, and Intel. Several projects he led for Deloitte were Global GNPS, New Partner Pivot, NextGen Partner Program Deloitte China, Present to Win, the RPM project on performance management, and Unconscious Bias.

Tommy holds a BS in Health Sciences from Texas A&M University, and an MBA from Universidad del CEMA.

Drive hiring, retention, engagement, and DEI initiatives with Sounding Board’s leadership coaching solution

Sounding Board is the first leadership development platform that combines technology to scale with world-class coaches – empowering companies to solve urgent people-problems and gain a long-term talent advantage.

Join our coaching team

Our expert coaches combine top notch coaching, business acumen and organizational savvy to truly become your leadership “Sounding Board”. Sounding Board coaches are all industry certified and strongly vetted going through a 3 step qualification process and receiving ongoing supervision and development.

Lori Mazan

Co-Founder & CCO Sounding Board, Inc.
Lori Mazan is the Co-Founder and Chief Coaching Officer of Sounding Board, the preeminent global leadership development enterprise platform changing the face of leadership development through innovative technology for leaders at all levels of an organization. Lori is a seasoned executive coach who has guided hundreds of corporate executives through 1:1 coaching focused on business outcomes and developing critical leadership skills. Client companies advanced by Lori’s expertise include Fortune titans such as Chevron and Sprint as well as high growth and public companies like Intellikine, and Tapjoy, plus 10XGenomics, which became a public company in 2019 while top executives worked with Lori and the Sounding Board team.
Lori has spent the last 25 years coaching C-Suite executives to leadership excellence. Many of those public and private company CEO’s expressed that they would have liked this caliber of coaching earlier in their careers. Inspired by these experiences, Lori joined with Christine to launch Sounding Board as a feedback-driven, cloud-based leadership coaching platform that could maintain best-in-class leadership coaching while lowering costs to make it affordable and scalable for leaders at every level of their careers.
Before founding Sounding Board, Lori received her Masters’ in Adult Educational Psychology/Counseling from the University of San Francisco and a Bachelors’ in Psychology from the University of Virginia. Lori is an educator and has spent over 10 years as a professor of social psychology and group dynamics while acting as the interim Dean of Students at Holy Names University, She is certified by the industry’s gold standard, the Coaches Training Institute, and is a founding member of the Genentech Preferred Network of Coaches. Sounding Board is one of <3% of sole female founded startups receiving venture funding. In 2019 Sounding Board was selected as 1 of 7 startups (out of 100+ applicants) as part of SAP’s HR tech cohort, a group that represents the rising stars of the next-gen HR ecosystem.

Christine Tao

Co-Founder & CEO Sounding Board, Inc.
Christine Tao is the co-founder & CEO at Sounding Board, a Silicon Valley startup redefining how organizations are developing their leaders. Her extraordinarily rapid career growth to executive management in the media, mobile and tech sectors of Silicon Valley became her inspiration for founding Sounding Board. As she began to manage larger teams and be responsible for growing revenues, it became clear that she needed a “sounding board” to coach her on the development of her leadership skills. That’s where her Sounding Board co-founder, Lori Mazan came on the scene. A seasoned executive coach focused on leadership development, Lori coached Christine on real-world leadership skills that had a direct impact on business outcomes. Based on her positive and impactful experience with leadership development, Christine was driven to make leadership development coaching accessible to people at all levels of the organization.
Christine advises several startups, is a budding angel investor and is also a Tory Burch Foundation Fellow, a foundation dedicated to investing in the success and sustainability of women entrepreneurs.
Prior to co-founding Sounding Board, Christine was a Senior Vice President of Developer Relations at Tapjoy, a venture-backed, leading mobile advertising & publishing network. She led the growth of Tapjoy’s publisher advertising business from 0 to over $100 million in revenues in less than 3 years. Prior to that she led e-commerce partnerships and strategy at YouTube. Christine holds an MBA in Marketing & Operations from Wharton and a BA in Business Administration from UC Berkeley.