What is and how to detect HIPO in companies?

What is and how to detect HIPO in companies?

Monday, 1 october 2018 | Redacción CEU

Although for a Spanish speaker “hipo” might conjure up a completely different idea (hipo means hiccup in Spanish), this concept in the field of human resources does not allude to the impertinent and involuntary movement made by office workers' diaphragms. Despite this, the exceptional qualities that are potentially present in professionals who identify themselves with  the label HIPO can take one's breath away. Talent is a precious and coveted commodity for companies, and sometimes it appears to be concentrated in just one person. Who are the rough diamonds of companies? Where is HIPO and how can it be detected?


In a significant proportion, the success of a company depends on the talent which it has. Attracting and retaining talent is a core idea of the Human Resources universe. However, within this approach, it cannot be forgotten the importance of knowing how to detect the hidden talent in organizations. Every company has some secret rough diamonds. Not knowing how to find them and, above all, not trying to find them may potentially lead to a great loss of opportunities.

Where and how does HIPO hide?

HIPO is an acronym composed by the words "high" and "potential". It is a term that is used to designate those professionals who have a very high potential and who, ultimately, constitute the rough diamonds of the companies. Finding them, investing in them and helping them to develop their skills can mean "a before and after" for companies. Any organization would be pleased to have this kind of professionals in bad business moments or use their potential to boost the growth of firms at any moment. This, without a doubt, is a great point in their favor. However, and despite the fact that the incentive is great, most companies miss the opportunity to count on their support, since they do not make the necessary effort to find them.

Another frequent mistake in companies is confusing HIPO with HIPE. The latter as its name suggests refers to "high performance". On many occasions, those people who show exceptional qualities in their work are not willing to assume responsibility roles, do not have the necessary commitment or lack leadership skills. HIPE can also be professionals who do not accept criticism, are more focused on individual goals than global ones or are resolute people, but they do not see problems when they are coming.

When HIPO is mistakenly identified and is actually HIPE, the result is not the expected one. Only some of the high-performance professionals will show the ambition, commitment and competencies that are necessary to fulfill an important role within the company. Just those talented workers that fit into this profile will be the true high potential professionals.

Guidelines for finding and polishing a rough diamond

When a company finds professionals with high potential, it is visualizing what they may become and, therefore, its mission will be to help them achieve it. But, first of all, companies must be able to develop a strategy that contributes to identifying these "potential" candidates. Bellow, we offer a small guide for the effective search, identification and polishing of the so-called rough diamonds:

  • SEARCH: Practice of active listening and development of observation skills

Many times, this potential talent goes unnoticed by the company. Other times, although it is detected, it is wasted. When a company is fully aware of the importance of talent within their organization, it has the obligation, at least a moral one, to work in such a way that will eventually manage to find it. For example, within the scope of Human Resources, numerous formulas exist to bring employees closer and get to know them more: performance evaluations, job interviews, motivational activities, etc. The better the organizations get to know their employees, the more likely they will be to find the so-called high potential workers.


What is and how to detect HIPO in companies?
  • IDENTIFICATION: Recognition of work and visibility of good performance

Workers who fit into this profile need to get good feedback from the company, because if their talent is squandered among the crowd, as time goes by, their willingness to work in the company will also disappear. These professionals need to be aware that their work and their skills are taken into account. There are many alternatives that companies can choose to make their talent visible: from praising the good performance of a task to offering some type of incentives.

  • POLISH: Help to boost the professional career

What better incentive than to help promote this talent! After identifying and recognizing these professionals with great potential, organizations must be able to support them as much as possible, so they can reach their full development. It is not a matter of facilitating their promotion overnight, that can even be counterproductive (it could arouse suspicion among the rest of the team or could not be the right moment at the organizational level). It is about companies being able to invest in the talent when they recognize it: putting them in charge of special projects, offering training to them, assigning a mentor to them,... And when the time comes, offering them a position according to their potential.

  • POLISHING TECHNIQUE: Overcoming fear of failure

In order to reach its full potential, HIPO professionals have to be able to face new challenges. The culture of punishment never works as an incentive for talent. Workers need to evolve taking risks like innovating, betting on new alternatives, developing their creativity and work skills and, for this, it is necessary to have an environment where it is also possible to learn from failure.

The CEU IAM Business School teaches a Master's Degree in Human Resources, the Management of Talent and Leadership which offers a blended-learning methodology that is firmly committed to leadership, innovation, people management, networking and, of course, talent . Find in CEU IAM the ally in the development of your own professional potential and, thanks to this training, turn into one of the professionals who will be capable of finding “the needle in the haystack”.