The Motivations and Behaviors That Define High Potential Employees

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Feb 2, 2015

Being successful at work is mainly about two things: motivation and behavior.

Even the most promising, high potential employees may look like high-flyers, but their manager must be sure that they have the necessary drive to seek out and grasp the next career opportunity.

A CEB SHL Talent Measurement analysis shows that employees who exhibit six particular motivations and two important behaviors are 11 times more likely to achieve an executive position than those who do not.


The six motivations are:

  1. Immersion — Employees prefer roles that require a personal commitment above the norm.
  2. Activity — They prefer fast-paced, multi-tasking work environments.
  3. Power –They want the opportunity to exercise, influence, and shape how things are done.
  4. Interest — They look for roles and assignments that provide variety and stimulation.
  5. Flexibility –They seek out work environments that allow more fluid ways of working.
  6. Autonomy — They are attracted to roles that allow them autonomy in how they execute their responsibilities.

Of 18 motivational factors in total, these six were found to most determine achievement in an executive position. The research – the High-Potential Talent Report – analyzed data on over 431,000 people globally.


But motivation is only half the story. Organizations looking for the right HiPos must also ask if employees have a behavioral profile that will allow them to put that motivation to good use.

The research shows that employees most likely to succeed exhibit the following behaviors:

  • Using initiative and taking responsibility — They are willing to take calculated risks to realize an opportunity and assume positions of responsibility through which they can coordinate and have an impact on tasks, projects, and objectives.
  • Achieving objectives and pursuing self-development –They push for results and are willing to invest in their personal development.

Assessing employees for these attributes is a reliable way of predicting which of them is likely to repay an investment in high-potential development.