Should we tell employees they’re high-potentials or keep the list locked down? Senior leaders and the HR, OD, and L&D folks who support them have been debating this issue behind closed doors forever. Mostly, that debate has been informed by anecdotes, intuition, and speculation.
To be fair, useful research on this topic is hard to come by. It’s a difficult thing to study, partly because it would be unethical (and probably business suicide) to randomly assign employees to a Hi-Po list.
This research used an unusual technique to study the topic ethically and the results suggest that making your high-potential list public can demotivate those who don’t appear on the list. In short, when you publicly announce that 10% of your employees are potential leaders, you simultaneously announce to 90% that they’re not.
Read How Feedback about Leadership Potential Impacts Ambition, Organizational Commitment, and Performance in Leadership Quarterly.