The Top 5 Drivers of Engagement for High Potential Employees

September 23, 2016 | Amy Hirsh Robinson | HCI
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I started researching generational differences and their impact on work in 2000, at the time when the first members of the Millennial generation were entering college. To help their parents cope with an “empty nest,” popular news magazines published numerous articles for their Baby Boomer readers on how to let go of their Millennial children. This was mind blowing to me and my Generation X peers, whose parents collectively sighed with relief upon our departures from the nest.

It became clear to me that this new generation was being raised very differently from my own. As I explored generational theory more deeply, I predicted that generational conflict in the workplace, once Millennials started working fulltime and in large numbers, would not only dominate conversation but would also cause huge paradigm shifts in leadership, and force the creation of new models for work. 

Over the next 15 years I saw these generational shifts take root and gain momentum. I observed organizations struggle with how to recruit, retain and manage four generations in the workplace and I saw what it cost them. I knew it could be handled differently and that those organizations that adopted the new strategies I was proposing -- for assessing, engaging and developing top talent -- would not only stay in business, but would also gain a significant competitive advantage in the labor market and in the industries they served.  And so it has been proven.

A Game Changer for Engagement

The science of Human Resource Management was developed in the 1920s and 1930s during a time when the generational ethos was one of self-sufficiency, organization, and productivity. HR practices today remain tethered to these tenets, and it is striking to see how ill-suited most companies are for the Millennial generation’s values of creativity, community and equality. 

By 2018, the Department of Labor predicts that Millennials will make up 50% of the U.S. workforce. We cannot talk seriously about high potential engagement until we understand this game-changing shift in the labor market.

Millennials will set the tone for employee engagement and the changing employer contract for the foreseeable future. The pure size and influence of this generational cohort will affect the perceptions and attitudes of Generation X and Baby Boomer employees as well. To determine the best high potential engagement strategies for companies, we must look to the Millennial generation for insight.

Using Millennials as the norm, here are the top five drivers of engagement for high potential employees.

  1. Transparency of Information – Millennials require companies to be transparent with information and to provide access to data, so they can perform effectively in their jobs and make decisions about their careers.
  2. Connection to the Corporate Strategy – Millennials need line of sight to the business strategy to perform in their jobs well, and to understand that their work has a purpose.
  3. Visibility – Millennials stay engaged when they get exposure to the senior executives who are driving the strategy and who have their own experiences to share.
  4. Opportunity – Millennials are driven by opportunities to advance in their careers and to develop professionally.
  5. Personalized Recognition – Millennials expect to participate in programs and receive rewards that are personalized and that recognize them for their time and efforts.

The Future of Leadership

Companies face unprecedented challenges brought on by demographic shifts, economic uncertainty, new technology, and constant, disruptive changes to their organizations. The Millennial leaders of the future will require new competencies and expertise to drive business performance. In return, these new leaders will expect their employers to engage them in drastically different ways than their predecessors.

Is your organization ready to make the change?


Amy Hirsh Robinson, MBA, ( is a leading expert on the changing workforce and the impact of generational shifts on organizations. She consults to Fortune 500 companies, privately held businesses and not-for-profits to prepare and retool leaders and their workforces to excel and compete in the New Economy. Her strategies and programs focus on onboarding new employees to ensure the retention and engagement of top talent, managing and motivating a multigenerational workforce, and building competitive talent pipelines through effective succession planning practices. Amy speaks and publishes widely on workforce strategies for the New Economy and has been cited and quoted in publications such as Forbes, the Los Angeles Times, and the Huffington Post.