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Eight Qualities of High-Potential Employees

While work habits and performance can vary among employees, there are always those who stand out. They show up on time, work diligently throughout the day, and exhibit signs that they are happy with their work and the company. These are characteristics of good employees. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone was like that?

In order to mold the best workers, companies should pay attention not just to those who are reaching their best, but also to employees who have high potential to reach their best. There is a difference.

What Does Being “High-Potential” Mean?

“Potential” as a word does not mean a current state of being. Here’s the real definition:


  1. having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future.


  1. latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness.

While nurturing the employee characteristics of high performers is critical to keep them at the top of their game, finding and nurturing high-potential individuals can increase the number of engaged and empowered employees you have overall.

Why Are Engaged Employees Beneficial?

They are who drive business results. When employees are engaged, they take more pride in their work, are more productive, and stick around longer. Employees with a high potential to be engaged might be right on the cusp of feeling great about their work or terrible about it. If you remember that current performance does not always equal potential performance, then you can be on the lookout for these signs that someone could be a high-potential employee, and you can nurture that employee engagement.

High-Potential Employee Characteristics

Any of the following employee characteristics could indicate someone has high potential to become an amazing worker. They don’t need to encompass all of these. Even a few innate ones are enough because personal and professional development can help build skills in their weaker areas. High-potential employees may exhibit the following traits.

Adaptable: Do you have an employee who is always suggesting changes or welcomes them wholeheartedly? This is an indication of a creative and forward-thinker. An adaptable person can change course easily when confronted with new information or ideas.

Lifelong Learner: Some employees may seek out new tasks or even ask to cross-train with others. This can be an indication that this employee has a passion to continue learning and growing in their job and as a person.

Strong Leader: Do you have someone others look up to, even if that person isn’t a formal leader or manager? Employees who have the potential to be leaders will listen well, make others feel psychologically safe, and lend a hand when necessary.

Strategic Thinker: Do you have an employee who is always organizing and thinking two steps ahead? Employees who think like this can be a huge benefit to a company. Having a mindset and nature that solves problems is a sign of creativity and drive.

Collaborator: Whom do you know that can get along with anyone? People with collaborative natures are easy to relate to, are empathetic, and they can often act as mediators during work conflicts. Collaborators have the potential to be great leaders.

Emotionally Intelligent: An emotionally intelligent employee is one who is in tune with themselves. They can regulate their own behaviors, and they choose to react to situations wisely. Emotional intelligence is the first step in interacting positively with others.

Takes Initiative: There can be great potential lurking inside the employee who goes after new projects and shows they have ideas. Initiative indicates this person cares about making a difference, and internal motivations are what drive engaged and empowered employees.

Accountable: An accountable employee knows that they are there for the company and that their work serves a higher purpose. They act in accordance with the rules and can be held accountable for their actions and decisions.

Move from Potential to Practical

Of course, it’s not enough to recognize these characteristics of high-potential employees. We must now do something with them — we must nurture them. From internal programs and mentorships to external workshops and courses, high-potential employees need to be empowered and engaged, so they can be the best versions of themselves at work and in life.

As an owner of the Dale Carnegie Mid-Atlantic franchise, McKonly & Asbury is able to offer an extension of services to our clients and friends of the firm, expanding our expertise in the areas of leadership, team building, and people development as Dale Carnegie offers programs in leadership, management development, customer engagement, service, sales, communication, and more.

Dale Carnegie’s Professional Training Courses offer endless options and unlimited opportunity. You can use their event finder to explore the right fit for you and your organization or take a look at some upcoming classes on our website by clicking here.

About the Author

McKonly & Asbury

McKonly & Asbury is a Certified Public Accounting Firm serving companies across Pennsylvania including Camp Hill, Lancaster, Bloomsburg, and Philadelphia. We serve the needs of affordable housing, construction, family-owned businesses, healthcare, manufacturing and distribution, and nonprofit industries. We also assist service organizations with the full suite of SOC services (including SOC 2 reports), ERTC claims, internal audits, SOX compliance, and employee benefit plan audits.

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