• Jan 15 2024

How to Measure the Success of Your HiPo Program

Successful HiPo programs promise to drive bottom-line results by increasing business performance and reducing turnover among leaders. However, unlike direct financial investments, measuring the return on investment in leadership development isn’t as clear-cut. 

Common metrics to measure HiPo program impact, such as retention and promotion rates, don’t offer a complete picture of how the program is delivering value to an organization. HR, talent, and learning leaders need a more nuanced approach and broader set of metrics to show the true impact of their program. 

Read on to learn how to think outside the box when it comes to measuring HiPo program success and how to tell an impact story that wins buy-in from your most important stakeholders.

Why measurement matters

Developing a comprehensive set of metrics to measure the success of your HiPo program is necessary to a) continuously improve the program and b) win more resources for the program. 

Failing to accurately demonstrate the value of leadership development can lead to reduced budgets and fewer opportunities to develop promising leaders at your organization. Furthermore, when you lack insight into the impact of your program, you are more likely to miss opportunities to optimize and keep pace with the development needs of your HiPos. 

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Many program leaders rely on the same few performance metrics, such as retention and promotion rates, to measure the impact of their program. Doing so puts their program at risk, if and when the program falls short of those narrowly defined goals. 

Building a more comprehensive list of key performance indicators (KPIs) will empower you to examine participants’ experience more deeply and tell a richer story about the outcomes of your program.  

Assess your data sources

Before compiling your KPIs, take inventory of what quantitative and qualitative data sources currently exist and which you may need to create to measure success. Some common data sources include: 

  • Employee engagement surveys 
  • Performance reviews/ratings
  • Retention rates
  • Turnover rates
  • Skills assessments
  • 360-degree feedback
  • External industry benchmarking data
  • Program feedback and assessment surveys
  • Employee demographic data

Your HiPo program metrics checklist 

Once you’ve identified your data sources and gaps, you can begin to hone the list of metrics you’ll use to track program progress and impact. Below, we’ve compiled a list of measurements to get you started. In addition to quantitative data, such as promotion rates, look for opportunities to understand and demonstrate programmatic success through qualitative data, as well. Read on for tips to enrich your data story.

Engagement and retention

Increasing engagement and retention among top talent is often a top objective of HiPo programs. A successful program will result in:

Increased levels of self-reported engagement among program participants after completing the program, as compared to before the program began

Higher retention rates among program participants in the year following their participation as compared to the overall retention rate of all employees

Lower turnover among program participants who completed the program as compared to the general employee population

Quick Tip: Use focus groups

You may have used employee surveys to track the overall level of engagement among your HiPo cohort before and after participating in your program. But what exactly does it mean for an employee to feel more or less engaged in their role? 

Conduct a focus group with participants to determine whether the program made them feel more engaged in their work and invite feedback on how the program could have engaged or motivated them further. 

Internal hires and promotions

Developing HiPo leaders should unlock upward mobility at every level of your organization. Here’s what success looks like: 

The percentage of internal hires at your organization should increase year over year

A high percentage of your HiPo leaders are identified as ready for promotion after completing your program (this KPI is sometimes referred to as Bench Strength).

A high number or percentage of leadership roles for which individual HiPos have been identified. Successful HiPo programs don’t just identify those that could be strong leaders; they actually identify the specific role for which a HiPo should be developed. 

Quick tip: Conduct qualitative interviews

Stakeholders of your HiPo programs include the leaders who promote participants into new roles. Select 3-5 of these leaders to interview to better understand why they felt the HiPo participant was ready to be promoted. What were the specific skills they needed? How did the leader assess the HiPo’s ability to step into a higher level of leadership responsibility?


A HiPo program should prepare employees for key leadership roles by equipping them with the specific knowledge, skills, and practice they will need to succeed. Look for:

Increases in self-reported confidence in key skills among participants after completing the program 

A high number or percentage of projects completed as part of the HiPo program are actually implemented by employees in their role

Quick tip: Create case studies

Many HiPo programs include a project-based learning component to help leaders put new skills into action. These projects often represent innovative, out-of-the-box thinking and can translate to real value for the organization. 

Identify 3-5 projects and create short case studies to illustrate the real-time impact that your HiPo program has had on business goals. 

Leadership diversity

Be aware of hidden biases when selecting participants for your HiPo program. All too often, employees are tapped for future leadership because they look, think, and behave like current leadership and share similar backgrounds. This dynamic leads to an entrenched lack of diversity in  leadership. 

The demographics of your HiPo program should reflect, more or less, the demographics of your general employee population. Furthermore, you should track the YoY diversity of internal hires and promotions among your cohort of HiPos following the program. 

Don’t wait until after you launch your HiPo program to start thinking about how to measure its success. Part of your program strategy should include listing your KPIs at the outset, so that you can track metrics throughout the program and adjust your strategy for maximum impact. 

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