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A “high performer” is an employee who is a key contributor, demonstrates high performance, is capable of a lateral move, may be qualified for a broader role within the same profession and has reached the potential to move “upward’ in a management capacity.
In many companies performance ratings are developed using "forced ranking" - e.g. only 10% of all employees can be rated 5 out of 5, for example. The "high performers" are typically considered to be those with a certain rating.
In contrast, the second method for describing employee value is "potential" - which is often considered an individual's potential to grow at least two additional levels (managerially or professionally) in the organization. In most companies performance and potential are evaluated seperately, and combined in a 3X3 matrix called a "9-box grid."