What defines Talent?

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It struck me as I was attending HR Congress in Amsterdam in December, that when I listened to and became involved with the debate about how we prepare our talent of the future…there were so many views of the word talent. The debate got into the very interesting topic of how you measure or identify talent, either through the JDI Model, 9 Box grid etc. It became very apparent to me that we were only talking about the identified talent of today using fairly old methodology and ones that only really define talent with the skills that people have today and filtered by management teams that agree through consensus or not, that they are talent.

The debate expanded to cover some  thought-provoking views about the notion that everyone is talent and can be talent and what end of the spectrum were you defining talent, by gender, age, product or solution.

I was then suddenly curious as to the actual meaning of the word “Talent” Alternative words provided by the Thesaurus were Aptitude, Flair, Gift, Bent, Capacity, Ability, Genius or Forte. These are individual traits that can be applied to a person who is talented at a particular sport, subject, technical skill or ability. Why then, do we determine talent on a multi-dimensional basis? This is because in my humble opinion, we want some solid grounding that the business will support the notion of the individual being talent of the future based on more than one dimension. This got me thinking again – do millennials or subject matter experts e.g. Cyber Security really have all dimensions and do they really need them? I would say no, so think we need to flex our approach to talent of today and the future as we are in essence filtering by conformity and fitting to a model signed off by senior management.

Some talent needs individual coaching to become greater and not the right person to be attending large scale programmes for all talent, if segregated by grade or job profile.

Why does this matter?

If we do not change our view on how we see, hear or measure talent, we will continue to see the same people who are multi-dimensional and may not be the leader of the future but could be the talent of the future which will underpin the business and the leadership.

I was at a talk at the same event with Pirelli and they have identified the top 10 Engineer roles that truly underpin their business. How refreshing is that, not the top management, new graduate or gender based modelling, but purely by roles that support the business.

Should Telco companies look up their radio engineers as top talent? Should, Software companies identify their developers? After all these roles are the bedrock of these organisations .   If you look at talent of the future models such as JDI, I am unclear how many of the engineers or IT folk by pure nature (not all) would display the requisite judgement, drive and influence and therefore not quality.

We talk about identifying talent of the future, but we are using tools that identify the talent of today not the talent of the future.

Our mindset and modelling needs to change along with how we view talent. Finally I think we should look to separate talent of today and future leader potential. There are many managers I have worked for who would not pass a manager assessment, so what makes them so good? – yes, they are talented, conformist and fit the bill.

We need to think again to get a different result as the research is telling us that most leaders are staying awake at night worrying about how to keep and retain talent.

About the author – Paul Morgan:

Paul Morgan is someone who is very passionate about our profession and will continue to prove its relevance and direct correlation to driving business performance, in line with Sales and Marketing.

Having spent over the last 20 years in many Training/L&D roles across companies such as Azlan, Microsoft and O2 and across many business channels. Paul looks to assist and support L&D professionals, departments and organisations to really understand the true impact that L&D can have on business performance in partnership with HR and now change that conversation.

Paul is a Consultant with The Learning and Performance Institute – simply click here to find out more and enquire about Paul’s availability.

Connect with Paul on LinkedIn 

Follow on Twitter @pmorganwales

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