What’s this about Talent?

Talent is a word that is bandied about in the workplace, but unless you’re in a big corporate with sophisticated talent management programmes and all the management guidance and training to support it, talent and talent management can mean many different things.

The Oxford English dictionary definition of talent is simply having a natural aptitude or skill. Prior to the 1990s, talent was mostly a label for stars in the entertainment and sports arenas, but it became increasingly used in the workplace during the 1990s, when management consultancy firm McKinsey conducted research into talent management practices and it became clear that, in a knowledge-based environment, the calibre of an organisation’s talent was critical to its business success. The McKinsey studies went on to coin the phrase “The War for Talent”, which described the challenge organisations face in attracting and retaining high calibre people as demand outstripped supply.

So, in a workplace context, talent is about the stars in your organisation, that is, those individuals with the right natural aptitude or skill – or in organisational language, the right style and competencies – to bring about business success. An organisation needs to have a clear view of the style and competencies it needs to bring about success in its own environment and it needs to ask itself important questions in this context about how to identify, develop and retain talent.

Talent management is simply a collective noun or an overarching strategy or programme that encapsulates all the people management processes related to the hiring, performance, development and retention of the most talented people available. It is about aligning these processes to identify talent, develop and reward it so that it may be utilised effectively and retained for the long-term. Talent management is best linked succession planning, which is the strategic identification of potential business and knowledge/technical leaders for future.

Talent potential looks at the individual’s own motivations – their own career aspirations and intentions to develop. In addition to capability, it considers the individual’s self-managing competencies, such as drive and resilience, as well as their personal strategies to achieve their potential.

In summary, talent simply refers to the “star quality” for your organisation. Identifying and defining that effectively can help attract the right people and help you make the right investment decisions to realise talent potential and retain talent in your organisation for the long-term.