A friend of mine was making fun of the use of the word “talent” since he didn’t see in which way it was different from “ressource”, even if human. He was only seeing one more employer brand trick, a promise that only engages the one who hear it.
It’s true that HR marketing, as general marketing, likes to use new terms to value the people it talks to even if that doesn’t mean anything really changed in the workplace. But if we look into the subject, there is sometimes a true reflection behind all that and we can guess this will spread in the upcomming times.
Talking about talents in the workplace may seem being totally out of touch. It’s a term we often use for creative and artistic activities. We say talent for a singer, an actor, a football player, not for an employee for whom we say “competent”. Competence is something defined, straightforward, writen into official systems of references. Talent is not quantifiable neither it can be described : it only can be noticed and because it can’t be put in compartments it’s left away for entertainers.
Notice that we say talent for a football player, a tennisman, not for an athlete. Perhaps because the first decide, improvise and make choices in real time, facing situations that are not foreseeable, although the second run, jump, throws, but is mono-activity and always does the same gestures in sequences that are endlessly repeated and optimized. A race can be modelized, not a game.
Is that trivial ?
Competence is the ability to face a defined situation, make a defined work. Talent is the abality to face unforeseeable things, propose, take intiatives, organize and manage his network and his work at his own level.
If we assume that, in a modern organization, people must know how to do their assigned work but also to be autonomous and reactive, we can deduce that competence is about “pushed production” when talent is what makes it possible to adopt a “pull” mode. Talent development is the consequence of empowerment is what makes possible to move from a top-down only organization to a bottom-up one when needed. I say “when needed” because both are not exclusive the one from the other, on the contrary they are complementary.
From that we can imagine that a company that does its job well is “competences pushed” and a company that does outstanding this is “talent pulled”…
I like this sentence from Ed Catmull, Co-founder of Pixar : “If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, theyâ€™ll screw it up; but if you give a mediocre idea to a great team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something that works.â€