What is talent?
Courtesy of Gallup in the book First, Break All The Rules, we are given a useful business definition of what talent is:
“A recurring pattern of thought, feeling or behavior that can be productively applied.”
Straight away we can see how this definition is significantly broader than the typical perception we grew up that reserved the label of “talent” for famous or exceptionally gifted people. Instead, we can now say that probably everyone has talent in one area or another, and furthermore, that talent is an ability that can be created through creating a positive pattern. It must be understood, however, that even though a talent can grow, it cannot be given. A person must create the talent for themselves – after all, we can’t create a pattern of thought, feeling, or behavior in someone else, can we? Of course not. We can only do this in ourselves.
How to transfer this information into finding, hiring, and retaining the best talent
As it turns out, this definition of talent is more complex and inclusive than we would (perhaps) like it to be. But that is the very beauty of it. Because it includes so many different positive patterns that people do, the power that this definition has is also multiplied. Take for example a hypothetical manager in search for a customer service employee. Without our definition, she might hire based primarily from experience or schooling. Yet with our definition, the things she would look for in an employee would clearly change. Does the applicant show a reoccurring pattern of thought, feeling or behavior that would favorably suit him for the position? Maybe it’s empathy towards others, or the ability to listen and provide helpful solutions. Both of these qualities would be classified as talents under our definition.
Or how about retaining our talented employees? The definition helps there, too. When a manager pays closer attention to the actual talents of their employees, they will see more opportunities to foster the growth of that talent within the life of both the employee and the business. In turn, a symbiotic relationship will emerge as the employee is able to use his talent, enjoy building upon it, and act as a successful piece of the business that recognizes and promotes his abilities.
Clifton, Don. (2010). First, Break All The Rules. New York, NY: Gallup Press.