What We Mean When We Say “Talent”

RJ Morris Employee Coaching, Good HR, Hiring Managers, Leadership, RJ Morris, Talent Strategy

We catch a fair bit of grief in HR for using the term, Top Talent. The problem, of course, is that talent means different things to different people. Folks cannot articulate what top performers really do or they get caught up in using tired clichés. I’m gonna try to fix that for you.

I think the challenge is that companies label too many people Top Talent. Top Talent separates itself into another level. Quick breakdown on who is talent and who is just average talent:

Now, none of us at FOT are hiring the CEO of Apple (yet), but it’s clear that there’s a key difference between the top and the very average middle.

What makes someone that good? A lot of leaders will say “they know it when they see it,” but that’s unfair. Here’s my take on what I mean when I say “talent,” but without using vanilla words like vision and leadership.

  • They create. Sure, they execute and refine processes, but the key is they make something new–an increase for the business, a new profit strategy or a novel way to generate market share.
  • Talent lets a company do more. Through good hiring and active coaching leadership, Talent gets more out of a five-person team than any other manager in the joint. They build capacity.
  • Clients love “talent” so much that they will pay more and buy more from someone they love vs someone they tolerate. Talent breeds loyal clients.
  • Talent gets more stuff done. They flat out generate significant quality work product. They don’t do the same or just a little more than others—they push work out the door at an incredible rate.
  • And because they get more done, they have time to surprise people. That squeaky process that sorta worked but was a pain the butt? Susie researched it, got together with the stakeholders and has piloted a new process that’s rolling out on Monday.

Talent says, “No worries, boss, just didn’t want to trouble you. It’s all good.”

I am sure this isn’t all, but it’s what comes to my mind when I think of the best people I have been around. I know you want to talk about Personal Disclosure and Strategic Agility, but your line managers need to understand how to identify the best of the best. Hit the comments section to share your real world words to describe Talent.

RJ Morris
I have spent the last 20 years of my professional life advising leaders to make great talent decisions to drive business results. In my current gig, I lead talent acquisition and management for a multi-billion-dollar, 100% employee-owned construction company. I geek out on analytics, succession planning, etc. and love it when we position folks to do their best work. That’s fun stuff. I tease bad HR people, because I think we can all do better, myself included. That’s fun, too.