Jason Lauritsen - Crushing talent dogma to free human potential

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Are We Really in the Talent Acquisition Business? #TruLondon

I am so excited to be joining Bill Boorman and  the fine folks at Jobsite in London this week for the TruLondon4 Unconference.  I love the unconference format and am flattered and privileged that they have invited me to join them as a guest track leader.  I look forward to sharing a post or two about the experience when I return next week.  Below I am sharing the second guest post I wrote for Jobsite to outline one of the topics I plan to discuss this week with the fine folks at TruLondon4.  
Are We Really in the Talent Acquisition Business?
I’m not sure exactly when this happened, but at some point in the last decade it became the trend to replace the functional description “Recruiting” with “Talent Acquisition”.  Don’t get me wrong, Talent Acquisition sounds cool and progressive.  It was in keeping with the other trends around HR to focus on Talent.  However, I don’t think the two mean the same thing.  And, frankly, I think we still practice a whole lot more recruiting than we do talent acquisition.  Hear me out.
When you do a quick Google search for a definition of the word “recruit,” here’s some of what you’ll find (these courtesy of www.thefreedictionary.com):
  • To supply with new members or employees
  • To replenish
  • To obtain replacements for something lost, wasted or needed
At the most basic, recruiting in our work is about finding new employees or replacing ones that left.  The qualities or characteristics of those new employees aren’t really a function of the definition but rather a consideration of the quality of the process used to recruit.  Sure, we want to recruit the best people we can, but in most cases, we are paid to fill open positions with people the hiring manager deems suitable to hire.
When we decide we want to fly the Talent Acquisition flag, it implies something much bigger than just recruiting.  Technically, recruiting and acquisition are probably similar, but now we’ve added this notion that our job is really about talent.  But what does that mean?
In February 2010, I wrote a blog post for the Human Capital Institute called, “What is Talent?” where I considered this important question and how potentially complicated it can be.  We like to throw around the word “talent” a lot in our work, but from my experience, most of us aren’t completely clear on what it means.
If you are in the talent trade, how are you defining talent?  Is it about potential? Is it situational?  Is it about experience or current ability?  Is it about cultural fit?  And you can’t say, “Yeah, all of that stuff” because in order for the definition to be meaningful, you must be able to recognize talent and measure it.  After all, we are in the talent acquisition business.  How can you know if you are acquiring talent if you can’t measure it?
So, what’s the answer?  I don’t think there is a single definition of talent—at least none that I can find.  My advice to you, if you call yourself a talent acquisition professional, you had better know how you define and measure talent in your business or organization.  If you can’t or won’t do that, then be honest about it and get back to recruiting.  That doesn’t mean that you don’t want to do quality work or that you don’t work with talent, it just means that you understand that your role is about finding and replacing employees—the kind that our hiring managers will hire.
When we do recruiting and call it Talent Acquisition, we are diluting the idea of talent.  If you are in Talent, then recognize that it’s bigger and more demanding that just recruiting.  And hold yourself and others to that higher standard.
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Jason Lauritsen