Can YOU Define Talent?

Can YOU Define Talent? 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

Let’s do a quick quiz.  Write down the answers to the following questions.  If you aren’t going to write them down, at least pause to reflect on the questions for a moment.

  • What is talent?
  • How do you measure talent?
  • How does talent directly impact your company’s business results?
  • What is culture?
  • How do you measure culture?
  • How does culture directly impact your company’s business results?
  • What is leadership?
  • How do you measure leadership?
  • How does leadership directly impact your company’s business results?

One of the fundamental reasons we aren’t making more progress within human resources and organizational development is the base level lack of clear definitions to drive our work.  It seems that when it comes to topics like talent, culture, and leadership, most organizations are content to treat these concepts the way that the supreme court famously treated “obscentity”–they can’t define it clearly, but they know it when they see it.  And that’s just not enough.

It is frequent in HR circles to hear bemoaning about a lack of respect and absence at the executive table.  I find this a little curious.  How credible would you find a sales executive who couldn’t define or measure a sale?  Or, how much respect would you have for a financial executive who could define “capital” or “profit?”  Would you hire a personal trainer who couldn’t define and measure fitness?  So, why do we expect others to treat HR with respect and credibility when we can’t define or measure some of the most fundamental and strategic elements of our work?

Talent, culture and leadership are at the very center of the discussion about how our organizations will thrive in the future and we’ve got to get clear about what that means for our organizations.  The point isn’t to find a universal definition for any of these words, but rather to define what it means at your organization.  The definition will drive how it’s measured.  And once you can measure it, you can reveal the specific linkages between those measures and the bottom line performance the organization requires.  Then, and I think only then, can HR have the opportunity to become a legitimate contender at the executive level within most organizations.

  • Kevin

    Aberdeen recently released a report on Assessments and how they predict productivity and performance (ie, talent). Best-in-class companies tie in assessment results to coaching and business results, as they should be doing!

    It reminds me of marketers looking at the cost-per-click of ads instead of the actual revenue generated by each click.

  • mcstenberg

    I like what you’re getting at in this post. Yes, of course HR needs to get better at measuring our work. But I miss a solution on the problem that you’ve mentioned. Have you come up with a way to measure the words? I feel like you’ve taken an easy way out in this text. I perceive it as “I found the problem – now you can go and find the solution…” Am I wrong?

    • Jason

      No, I think that’s fair. The point I was getting at in this post is that most HR and Talent professionals aren’t aware that this is a problem. I was trying to illuminate the fact that even those of us who do talent work for a living aren’t clear on what talent really means.

      As for “the answer,” I don’t think there is a singular answer. While I personally think that there is some general framework that we could all start with in terms of talent, the specific definition and model for talent can be different by organization. My solution is to encourage each talent leader to make the time to build and cultivate the correct model for their organization.

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