I met yesterday with a journalist doing a feature on talent management. Having spent over an hour talking about what TomorrowToday.biz does, I was unsatisfied with my answer to one of her questions. She asked, “How can you know if someone is talented or not?” My answer was that it would be difficult to give a definitive answer, since each job, company and industry would have a slightly different definition. I gave some suggestions though about a generic definition for talent: an inquisitive mind, a willingness to challenge, entrepreneurial flair and creativity, self motivated, self-honest (by which I mean they know their strengths and weaknesses as well as their personality traits), hard-working, technology-savvy, and so on.
So, I wondered to myself, they must be people out there who’ve tried to do this as well — come up with a generic definition of what we’re looking for when we say we looking for talented people. A quick Google found a few interesting sites:

  • Andy Brown Wants You! (FastCompany): As one of the most successful recruiters for the U.S. Marine Corps, Master Gunnery Sergeant Andy Brown is a master strategist in the battle for talent. Here’s how you can hire the few and the proud.
      Lazy man’s summary:

    • If you want to hire the best, have your best do the hiring
    • Use the interview process to look for those intangibles. We ask, “What motivates you? What do you want to accomplish in life?” A few people say, “I want a challenge. I want to join an elite team. I want to come out a better person.” That’s what we want to hear.
    • Create check points in the hiring process – stop it earlier not later.
  • How HR can manage talented employees? (PersonnelToday.com)
      Quick guide – short quotes:

    • Don’t be deceived. The ability of a single talented individual to have a disproportionate impact on organisational performance is the result of a fundamental structural shift in business. Driven by the combination of changes in technology, the economy and society itself, the demand for talent is here to stay.
    • Finding the people who can make a difference is particularly vital in these difficult economic times, when most organisations are concentrating on the key business issue of where to focus their most limited resources – time and attention – to create the largest impact.
    • Talent achieves superior performance: – Through urgent application of creativity – While demanding personal growth – With or without the support of the broader organisation.
    • Talent is urgent, which magnifies many of the ‘normal’ people issues as they come at you at speed.
    • Talent is creative, and this is psychologically linked to independent-mindedness.
    • Talent will know and want its own way, whether that fits in with the organisation or not.
    • They are reflective thinkers – giving time to considering their choices
    • They know themselves – particularly the unique strengths that differentiate them from others
    • They learn – especially from their mistakes
    • The consequence is that talented people are often ‘difficult people’.
  • The poorly travelled need not apply (The Telegraph): Globetrotting has become the norm as more firms seek managers with international experience.
      Quick guide:

    • cross-cultural experience is becoming the norm for ambitious managers
    • Kathryn Wainwright, director of talent management at Barclays, says: “Managers are increasingly asking us for international experience and we will find it harder to retain them if we don’t offer it.”
    • international business managers don’t have to be sitting down the corridor from their teams any more

    I still don’t think there is a generic definition of talent. But most people know it if they see it.

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