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How to Define Talent for Employers

When some people define talent, they single out certain employees who have special above-average skills or abilities. Other people use the word talent when referring to their company’s entire workforce or candidates they’re interested in hiring.

While the definition of talent may vary, especially in the workplace, everyone understands that finding and retaining good talent is essential to success. Learn more about what talent means in the workplace and how you can find and retain it to help your business thrive and grow.

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What does talent mean in the workplace?

Talent is often defined as a natural aptitude that someone is born with, such as singing, painting, drawing or athletic abilities. People often have to work to refine their talents, but they’re generally innate and genetic rather than acquired. With that in mind, the difference between talents and skills is that people can learn skills from scratch and improve their mastery of them over time.

The majority of workplace duties and responsibilities require learned skills, however, and not instinctive talent—although talent can certainly make an employee or candidate stand out. Likewise, when HR departments and recruiters use the term to note multiple individuals, usually within a pool of potential hires or a population of existing employees.

Overall, talent has a few different definitions in the workplace.

How does HR define talent?

Defining talent in HR requires understanding just how this department looks at the term. The hiring and employee retention processes mean these professionals use several terms to differentiate what they mean when they define talent. Here are a few common HR-related terms that define talent.

Talent acquisition

Also known as talent attraction, talent acquisition comprises an ongoing recruiting strategy to find, attract and hire candidates who keep your company growing. This might include placing ads on job sites such as Indeed that outline your needs or consulting with recruiters who understand the ins and outs of your industry.

Talent management

The term talent management refers to how companies engage, develop and retain employees through processes such as skill training and career mapping. Important for helping employees grow and thrive during their tenure with your business, this aspect can also keep workers happy with good benefits and an appropriate salary for the job.

Talent pool

Some HR managers call talent pools “talent networks,” but no matter what they call it, the meaning is the same. Talent pools are sources of promising candidates, such as those who’ve applied for a job and passed screening processes. A talent network may include external places to find individuals to fill key roles and find the best potential hires. It can also include a recruiter database that keeps track of the best candidates for certain skill sets.

Talent assessments

These tests provide a way for HR departments to evaluate potential employees in addition to resumes and interviews. While not foolproof, talent assessments give HR a chance to see how potential hires might perform when certain qualities are required, such as problem-solving or decision-making. Examples of talent assessment tests include cognitive ability tests, personality tests and mathematical skill tests.

How to identify talent

Talented individuals or teams consistently bring exceptional quality to their work, so identifying employees who consistently deliver gives you chances to promote from within when you make the right hires in the first place. Before starting the hiring process and looking at resumes, make time to outline the specific talent(s) your team requires. Some characteristics of talented people to look out for during your recruiting process include individuals who are:

  • Self-motivated: A self-motivated person takes pride in their work. They don’t need to be micromanaged. These individuals take personal ownership of their work and typically go above and beyond their duties.
  • Team player: Team players possess great communication and interpersonal skills. While they may bring a high level of professional skill to projects, they’re often sought after because they know how to motivate others and help teammates collaborate.
  • Results-oriented: Talented people with results-oriented talents meet and exceed goals and objectives. These highly focused individuals get the job done and serve as great examples to other employees.
  • Natural leaders: A natural leader inspires and empowers others by creating a trusting and encouraging environment in the workplace. These individuals typically have no problems making good decisions and have what it takes to keep projects on time and on track.
  • Creative thinker: Creative thinkers are solution-oriented and often offer a different perspective on how to approach challenges. These problem solvers maintain a positive attitude and use their intelligence and creativity to seek ways to overcome obstacles and work more efficiently and effectively.

How to invest in talent

While talent is innate, that doesn’t mean that talented people are instantly good at things for which they have a knack. Fortunately, hard workers who have such talents can refine their skills with the right tools and motivation. Here are a few ways to help your employees develop their talents and skills:

  • Offer training and development opportunities: From providing in-house seminars and reimbursing employees for online classes or tuition, options abound to help employees build skills. This educational support can aid your business in improving employee retention and boosting productivity and morale.
  • Develop a succession strategy: What happens when an employee in a high-ranking role, such as your CEO, department head or floor manager, leaves your company? You don’t have to wonder when you have a game plan for just such an occurrence. A succession plan can help you nurture the employees you currently have so they can step in when someone in a leadership role leaves.
  • Implement a job rotation program: Allowing employees to take on different jobs at your company on a temporary basis through a job rotation program can expose them to new skills and help them find and nurture their talents. Likewise, these programs build flexibility into your workforce that lets you easily cover absences and leaves.
  • Conduct regular performance reviews: Whether you decide to implement 360 reviews, the nine-box model or any other form of performance review, providing feedback on a regular basis can help employees pinpoint how to improve upon their skills.
  • Recognize and reward talent: Show your employees that you value their unique talents. Some companies offer more flexible schedules, increased PTO, appreciation letters or bonuses as a way to reward and retain talented individuals.

No matter how your company defines talent, it needs talent. Learning how to identify individuals who excel and nurture their talents helps you create a formidable workforce capable of tackling the challenges of the present and future.

FAQs about defining talent in the workplace

What are the three types of talents?

Generally speaking, there are three types of useful talents in the workforce:

  • The first is functional skills, which are typically inherited and then developed to their full potential.
  • Self-management skills are the second type, and those who have this talent usually bring energy, determination, dependability and resourcefulness to the table.
  • Special knowledge is the third talent, and this means an employee has mastery over essential information related to a core field of study and work.

What are some examples of talents?

Common talents sought by businesses when hiring employees include the ability for rational thought, especially among those responsible for defining and implementing logical processes. Emotional intelligence talents help managers better understand their staff and smoothly guide them toward expected outcomes. Those with situational intelligence provide think-on-your-feet intuition to teams, and this supports innovation and problem-solving. Those with a talent for visual thinking may illustrate core principles in a new way that helps teams communicate better and brainstorm new ideas.

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