Expressions such as the “war for talent”, “talent management” and the now infamous “talent retention” usually focus not only on “talent”, but also its apparent shortcut. But is talent really cross-cutting and universal?
By Ana Porfirio, Human Resources Director at Zaba Recordati
Suddenly, it seems to me that we decided to normalize talent and by definition “a person who stands out due to exceptional talent for a specific activity” (source: Wikipedia), making the entire universe employees and / or candidates in the job market.
So where are the corporate “high flyers”, the “stars”? If everyone is talented, how do we define strategies and plans for this 5% or 10% Gauss curve that we don’t want to lose at any cost? Are these the result of mere talent or is so-called “hard work” involved here? Or are they a product of both?
I watched a TED talk by Suzanne Lucas titled “Forget talent and go to work” that addresses this exact phenomenon. Natural talents, “hard workers”, with exceptional results.
Anders Eriksson, a professor of psychology at the University of Florida, published a famous 10,000-hour study that later inspired Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Outliers.” In this study, Erickson followed several violin students from childhood to late adolescence to find out what distinguishes extraordinary musicians from average musicians. In the end, he found that the most extraordinary violinists were those who practiced an average of 10,000 hours.
Erickson concluded, “Many characteristics that we believe reflect an innate ability are, in fact, the result of a training period spanning at least 10 years.”
“Hard work” refers to the effort and dedication a person puts into achieving a particular goal or improving their skills (should we call it “skills”?). Becoming an expert at a skill requires practice, persistence, and perseverance.
While talent is an advantage, it does not guarantee success. Hard work is necessary to nurture and develop it to reach its maximum potential. Talent without hard work is wasted.
Hard work can make up for lack of talent in certain areas and help develop skills that were initially lacking. Both talent and hard work are essential to success and complement each other. However, hard work is considered more important because it is individually controlled. Developing and improving skills is also necessary to achieve success.
In short, being competent takes a lot of work. Today it makes more sense, because exceptionalism in a complex world (pre-pandemic) is not exceptional in an unknown world (post-pandemic). Complexity is that we reconstruct our past experience, but the unknown, only through continuous learning. Where does talent fit into this new paradigm? It seems to me that there is only skill to learn. As Suzanne Lucas says: “Forget talent and get to work.”
This article appeared on newsstands in the May issue of Human Resources (No. 149).
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