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Understanding Talent

Experiential approach to talent development

Experiential Essential
Talent as people Talent as characteristics of people
Inclusive approach Talent as all employees of the organisation
Innate abilities, acquired skills, knowledge, competencies,and attitudes that cause a person to achieve outstanding results in a particular context
Exclusive approach Talent as high performers and/or high potentials Talent as inborn, unique abilities that lead to superior performance (nature)
Talent as systematically developed skills and knowledge that lead to superior performance (mastery)
Talent as commitment to one’s position and to one’s employing organization
Talent as being in the right organization, in the right position, at the right time (fit)



Definitions of talent

Source Gallardo-Gallardo, E., Dries, N., González-Cruz, T. (2013). What is the meaning of

‘talent’ in the world of work?. Human Resource Management Review, 23 (4), 290-300.

Gagné (2000) “(…) superior mastery of systematically developed abilities or skills” (p. 67)
Williams (2000) “describe those people who do one or other of the following: regularly demonstrate exceptional ability-and achievement- either over a range of activities

and situations, or within a specialized and narrow field of expertise; consistently indicate high competence in areas of activity that strongly suggest

transferable, comparable ability in situations where they have yet to be tested and proved to be highly effective, i.e. potential.” (p. 35)

Buckingham & Vosburgh (2001) “Talent should refer to a person’s recurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied.” (p. 21)
Jericó (2001) “The implemented capacity of a committed professional or group of professionals that achieve superior results in a particular environment and

organization.” (p. 428)

Michaels et al. (2001) “(…) the sum of a person’s abilities -his or her intrinsic gifts, skills, knowledge, experience, intelligence, judgment, attitude, character and drive. It also

includes his or her ability to learn and grow.” (p. xii)

Lewis & Heckman (2006) “(…) is essentially a euphemism for ‘people’” (p. 141)
Tansley et al. (2006) “Talent can be considered as a complex amalgam of employees’ skills, knowledge, cognitive ability and potential. Employees’ values and work

preferences are also of major importance.” (p. 2)

Stahl et al. (2007) “a select group of employees- those that rank at the top in terms of capability and performance- rather than the entire workforce”. (p. 4)
Tansley et al. (2007) “Talent consists of those individuals who can make a difference to organizational performance, either through their immediate contribution or in the

longer-term by demonstrating the highest levels of potential.” (p. 8)

Ulrich (2007) “Talent equals competence [able to do the job] times commitment [willing to do the job] times contribution [finding meaning and purpose in their work]”

(p. 3)

Cheese, Thomas, & Craig (2008) “Essentially, talent means the total of all the experience, knowledge, skills, and behaviours that a person has and brings to work.” (p. 46)
González-Cruz et al. (2009) “A set of competencies that, being developed and applied, allow the person to perform a certain role in an excellent way.” (p 22)
Silzer & Dowell (2010) “In groups talent can refer to a pool of employees who are exceptional in their skills and abilities either in a specific technical area (such as software

graphics skills) or a competency (such a consumer marketing talent), or a more general area (such as general managers or high-potential talent). And in

some cases, “the talent” might refer to the entire employee population.” (pp. 13-14)

Bethke-Langenegger (2012) “we understand talent to be one of those worker who ensures the competitiveness and future of a company (as specialist or leader) through his

organisational/job specific qualification and knowledge, his social and methodical competencies, and his characteristic attributes such as eager to learn or

achievement oriented” (p. 3)

Ulrich & Smallwood (2012) “Talent = competence [knowledge, skills and values required for todays’ and tomorrows’ job; right skills, right place, right job, right time] x commitment

[willing to do the job] x contribution [finding meaning and purpose in their job]” (p. 60)



Terms commonly associated with ‘talent-as-object’.

  • Ability
  • Capacity
  • Capability
  • Commitment
  • Competence
  • Contribution
  • Experience
  • Knowledge
  • Performance
  • Potential
  • Patterns of thought or behaviour
  • Skills



Hollands circumplex model RIASEC (theory of careers and vocational choice)

R Realistic (Doers) People who like to work with "things". They tend to be "assertive and competitive, and are interested in activities requiring motor coordination, skill and strength". They approach problem solving "by doing something, rather than talking about it, or sitting and thinking about it". They also prefer "concrete approaches to problem solving, rather than abstract theory". Finally, their interests tend to focus on "scientific or mechanical rather than cultural and aesthetic areas".
I Investigative (Thinkers) People who prefer to work with "ideas" They like to "think and observe rather than act, to organize and understand information rather than to persuade". They also prefer "individual rather than people oriented activities".
A Artistic (Creators) People who like to work with "ideas and things". They tend to be "creative, open, inventive, original, perceptive, sensitive, independent and emotional". They rebel against "structure and rules", but enjoy "tasks involving people or physical skills". They tend to be more emotional than the other types.
S Social (Helpers) People who like to work with "people" and who "seem to satisfy their needs in teaching or helping situations". They tend to be "drawn more to seek close relationships with other people and are less apt to want to be really intellectual or physical".
E Enterprising (Persuaders) People who like to work with "people and data". They tend to be "good talkers, and use this skill to lead or persuade others". They "also value reputation, power, money and status".
C Conventional (Organisors) People who prefer to work with "data" and who "like rules and regulations and emphasize self-control ... they like structure and order, and dislike unstructured or unclear work and interpersonal situations". They also "place value on reputation, power, or status".