We live in a competitive world. And while we are all constantly evolving and working towards a better version of ourselves we often hear odes about talent. In the corporate tech world, “talent” is possibly the most overused word to a point where no one is entirely sure what it actually means.
What is talent?
Have you ever tried posing this question to your HR department? A whirlwind of confusion and senseless explanations will most likely follow. And yet, we all talk about it on a daily basis. Companies now have “Talent teams” to portrait company policies that value talent. That includes talent hunting and development. They are, of course, led by “heads of talent”. Sounds familiar? It does look like a rebranded and trendier version of a traditional HR department.
What’s behind it?
While it’s great to know that your skills are valued, the word “talent” implies that one is born with a skill set that is static and it’s out of our control to change, develop and improve it. It might be possible that a person is indeed born with certain predispositions to be better at a particular activity. However, for centuries we’ve been used to hearing that word in the context of art. For example, “She was a born singer/artist/painter.” Or talking about a “god-given talent”. And while genetics might play some part in that it is often the surrounding obstacles and hard work on a particular craft that gives it visibility and true value.
In the world of advanced technology, on the other hand, what we consider “talent” today might be something completely different tomorrow. Or it would always vary based on the opinion of the person assessing it. As technology is advancing incredibly quickly a mindset that promotes the static “a talented digital professional” is dangerous. No one was born proficient in programming. It’s something we’ve developed over time through years of learning, experience, and hard work. In fact, we’ve done that with all other skills we use in our daily lives like speaking, writing, talking, cooking, etc.
Talent in a sea of marketing clichés
Most companies claim that they are only hiring and working with the top 1% in their respective industry. That’s of course most visible in the IT world. While that sounds great and might sell well, there are a number of things in that statement that sound disturbing.
First of all, there isn’t a known method of measuring who the top 1% in the industry are. No one really knows what’s the ratio of hard and soft skills that when combined create a top 1% software developer. Also, it is simple math that when most companies claim that they hire the top 1% there must be an ocean of jobless developers stuck in the other 99%. What that is, quite frankly, is a meaningless marketing cliché.
The Future of Talent – Nurture Talent
Without getting further into the linguistics of what the word actually means, we know that it will be close to impossible to get rid of its current usage in the professional world. Therefore, we’ll have to make the most of it. What we have adopted as a strategy in Motion Software is a “Nurture Talent” policy. What that implies is that talent is indeed flexible, multi-dimensional and subject to molding, improving and adapting.
In a world of relativity when it comes to interpreting words, the presence of qualities like intelligence and adaptability might however be of utmost importance when trying to develop “top talent”.
Temporary hearsay have published a wonderful article on the topic stating that:
“It’s clear we need a better model of talent, one which focuses on the conditions suitable for development and nurture of talent rather than attracting talent.”
And we must agree with that approach. We have realized that creating an environment that is all about learning and improving is the way to “create talent”. That requires a respectable amount of organizational and financial resources dedicated to learning and training to be part of the company’s core values.
Photos by: JoelValve, Carl Heyerdahl, Doran Erickson
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