‘Only Some People Are Talented’

Jan 21, 2014

This is what an employee of a client of mine said to me this week. He continued, “And we should only hire the talented people.”

This is worthy of a conversation.

All people are talented. Each person has unique abilities that make him or her amazing at some things and very average at others. No one person is amazing at everything. Aligning employees’ abilities to areas that need what they do best, and they will earn the title “talented” — capable, awesome, expert.

Another way to say this is that only some people fit the job. Only some people have the unique abilities that match the abilities needed to successful and consistently do the activities needed in the job. This is how to define talent — right abilities and fit for the job. Obviously, knowing how to define these abilities needed in the job allows companies to recruit more effectively.

As an CEO coach and workplace consultant, I still see most organizations still rely on experience as the primary criteria from which to hire. The thinking is that if someone has been able to do the job in the past (mind you we don’t know at what level), they will therefore be able to do the job in my workplace.

But the statistics about employee engagement from the Gallup Organization show that only 29 percent of employees show up passionate and engaged in their work. This low percentage happens because most employees are in jobs that don’t align to their core or best abilities — they don’t feel or act talented.

To be successful in today’s workplace, employees have to be good at the job (they have the right talents and abilities for the job) and like doing it (they have an interest or passion in the job). Just having experience doesn’t mean that an employee is both good at the job and likes doing it. I have spoken to many employees who move from job to job, blaming the companies when the real problem is they choose a job that they have experience in but no real interest or aptitude in.

A waitress I met a couple of months ago said it best. I was asking about items on the menu because I have some food allergies. She told me that I had to take the food the way they prepare it or I could leave. Imagine. I then asked what she thought that response would do for my loyalty; she quickly said she didn’t care. She said she has been working as a waitress for 25 years and has always hated that people want to make changes to the menu. She even offered that doesn’t like people.

On the resume this waitress had the experience. In the real world, she doesn’t have the talents for this job; she doesn’t fit. So if experience continues to be the lead criteria instead of talents and behaviors, this candidate would have looked like a likely high performer and been recruited. True, if management knows about talent-based interviewing, there is a chance she could be found out in the interview process. But more than likely, she would be hired and then brought the same disappointing service to the new establishment’s customers. Though she has talents (because we all do), hers do not align to a job that puts her in regular face-to-face contact with others.

So, it is not true that only some people are talented — everyone is talented — but only in some things. This means that to recruit wisely, we need to know the thinking and abilities required in the job to know who will be a good fit for the job. Source those who have both the experience and the talents.

Without a behavioral review by job, you open your company up to accepting people who should not be allowed to connect to your customers. You must be the guard at the door of your business to ensure that only those who have the abilities and interest to show up ready to make a difference can connect with your customers, inspire their loyalty and build your brand. Don’t get distracted by someone’s experience. Instead, couple an experience and skill review with knowing the right talents, strengths, and passions needed to be successful in the job and you have the information you need to know whether or not to bring that candidate into your great company.

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