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How to Identify Talent in the Workplace

Monday, June 19, 2023

How to Identify Talent in the Workplace

Employees are the most valuable assets an organization has. This makes attracting and retaining top talent a critical part of a successful recruitment process.

But what exactly can top performers do for your company?

McKinsey[1] found that top performers are up to 400% more productive than average performers. In highly competitive firms, this number jumps to 800%. With that in mind, it's essential for organizations of all sizes to identify and recognize talent in the workplace.

However, identifying and developing talent in the workplace is not as easy as it sounds. Employees considered top talent usually have a combination of skills, education, experience, and advanced capabilities unique to their roles.

Still, these capabilities can be difficult to identify and develop in the workplace. But it's not impossible to identify if you know what to look for in employees' profiles. In this guide, we'll share some tips to help you identify talent in the workplace.

What Does Talent Mean in the Workplace?

The Oxford Dictionary defines talent as "a natural ability to do something well."

In the workplace, a talent is someone with the aptitude and skills to do something exceptionally well. It's ideally an employee with the potential to drive organizational growth.

An apt definition of "talent" emphasizes qualities that make one excel in performing a specific job. These qualities can be summarized in two words—ability and capability.

Hence, talent can be defined as the ability and capability to perform a task exceptionally well. In this context, ability refers to the current performance, while capability refers to the potential of an individual to perform well.

How Is Talent Different from Skill?

Talent and skill are related in many ways but aren't the same.

Talent is a natural aptitude and ability to do something well. It's an inborn quality, inherited or hardwired into us at birth. Skill, on the other hand, is mainly acquired through learning.

Talent is a God-given ability, where skill is developed through education or job experience. Everyone is born with a talent, but if it's not recognized and nurtured, it won't develop.

How to Identify Talent in the Workplace

When recruiting, every company wants to attract and hire top talent. That's because an organization's success is defined by the skill and talents of its employees.

That said, it's easy to attract top talent when recruiting by offering attractive benefits, like competitive salaries, growth opportunities, flexible work arrangements, etc. But how can you identify talent in the workplace?

1. Focus on the Right Traits

The two biggest mistakes managers make when evaluating talent are:

  • Focusing more on an employee's past performance
  • Overrating the importance of a resume

Industry experts predict that 65% of today's jobs[2] won't be around in 15 years. This means managers shouldn't place too much emphasis on the current educational curriculum, which is designed to prepare candidates for the current, rather than the future jobs.

While we might not be able to predict future jobs, one thing is clear; employees will be more equipped to do them if they have certain skills, such as learnability, drive, and emotional intelligence. These are the foundational traits that determine knowledge acquisition.

Moreover, these foundational traits are becoming more important by the day as artificial intelligence becomes mainstream.

2. Be Data Driven

Data is the fuel that drives business decisions. In the workplace, data can play a fundamental role in helping you identify talent.

For example, employee talent metrics paint a clear picture of what an employee has accomplished in a given period.

Using firm numbers like sales achieved, production, quality projects, satisfied customers, and errors made can help you determine how competently an employee performs in their current position. Such data can be used to make smart transfer or promotion decisions.

So, before you identify someone as a high-performing employee, ensure you have solid data and evidence to support your decision.

3. Challenge Team Members to Take on Complex Tasks

Employees sometimes get too comfortable with their roles within an organization. They get used to performing the same tasks using the same skills repeatedly, which besides boredom, thwarts growth. In this case, no one grows—not the individual, the team, or the company.

It's up to organizational leaders to challenge skills and competencies by delegating complex, unfamiliar tasks to team members.

Talented individuals should be able to perform these tasks, given their aptitude and ability to learn quickly. This way, a manager can identify and unlock hidden talents within groups based on individual performance.

4. Talk to Their Colleagues and Managers

Not sure how to identify talent within your team? Talk to people who know them best. The feedback you get can provide insights into each individual's potential.

For instance, organizational leaders can check in with an employee's manager or supervisor to get insights into how well an employee works under pressure or in a team environment.

Asking for opinions about their strengths, weaknesses, attitudes, and behavior can further help you understand their potential. This strategy gives you a holistic view of the employee's performance and demeanor, which can help determine if they have what it takes to be high-potential employees in your company.

5. Identify Key Competencies

Possessing key competencies, like emotional intelligence, is important for high-performing employees. Key competencies are skills, knowledge, and abilities required for success in a particular role within an organization.

How do you identify key competencies?

The easiest way is to review the job description and talk to subject matter experts about the skills that matter most for that role.

For instance, if emotional intelligence is critical for a certain role, managers can assess an employee's emotional intelligence by observing how they interact with customers and fellow employees. Do they show sympathy when interacting with customers? Are they calm in stressful situations?

The Bottom Line

With the current war on talent and skills shortage, it makes perfect sense to start identifying untapped potential and hidden talent within your organization.

Following the tips we've discussed above can help you spot potential stars within your organization and nurture them to steer your company forward.

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