The purpose of this paper is to understand the limitations of popular approaches to defining talent, where definitions are focused on determining specific attributes that differentiate someone as talent. It is suggested that rather than focus solely on definitions of talent, considering talent and success as distinct and separate enables a more holistic approach to engaging talent and enabling its potential.
The paper presents a definition of talent which remains a core premise by which organizations seek to define their talent and considers the inherent flaws in this premise. It draws on literature, early doctoral research and practitioner experience in international talent management to debate the merits for talent management practitioners of focusing on talent differentiation based on complex and ambiguous definitions of talent.
As definitions of talent are complex, ambiguous and incomplete, there can never be a “one size fits all”. Understanding this ambiguity enables organizations to identify possible flaws in their approach to defining talent. Considering the distinct and separate notions of talent and success empowers organizations to ask more relevant questions around how employees are encouraged to leverage the talents they do have into success.
Most talent management processes are driven by the need to define and identify characteristics which indicate greater ability when compared to others. This is still the focus of much talent management literature. This paper encourages organizations to instead focus on how individuals can use the talents they have to be successful personally and in a way that is aligned to the organization.
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