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The Sideline Blog

Just as sports players come to the sideline for rest and guidance, this blog is meant to provide you some insight and guidance as you explore your Strengths journey.

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  • Writer's pictureChad T. Ahern

The Other Talent Gap

Search Google for "talent gap" and you'll find more than 24.4 million results; most espousing the dire situations of HR directors and recruitment professionals. They can't find the right people for the right positions...and it's only going to get worse.

This is a valid concern but there are two ideas missing from this conversation.

  1. These articles confuse "talent" with "Talent".

  2. There exists another "Talent gap" that is getting far less attention but might be easier to fix.

talent vs. Talent In most of the articles on "talent" (lowercase "t") you'll find authors referring to some combination of having the right people with the right pre-taught skills, and appropriate book knowledge or experience in their field. Something that looks like this:

Skills + Knowledge + people or person = talent

The problem with this thinking is that it omits the natural innate abilities of people. Marcus Cunningham and Curt Coffman define all three - skills, knowledge, and Talent - a little differently in their book "First Break All the Rules". You'll find a similar approach in Tom Rath's acclaimed book "StrengthFinders 2.0":

Skills are the how-to's of a role....knowledge is simply "what you are aware of"...Talents are the four-lane highways in your mind, those that carve your recurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior. Talents cannot be taught. -- Marcus Cunningham and Curt Coffman, "First Break All the Rules"

This distinction between "talent" and "Talent" is important because even when you do find the right "talent", they might not bring the best set of "Talents" to engage with your team, or stay motivated enough to bring long-term benefits to your company. Get it wrong and your back looking for new employees. It's also one thing to claim you cannot find or are willing to train the right talent (lower case "t"), it's another to not engage the full range of Talents you already have on your team.

Fixing the Real Gap

With this differentiation in mind, I contend that the real "Talent gap" isn't the lack of an available employee pool. The real Talent gap is the difference between the modest number of Talents your team utilizes every day and the total number of Talents innately held by your team. So before we all go complain that we can't find the right people or post that next job listing, consider:

  1. Do you know and understand the true nature and abilities of each team member? If not, consider a tool like StrengthFinder 2.0. Some knowledge-of-self and team can go a long way.

  2. Having open and frank conversations with each employee, or as a team. Discuss where each team member's real Talents would make a bigger difference to the company and would lead the person to enjoy more engagement with their work.

  3. Changing some seats. I believe it was Stephen Covey who coined the phrase, "First, find the right bus; then find the right seat". Before you scour LinkedIn for your next employee, consider if a current team member's Talents actually make them a better fit. That way you keep the institutional knowledge, they feel respected, and you'll probably boost their engagement with the company. A win-win for everyone. Even if you can't find a current team member to fit; you'll have a better understanding of what Talent combination will lead someone to be successful.

Need one more incentive? Re-evaluating where people utilize their Talents will minimize the chances your teammates are part of the 82% of American and Canadian workers (and 87% worldwide) disengaged from their work.

What have you done to find and capitalize on the unique Talents of your team?

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