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Oftentimes, we associate talent with some natural ability. Those who excel in sports, the performing arts, or music are considered talented. We forget that many in these fields spend countless hours training to perfect their skills. I witnessed my nieces training for swimming way before daybreak. This made them get better at it. During the swimming competitions, one would have assumed that they were born great swimmers. In the workplace, the term “talent” is not very commonly used. About two decades ago, a friend was appointed to lead talent development in a multinational corporation. Why did they use the term “talent”? I wondered. Why not simply be the head of learning and development that is being used in other organizations? The use of the term “talent” in the workplace was rare then, and that is why it caught my attention. Soon after, I started seeing a few others in the corporate world using the term “talent.” In some human resources departments, talent management has become a key consideration. Furthermore, instead of simply recruitment, talent search has made great inroads.

What is talent? Is it the same as skill or is it different? I believe that talent in the world of work is not always about someone’s genetic disposition. The environment and one’s mindset seem to play a key role. Talent goes beyond having a basic skill level. Employees considered to have talent exhibit a high level of skill, making them stand out and their performance is better than the rest. I believe talent is a skill that is internalized and one that occurs and is demonstrated with little or no effort. Talent can be in any field. Can talent be developed? Can it be managed at the workplace? Certainly yes! Many have grown their talent by putting in some extra effort. Talent management has become an area of interest for many forward-looking organizations. Michigan State University defines talent management as the “systemic, planned effort to attract, retain, develop, and motivate highly skilled employees and managers.”

Over the years, the way organizations manage their employees has evolved. In its early days, human resources management was overly administrative. Today, many organizations recognize that their employees make a major difference. As such, the management of employees has gone beyond administrative tasks. Strategic human resources management plays a very role in business success. This has made many organizations rethink the human aspect of their business. The success or failure of many businesses can be linked to the quality of its people. It is for this reason that smart organizations take time to make hiring decisions. They do so to gauge if one is a good fit for the current and future needs of an organization. Such organizations look for people who are highly skilled or those who demonstrate high potential.

In our world of work today, smart businesses should be intentional about attracting and nurturing talent. The starting point for spotting talent is to be clear about what the organization is looking for. The talent search process should be well guided. In addition, creating an environment conducive to growing the best talent is critical. The quality of our people has the ability to make or break our businesses.

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Dr Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via Twitter @KiruthuLucy

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