Driftwood Group

The War on “Talent”

Microphone on Blue

When I was a kid, the first time you encountered the word TALENT was usually in music class, or maybe on the sports field…

“How talented little Jessica is on the piano, she’s a natural”

“Look at those basketball skills. What a Talent!”

But cut to 2015 and the word Talent is bandied about with great enthusiasm. A quick run through the Googlizer produces about half a billion results for the word.

And I reckon about three quarters of those results are about RECRUITMENT.

I know what you’re thinking…where is he going with this?

Talent has been done to death. What once meant something sublime and tangible with respect to a music performance, acting ability or brilliant sporting achievement, now has more in common with a faceless MBA-wielding consultant.

The War for Talent

The Race for Talent

Drive for Talent

Talent Acquisition Specialist (What does that even mean? Sports agent?)

Talent Management

And on, and on, and on…

Problem is that when we delve a bit deeper something sinister rears its head.

While we spend all this time coveting Talent, seeking out Talent, recruiting more Talent, acquiring Talent, managing Talent, what do we make of the poor souls who have been working away in a company for years, striving to help the business rise?

If that new guy (or gal) straight out of a big consulting firm and with a list of credentials stretching to the moon and back is the Talent, then what is everyone else? The dismal sludge? The drudgery? The servants of Talent? Second class citizens, that’s what they are.

And how best to ensure your workplace culture heads south? Start trolling the world for Talent to save the day, thereby relegating all the current employees to the back of the room. When they are presented to other members of an organization, you’re almost guaranteeing that the new hire is loathed simply for being the Talent.

I think a refocus on fostering training, culture and attitude would work wonders here. The best answer isn’t necessarily “out with the old, in with the Talent”. Maybe the best answer is some up-skilling, some team cohesion development, some culture and values alignment.

Maybe the best answer is hidden in those simple semantics. Talent belongs on stage and screen, in an arena, playing rugby. Not in the corner office. That person needs to be a leader, charismatic and engaging – able to inspire others. You might, dare I say it, think of them as being rather talented with respect to their leadership skills.

But when you call them the Talent you’re dehumanizing them down to some sort of object, a chattel marked in a ledger, no doubt with some corresponding monetary value. I suspect the people who’ve been working away tirelessly with your organization before you hired the Talent would probably put a different dollar value in that ledger.

Just think about it – If the Talent is your greatest Asset, if your business model involves seeing your people as a possession…then you have a whole different problem!

Let’s leave the word Talent to the reality TV guys and go back to talking about people.


ALEX KELLY – 19th June 2015

Share this...

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Alex Kelly

Alex Kelly

Alex is a Director at Driftwood Group | Occasional Recruiter | Amateur Wordsmith | Career Interventionist