‘Only Some People Are Talented’

This is what an employee of a client of mine said to me this week. He continued, “And we should only hire the talented people.”

This is worthy of a conversation.

All people are talented. Each person has unique abilities that make him or her amazing at some things and very average at others. No one person is amazing at everything. Aligning employees’ abilities to areas that need what they do best, and they will earn the title “talented” — capable, awesome, expert.

Another way to say this is that only some people fit the job. Only some people have the unique abilities that match the abilities needed to successful and consistently do the activities needed in the job. This is how to define talent — right abilities and fit for the job. Obviously, knowing how to define these abilities needed in the job allows companies to recruit more effectively.

As an CEO coach and workplace consultant, I still see most organizations still rely on experience as the primary criteria from which to hire. The thinking is that if someone has been able to do the job in the past (mind you we don’t know at what level), they will therefore be able to do the job in my workplace.

But the statistics about employee engagement from the Gallup Organization show that only 29 percent of employees show up passionate and engaged in their work. This low percentage happens because most employees are in jobs that don’t align to their core or best abilities — they don’t feel or act talented.

To be successful in today’s workplace, employees have to be good at the job (they have the right talents and abilities for the job) and like doing it (they have an interest or passion in the job). Just having experience doesn’t mean that an employee is both good at the job and likes doing it. I have spoken to many employees who move from job to job, blaming the companies when the real problem is they choose a job that they have experience in but no real interest or aptitude in.

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A waitress I met a couple of months ago said it best. I was asking about items on the menu because I have some food allergies. She told me that I had to take the food the way they prepare it or I could leave. Imagine. I then asked what she thought that response would do for my loyalty; she quickly said she didn’t care. She said she has been working as a waitress for 25 years and has always hated that people want to make changes to the menu. She even offered that doesn’t like people.

On the resume this waitress had the experience. In the real world, she doesn’t have the talents for this job; she doesn’t fit. So if experience continues to be the lead criteria instead of talents and behaviors, this candidate would have looked like a likely high performer and been recruited. True, if management knows about talent-based interviewing, there is a chance she could be found out in the interview process. But more than likely, she would be hired and then brought the same disappointing service to the new establishment’s customers. Though she has talents (because we all do), hers do not align to a job that puts her in regular face-to-face contact with others.

So, it is not true that only some people are talented — everyone is talented — but only in some things. This means that to recruit wisely, we need to know the thinking and abilities required in the job to know who will be a good fit for the job. Source those who have both the experience and the talents.

Without a behavioral review by job, you open your company up to accepting people who should not be allowed to connect to your customers. You must be the guard at the door of your business to ensure that only those who have the abilities and interest to show up ready to make a difference can connect with your customers, inspire their loyalty and build your brand. Don’t get distracted by someone’s experience. Instead, couple an experience and skill review with knowing the right talents, strengths, and passions needed to be successful in the job and you have the information you need to know whether or not to bring that candidate into your great company.

Jay Forte is a workplace consultant, certified executive coach, business speaker and author of Fire Up! Your Employees and Smoke Your Competition and The Greatness Zone – Know Yourself, Find Your Fit, Transform The World. He is the president and founder of TGZ Group, an organization committed to transforming organizations and lives through talent-based tools, education, and coaching. He writes the Manage for Big Bold Results newsletter, is the host of the Fire Up! Your Employees Podcast (Feb 1, 2014), and is a frequent chapter and national SHRM speaker. His Fire Up! Process, tools, books, and information can be found at FireUpYourEmployees.com.


7 Comments on “‘Only Some People Are Talented’

  1. Thanks Jay. It makes complete sense companies should hire friendly customer-facing folks.
    “…show that only 29 percent of employees show up passionate and engaged in their work.” Could it be that a very large percentage of jobs have some mind-numbing, soul-killing, and or body-destroying element in them that you won’t be able to improve just by getting somebody else in there? In other words: it’s not that most people are in the wrong job, it’s that most jobs have something very wrong with them for most people.
    Folks, what do YOU think?


  2. HI Keith
    We likely have both things going on – disengaged employees because they are in roles that don’t fit, and boring jobs because management hasn’t reinvented them to be more dynamic, interesting and aligned to todays service world.I see the same thing in the college world – too many students don’t know themselves so they study things that don’t fit their unique abilities, and I see colleges too slow to update with the times to provide more current courses, thinking and real-life opportunities. At a minimum, for the jobs we have, we can definitely do a better job of hiring for fit. And I love your perspective that perhaps we should also add some greater energy and importance to the work we ask people to do.

  3. Yes indeed, Jay. I think there may vbe some interesting developments in this area over the next 10-20 years.: As more of the unskilled and semiskilled jobs (which often have these negative components) are automated, there may be fewer of these often “sucky” jobs for people to be disengaged from. On the other hand, there may be fewer jobs of ANY type. Are we going to have 30-40% of the able-bodied work force un(der) employed, because there aren’t enough jobs of ANY type that someone’s willing to pay them for and 60-70% of the able-bodied workforce working crazy hours because there’ aren’t enough skilled people at any price to do that kind of work?
    Your further thoughts…

  4. “Do what you love” — you can interpret that in many different ways. Unfortunately you are interpreting only one way. I have had employees tell me they love their job —- for the work itself? No — because they get to work with people they really like. They have good relationships — and that to them defines what a good job is. They don’t lie at in bed at night upset because they can’t design space ships. I could share other examples. But don’t think it’s only the “elite” STEM people that can luxuriate in “job love”. It’s just not true.

  5. In my research i have come to the conclusion is that there are 3 levels of “connection” that inspire sustainable engaged employee performance: intellectual connection – the employee has the right thinking and abilities for the job, emotional connection- the employee likes the work (enough to continue to improve in it) and personal connection – the employee has a good relationship with his manager and team (likes working for the place). The more of these 3 an employee has, the more engaged and we know through the studies, that the more engaged, the more productive and better performing. Do employee have to love their jobs? No, but I feel that the greater the emotional pull for the job (the actual work itself) the greater potential for contribution. Miss any of these 3 levels of connection and I feel work and engagement are less than they could be. Just a thought…

  6. Interesting Topic! I served 20 years in the military and it’s a place where you find out quickly if your a fit and whether you like it or not. In this profession you could be exposed hazardous/hostile environments so if this isn’t something you want exposure to, you shouldn’t join. If you don’t become engaged in this profession you could find yourself discharged before your time is up.
    I served 8 years as a Military Recruiter and enjoyed it very much, it’s the very reason why I’m a Corporate Recruiter today.

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