HR Leads Business

Feb 28, 2019 | Ginny Engholm

How Rethinking Talent Helps Employers Recruit Employees with the Skills They Need

Our recent survey revealed that while a large percentage of HR professionals use the terms “talent” and “skills” interchangeably, the words also convey very different meanings for them. Talent was rated as significantly more innate, natural and unchangeable than skill.

These findings point out a growing source of confusion in talent management -- exactly what is the difference between talent and skill? And how can hiring managers and HR professionals effectively evaluate candidates for both factors? 

People often think of talent and skill as very distinct. “We typically think of skills as something learned,” says Chris Mullen,  aPHR™, director of strategic advisory at Kronos. We tend to view talent, on the other hand, is something that comes naturally. “But it’s this intersection of talent, knowledge and applicability, putting into practice the skills you’ve learned, which are important to long-term success,” Mullen says.

The need for workers with in-demand skills is also leading talent recruiters to focus more on the skills side of talent assessment than the talent side. “The recruitment process can sometimes be too focused on skills,” Mullen says. “Skills are important, but strategies for assessing that talent components are also crucial,” he says.

Here’s how employers can get rethink the roles that talent and skill play in their recruitment processes and strike the right balance.

Think Outside the Talent Assessment Box

When it comes to assessing talent versus skill, hiring managers and recruiters often have to take a more innovative approach. While traditional assessments are often very good at identifying key skills, using more modern approaches like simulations, whether virtual or in person, can help companies identify people with the talent they need.

Mikaila Turman, vice president of people at GoodHire, says they use mock sales calls to assess potential sales talent. On the call, they do an initial assessment of sales skill, but after the call, they provide feedback to the candidate to gauge how coachable the person is. Then, they do another mock call. The process allows them to assess the person’s ability to take feedback and apply it. 

“If they really apply the coaching, that shows they're trainable on the sales skills, even if they don't initially have them,” Turman says. “But how they sound on the phone, what questions they asked, how well they used the feedback, their knack for being willing to ask hard questions, that's the talent piece that we're looking for,” she says.

Harness Emerging Technology

Technologies like AI can help companies better assess a candidate’s skills and talent. “When I interview folks for jobs, I'm looking for do they have the basic skills to do the job, but I’m also looking for their learnability, their willingness to learn,” Mullen says.

The big question, though, is how do we measure that from a standpoint of talent, says Mullen. “How do you evaluate their talent?” he asks. 

Predictive analytic tools can play a role in helping hiring managers assess that, he says. “It never takes away from the decision that a person needs to make,” Mullen says, “but it can aid in the decision-making and can provide a piece of the talent puzzle, a piece of the puzzle that was missing in talent assessment before we had this technology.”

Simulation-based assessments, gamification and new types of personality testing can help employers identify the candidates with those more intangible qualities they need to succeed in their roles. 

Embrace a Holistic Approach

When it comes to assessing potential hires, it’s important for employers to evaluate candidates holistically. “There is a difference between skill and talent, but from an HR standpoint, the difference isn’t all that important in terms of making hiring decisions,” Mullen says. You need to evaluate both as part of the overall strengths of a candidate, he says.

Turman says that talent assessment works best when it takes both components into account. “Talent and skills can complement each other, but you have to look at everything as a whole and not just hone in on one aspect or the other,” she says. “You really have to look at the whole picture to get the best candidate, the best fit.”

Holistic assessment tools that measure a variety of factors related to skill, personality, knowledge and talent can give hiring managers a much more robust measure of the candidate’s true potential.