Skill vs Talent in business, which one is more important?

Knowing how a thing works is different from you knowing how to work a thing – Bryan Greene

Why is the most talented person not always the right choice?

Anyone who has worked with or been in charge of a group of employees and responsible for the hiring process should know the difference between skill and talent. Many times, both of these terms are incorrectly used to define someone’s abilities when they should be used to describe someone’s abilities.

In this article we will discuss the difference between skill and talent. We will Define Skill meaning and Talent meaning giving some examples of both.

Skill Vs Talent

At its core Skill is an ability you develop and nurture overtime  through study and practice.  Talent on the other hand is something you’re born with like  great Hand-Eye Control or Musical Abilities. 

When hiring, these distinctions become important, because supervisors and trainers need to understand what level of development a potential employee will need to adequately perform the job they’ve applied for. 

For argument’s sake,  let’s say there are two candidates applying for the same  entry level job in your finance department. Candidate no.1 has just passed their exams to become a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) and was working as a Bank Teller to pay for school. Candidate no.2 Who has genius level Mathematical Talent but dropped out of college before receiving a degree in Applied Mathematics. All other things being equal, which one would you hire? 

No doubt, both candidates could do the job but the amount of upfront training required for Candidate no.2 to learn the basics of bookkeeping and finance would be quite a bit more than for Candidate no.1

If you do not have a particular set of skills, take heart. You can gain skills through practice, experience, and systematic development. Learning a skill comes from continuous effort and improvement over time. 

Skills can be specific or general. Teamwork and leadership skills are examples of general skills, while components of these like time management, problem solving, and critical thinking are specific skills. Most skills will not come to you overnight, but are worth the effort you put into gaining them. 

Another way to look at skill is the “nurture” part of the nature versus nurture debate. A skill is the refined result of a person’s time and effort. Skills do not become skills unless the work is done to develop them. Another way to view a skill is the ability to perform a Task with a predictable outcome.  

In the business world, we need more than basic skills to be successful. For example, a warehouse manager will probably need computer skills but will also need various other soft skills. These soft skills can include interpersonal skills, organizational skills, and communication skills. 

Business skills are abilities practiced and put to use for the purpose of commerce. You can go to business school to learn and gain knowledge, so that when you go to work you will be able to apply this knowledge to various situations. Over time this helps to refine that knowledge and build skills that can be used in many areas of business.

Skill and Talent Examples

Skill Meaning

For example, you can go to school to learn how to communicate effectively. But until your knowledge is refined through real-world situations, it remains knowledge. 

You knowing how a thing works is different from you knowing how to work a thing. 

Moving through your career you will work with others whether as a subordinate  or a leader. Both leaders and subordinates will need soft skills and hard skills to be effective. 

Soft skills like teamwork, Problem Solving, Interpersonal Skills, and Time Management are needed whether you work with a Corporation or as a Solopreneur.

Hard skills are more specific and relate directly to your specific job and responsibilities. Some of these include, Computer Skills, Marketing Skills, Project Management Skills, and Software Certifications like Salesforce or Trade Skills like Welding.

Examples of Hard Skills we all use everyday life include cleaning your house, driving, garden maintenance, developing a household budget, or organizing your closet. In our personal life some Soft Skills include flexibility, initiative, integrity, perseverance, problem-solving, and time management. skills, writing skills, and critical thinking skills. 

Having a talent can give an Interviewee the edge over another candidate without that talent. Hiring managers and supervisors would rather hire someone with experience and the correct set of skills for the position. For example, the personnel manager would not hire someone who does not have a clue about working with Database Systems over someone that is certified in Database Management. This would be especially true if proficiency in Database software was necessary to do job duties.

Self-development is a worthy goal at any business level, from a Fortune 500 CEO to a high school or college student. In fact, by learning new skills you are discovering hidden possibilities that will help you be more successful in your life and your career, and help you stand out in the crowd.

Talent Meaning

Talent is the natural abilities you are born with, they are coded into our genes Like the ability to run fast, learn music by ear or create beautiful art.

Some talents that can be useful in business are Wit, Spatial Relation ,Divergent Thinking and Visual Design. 

Natural talent when combined with skill and experience can provide for exceptional job candidates and they are worth keeping an eye out for. Interviewers can discover talents with a variety of tools when the candidate first interviews for the job.

Sometimes a talent can manifest itself during aptitude tests or a realistic job preview. Other times, these talents can manifest themselves through carefully chosen interview questions. 

How can one spot outstanding talent during an interview? The interviewer should ask the right questions, avoiding open-ended questions. Each question should test for both Talent and Skill . For example, if an interviewer is looking for creativity in his/her candidate, one of his/her questions should test this. For example, during the interview, the interviewer would ask, how many Different ways are there to use a hammer other than for driving a nail.  The answers themselves are not as important as the number of answers they come up with. 

If you’re looking for attention to detail, one tactic is to, during the application process you give a specific set of instructions to perform a non-related task.  For instance, at the bottom of a paragraph somewhere in the middle of the application instruct the candidate to print out the application and write their name in the bottom left corner on the back of the second page and bring it with them to the interview. 

To find talent, an interviewer should not dominate the conversation, but allow candidates to ask questions about the job. Doing so can give an interviewer a better understanding of a candidate’s aptitude, skills, and personality. Depending on how long the interviewer has to make a hiring decision, the hiring manager can ask questions of the candidate’s references.

A Skills and Talents inventory is sometimes more exact with feedback from the people around the candidate that interact with them in different life situations. One person (the candidate) may exaggerate their talents and skills. But feedback from people around the candidate usually gives a clearer and more exact picture of talents, skills, and aptitudes.

In the past, higher education has focused on raw talent and minimized the skill part of the equation. This backward attitude produced many folks with deep knowledge of a subject but with few practical skills.

Colleges and trade schools are focusing more of their efforts on changing this “knowledge without practical skills” thinking. Evidence of this change is increased lab time within various courses, not just a focus on gaining the book knowledge.

A study conducted recently shows that around two thirds of CEOs worry that their Employees have the correct skills. These CEOs know that global trends and rapid changes in the workplace are producing a skills gap. This skills gap could affect their productivity and may also impact their competitive advantage.

Professional Development

Over one third of workers (including half of millennials) think it okay to quit a job where no learning opportunities exist. Professional Development opportunities are part of the “job package”, like pay or health benefits. Traditionally, professional development was an annual offering.

Now, every employee should learn something every day. This learning not only includes gaining knowledge, but turning that knowledge into skills you can use. If you are not continuously learning new skills it is unlikely you will be able to achieve the advancement you are looking for in your career.

What some in business calls “Talent Management” more correctly should be called (Professional Development), has become a trend in business. This trend may not soon go away because of what Professional Development contributes to the business.

Professional Development is an organized, strategic process to hire the right people, there by helping the company achieve its objectives more effectively. Part of the job of Management is to analyze their current skill gaps, develop ways to Provide education and opportunity to promote expansion and growth of employee’s existing talents and skills.

By: Bryan Greene

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