Mountain of gummy bears. A little yellow bear crowns the mountain because he is the most talented

March 25, 2019

What is talent?

Since the term "War for Talent" was coined in 1997, the concept of talent and everything related to it has become a prominent topic in the field of Human Resources. Those of us who work within or with this industry love discussing, writing, reading, and debating Talent Management. However, what exactly is talent? While it's a widely used term, few authors or experts provide a clear definition, often assuming that its meaning is self-evident.
After reviewing the literature by prominent academics, we can define talent from three different aspects:
  • Natural Talent: Talent as a natural ability. Many authors and HR professionals believe that talent is something inherent or innate. At HRider, we understand that talent in various skills or competencies can be learned and developed through continuous assessment, feedback, action plans, and effective motivation management for each employee. Nevertheless, everyone possesses natural abilities and weaknesses.
  • High Achievers: Talent as high achievers refers to individuals who consistently perform above average, particularly in specific areas. It's often associated with being the best in class or excelling in particular fields.
  • Potential: This category encompasses individuals who haven't fully realized their talent but have the potential to develop it. Through performance assessments, it's possible to proactively identify these future capabilities and guide professional growth accordingly.

Every employee possesses their unique strengths, allowing them to contribute added value to the organization. Organizational success is achieved when we can recognize and harness the talents of every individual within the team, not just those who stand out the most.

Given the indiscriminated use that we all have of the word Talent we have decided, starting from a study carried out a few years ago, collecting, updating and sharing the sources of the definitions given to it different References in the matter so that each reader can choose the meaning that they like best:


F. Gagné 2000 "The superior mastery of systematically developed skills and knowledge" .
M.R. Williams 2000 “Describes those individuals who do one or another of the following: regularly demonstrates exceptional ability—and achievement—either in activities and situations, or within a specialized field of expertise; they consistently show to be very competent in areas of activity that suggest to be transferable, comparable to situations where [these people] have not yet been tested and proven to be highly effective, that is, their potential.”
Buckingham and Vosburgh 2001 "Talent should refer to recurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied."
Jericho Pillar 2001 "The implemented capability of a committed professional or group of professionals who achieve superior results in a particular environment and organization."
Michael, Handfield-Jones, Axelrod 2001 "The sum of a person's abilities: his intrinsic gifts, competencies, knowledge, experience, intelligence, judgment, attitude, character, and energy. It also includes his ability to learn and grow."
Lewis & Heckman 2006 "It's essentially a euphemism for 'people.'"
Tansley, Harris, Steward and Turner 2006 "Talent can be viewed as a complex amalgamation of employee skills, knowledge, cognitive ability, and potential. Employee values and work preferences are also of great importance."
Gunter Stahl 2007 "A select group of employees - those who rank highest in terms of ability and performance - rather than the entire staff."
Carol Tansley 2007 “Talent consists of those people who can make a difference in the organization's performance, either through their contribution or in the long term by demonstrating the highest levels of potential."
Dave Ulrich 2007 Talent is "being competent (able to do the job) and engaged (willing to do the job)", to which must be added "real contribution through work (finding meaning and purpose in their work) [...] Contribution occurs when employees feel that their personal needs are being met through their participation in your organization."
Cheese, Thomas, & Craig 2008 "Essentially, talent means the total of all the experience, knowledge, skills, and behaviors that a person has and brings to the job."
González-Cruz, T., Martínez-Fuentes, C., & Pardo-del-Val 2009 "A set of competencies that, when developed and applied, enables a person to perform a certain role excellently."
  2009 “The possession of repeatable skills that do not depend on genetics (although it relates to myelin), but on: intense practice, ignition and master instruction”.
Silzer & Dowell 2010 "In groups, talent can refer to a group of employees who are exceptional in their competencies and abilities either in a specific technical area (such as software graphics) or a competency (such as consumer marketing talent). , or a more general area (such as general managers or high-potential talent). And in some cases, "talent" could refer to the entire employee population."
Jose Antonio Marina 2010 "Triumphant intelligence, where intelligence is linked to problem solving and flows towards its resolution".
Carol Tansley 2011 "Special ability or aptitude that is considered to be innate and has outstanding achievements in the physical and mental domains."
Jose Miguel Bolivar 2011 "A quality convertible into value for the organization".
Bethke-Langenegger 2012 "We understand that talent is one of those workers who guarantees the competitiveness and future of a company (as a specialist or leader) through their specific qualification and knowledge of the organization/position, their social skills and methods and their characteristic attributes, such as enthusiasm for learning or achievement orientation.
Fernando Bottle 2012 "Talent = Knowledge x Skill x Attitude"
Alfonso Alcantara 2016 "Talent is the interaction between specialization (focus) and qualification (skills), together with motivation."
Billy Adamsen 2016 "Discerning whether it is a natural ability, a capacity or an attitude is absolutely circumstantial, the meaning of the word talent will depend on the context where it is used".
Eva Collado 2018 "True talent is who chooses who they work with and who they don't."
Francisco Alcaide 2018 "Talent is what allows you to have a good performance in some activity".
Margarita Alvarez 2018 "Certain types of knowledge, attitudes and experiences".
Juan Carlos Cubeiro 2019 “Capacity x commitment in the appropriate context”, where 'capacity' would be the aptitude –knowledge–, while the 'attitude' would refer to the behaviors.


So what is talent management? It is the commitment and strategy of an organization to attract, hire, develop and build employee loyalty so that they can deploy their skills professionally and thus achieve more productive and competitive organizations. If you want some advice on how to manage it in the 21st century, we invite you to continue being inspired here!

Despite the fact that we have found many different definitions of talent, all specialists on the matter seem to agree on the same thing: the success of an organization depends on the people who make it up. Let's not forget that! ever!