What Does It Mean When We Say “Top Talent”?

March 2, 2016 - 2 minute read - Posted by

Have you ever caught yourself describing your future hire as “top talent”? Have you gone as far as to include a bullet point in the job posting to make sure applicants know the company is only seeking “top talent”?

But what does it really mean when we use the vanilla term talent?

The challenge is not in how we label extraordinary performers but what is being measured. When breaking down what talent means to the company, think of the two main components that make up talent: People and performance.

To say we’ll know talent when we see it is unfair. Here is a general take on what it means when we use the word talent:

  • Talent has objectives that are aligned with company goals and can find a way to achieve them.
  • Talent can create, execute and refine their plans and workflows to adapt to the changing requirements of the business strategy.
  • Talent delivers quality work on time and on budget.

When taking a step back and looking at what we really mean when we talk about talent, there is no doubt we’re seeking to measure for impeccable performance rather than people through arbitrary means.

So how exactly can we measure for talent AKA performance?

Try Google’s secret sauce: OKRs (Objectives and Key Results)

  • The objectives are ambitious but attainable for the employee or company and supplemented by…
  • …detailed key results that are measurable by performance. Metrics of success can vary from a grade scale to percentages depending on the organization.
  • OKRs should be public to all members of your company to ensure alignment of objectives.

As talent is to measurable performance and not labelling people, OKRs are not equivalent to employee performance appraisals. OKRs are about the goals of the employee and how they contribute to the bigger picture of company objectives. Employee performance appraisals on the other hand, are looking at how well an employee is performing within a time constraint.

Choose to measure performance, not people.

For more information about Objectives and Key Results, get the free Objectives and Key Results ebook.