Gregory Ronczewski is the Director of Product Design at TeamFit platform – view his profile on TeamFit

Top image: The Auxiliary Territorial Service in the United Kingdom 1939 – 1945. ATS officers-in-training man a searchlight in Western Command, 28 February 1944. The ATS officers were required to spend six weeks at a searchlight site in order to have the first-hand experience of the work and under their future command. This is a 90cm projector. The operator moves the light using the wheel at the end of the long arm. This arrangement allowed the operator to stand outside the glare of the lamp. © Public Domain

 

Let’s not confuse skills, knowledge and talent. They are very different. For instance, you can learn new skills. Skills are transferable. Skills shape what you do in your role and how you carry out your work. The more you use your skills, the more experience you gain. Practice makes perfect. Knowledge is what you know. Not only as facts and figures. There is also practical knowledge – how to do certain things. Knowledge as well is transferable. The first part, the factual knowledge is obtained through study. Any school environment is dedicated to the transfer of knowledge, in both formats – the factual as well as the practical. The latter is more interesting as it connects you to your talents. Now, talent is different from skills or knowledge. You may call it talent, or natural ability, or a gift. We hear it all the time – she is such a gifted person, or he has such an incredible way of getting through his ideas. Those are talents. Talents are not transferable. You can’t teach a talent. You can only discover those individual traits in yourself, or if you are a manager, you can help figure out what are the natural abilities of the people in your team.

One way of looking at talent is to find recurring patterns of thoughts, behaviours and feelings around specific tasks. You should be on the lookout for those special moments because your natural abilities may help to find you a perfect role. The role that you will excel in. For instance, a talented nurse will have this unique ability to connect with her patients. It is more than skill, and it is not the result of experience. Of course, both skills and knowledge will contribute to her performance, but the difference lies in the hard to define abilities. Some may call it soft-skills, but these are not skills. The ability to instantly form a connection with another person and offer exactly what the other person needs at this moment is definitely a talent. If you don’t have it, you will suffer in this role.

Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman in their book First, Break All the Rules write about three categories of talent they found while studying over 150 different roles.

Striving Talents form the first group. It is the why group. Why is this person motivated to do things this way? Is it the desire to become better, or the competitiveness, or just the need to stand out?

Thinking Talents explain the how. How are decisions made? How this person comes to conclusions? Is it a practical approach or strategic?

Relating Talents. Buckingham writes that this group describes the who of a person. With whom this person forms relationships. Is confrontation a problem or a natural ability. Whom this person ignores and why. Those three groups define who you are, and it looks that no matter how different we all are, the combination of talents will remain constant through the career, or rather, the life of each of us.

Another way of looking at skills, knowledge and talent is to imagine an unexpected situation. Something extreme and perhaps dangerous. Quite often, skills will be of little help, nor knowledge, for that matter. This is when you see the talent taking the front stage. You cannot teach talent but you rely on it.

Competence is the ability of an individual to do a job effectively. That’s how Wikipedia describes it. Search for “competencies,” and you will get a plethora of results from Core Competencies to different models all trying to capture a system capable of checking if a person conforms to the norms attached to a particular role. According to Buckingham, the term competency model was coined by the British Military during World War II in a quest to define a model for a perfect officer. Ever since the idea has resonated with many organizations. Although one may object that this is a top-down approach is aimed at moulding everyone into one format, there are positive aspects too. For instance, breaking a role or a part of a role into smaller tasks which can be simply checked upon helps to ensure the safety of operation.

Shared standards make skills transferable, and standards make comparison possible.

If we agree that competencies combine skills, practical and theoretical knowledge and talent, there is a risk that since talent is not exactly easy to measure, the outcomes may be skewed. At the same time, if there are skills and a level of expertise connected to a role, then this alone can offer insights into the more elusive talent.

What about Habits or Attitudes? Can we connect these to competencies and make them part of our competency models? Is a positive attitude a skill or a trait? Can you teach someone to have a positive attitude? I don’t think so. It is something you are born with. You can force yourself into a process that may help to stay positive, but that’s different. Habits are either acquired or natural. In recent years, there has been a negative connotation to the word ‘habit,’ but if you look past this, habits often define who you are. You can form new habits but it is much more difficult to change your attitude. If you are naturally competitive, it will be hard to change this, but it will be fantastic to use it to your advantage. So, when you ask someone to change their attitude, think again – are you asking to change something that can be changed or something that is rooted much deeper.

Skills and Roles are two of TeamFit’s main pillars (the other two are People and Projects or Experience). As we discovered, people respond better to a concept of role. People it difficult to describe their skills. Now, with enough data, we can also connect and group skills to roles. On top of that, the self-assessment, as well as team-assessment, defines the level of expertise, which is one way of looking at practical knowledge. This is a bottom-up approach. An individual is claiming, organizing and self-assessing skills together with the people they work with. The system informs the team members and allows them to confirm the results. If the self-assessment is similar to the peer ranking, the skill shows on the list without any additional notes. If the self-assessment is above, we indicate this gap, and of course, if it is below, the system is capable of showing this difference.

 

When you combine this bottom-up, almost organic growth of skills and connected expertise, with the top-down competency model, we can confirm compliance the competencies the company believes it needs. We can also start with the top-down model and filter for matching profiles.

Can TeamFit help to find talents? To a certain extent yes, however, it is up to the person to have a sharp eye on what exactly is an ideal role or type of tasks that will help their talent to flourish. Keep in mind that unearthing talent is just the beginning. Matching this talent to a specific role is the ultimate goal, and let’s not forget that finding this special connection between role and talent has a direct impact on performance. Individual performance, team or company. Indeed, that’s a major accomplishment.