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The Definition of New Talent

A few decades ago a company I worked with used the term "Scarce Talent" to dramatize a dilemma employers were facing. The employers could not find the talent they wanted on their own. Our company provided them the help needed to find genuinely talented people, whose qualities were great fits to specific job openings.

Today the dilemma is framed differently: It is the prospective employees who are searching for "New Talent."

New Talent The purpose for New Talent training is to increase employability in the 21st century business world. While I applaud the drive to become uniquely talented potential employees, I am concerned that the strategies being adopted will not end with the essential "talents" required for workplace success. I am wondering:

  • What's the "new" in New Talent?
  • What is in "retraining" programs?
  • What is the "Value Equation," (the ratio of Cost over Lifetime Return,) for these programs?
  • What "human factors" are included in a retraining program that offers High Value?
What is the "New" in "New Talent"?
Talent is a multi-factor concept that includes knowledge, skills, personality, aptitudes, andinterests plus other candidates for inclusion. 

For example, Howard Gardner in "Five Minds (talents) for the Future" identifies: disciplinary mind; synthesizing mind; creating mind; respectful mind; and ethical mind (2006). He calls these factors "capacities" and not "talents," which implies synergistic processes rather than discrete boxes of ability
New Talent Cost
Frankly, education has been singularly conflicted about the "old" talents as evidenced by the decades-long arguments surrounding what curriculum students at any grade level should be engaged with. The cynic in me says that the "new" in New Talent is being used the same way advertisers use "NEW" on boxes of laundry detergent. 

Having spent much of my adult life catching up to improvements spawned in the Information Age I've learned that "new" doesn't stay new very long. On top of that, I have to say that from War Babies through Millennials, the same qualities have had the greatest consistent impact on getting results from a job and from a life.

Retraining Programs
Retraining is a tricky process, or as conventional negative wisdom states, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." Actually you can retrain an old dog but not at all like you'd train a new pup. Retraining requires replacing old learned habits of thinking with new habits of thought. And if they could talk, most animals will say that very specific new skills are easier to learn in retraining than are more complicated ideas like "Tell me what I should expect in this new and unknown situation" Ongoing Training is Important

Given the above, specific skill sets like writing computer program code are well-suited to retraining programs because computer code is so rule-driven. Rules are made to remove uncertainty from expectation, to clean up the future and make it bright and neat. But the future is by definition a "fuzzy" concept with considerable uncertainty. So the areas of highest value in retraining are the ones that help manage uncertainty, not remove it.

What are those areas? My short list includes: 
  • Managing Your Motivation
  • Managing Your Commitment
  • Managing your Determination
  • Managing Your Evolving Self; and 
  • Managing What Matters Most in Your Future.
The Value Equation
Applying dollars-and-cents thinking to new talent retraining means calculating a ratio of estimated lifetime return over original cost. Let's say you complete a very good retraining program in writing code. The program cost $15 thousand dollars, but with it you land a new $45 thousand dollar job. If it is your first job, then you have a $45K/$15K ratio, a three-to-one value in a single year.

However, if you retrained for a better paying job, say $5-thousand better, then the ratio drops to 0.33 with a break-even time of 3 years. If retraining is in your future, find out about a realistic "lifetime return" and what the total cost will be for your retraining program.

High Value Factors

What human factors have the highest value in any workplace? Organizational research indicates that "specific skill-sets" are not near the top of the list. Well then, what is up there? I think the top choices are:

  • A well-functioning brain that facilitates listening, speaking, gathering information and deciphering its importance.
  • A planning and problem-solving brain that can handle the inherent uncertainties accompanying new information.
  • A mind, body, heart and soul that can deliver motivational passion to the workplace and sustain a "love of work" for a lifetime.
  • A realistic and confident picture of who you are along with who you are not, and what value those pictures are in guiding who you want to become.
  • A learned ability to apply persistence in your life, to go after something with determination because it is something you want, not something you feel entitled to have.
I believe that it is impossible to find, build and nurture these factors without having a core disposition towards personal responsibility. Come to think of it, maybe personal responsibility is the most important attribute retraining can help you develop.

If you accept the challenge of finding your own "new talent," then I recommend the above list for your individualized instruction. 

The Value Equation will be Priceless!

Don't Lose That Thought, 
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Allen M. "Dr. Al" Raffetto, Ph.D.
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