Skills or talents – harness both


In order to successfully develop and implement a business concept, small business owners must possess various traits (and some would argue a degree of luck as well). Included among these are skills and talents which, when combined, allow the small business owner to execute their vision.

Similarly, when recruiting, small business owners evaluate the skills and talents of prospective employees to assess their fit with the business and the kind of contribution the employee is likely to make. But how does one distinguish between a skill and a talent, and why is it important to know the difference? At the most, basic level talent is regarded as an inherent ability (i.e. one is born with it), while a skill is regarded as a learned ability.

Both talents and skills can be honed with further training and coaching (e.g. through situational experiences in the workplace, further education) and can sometimes be indistinguishable in terms of the level of competence achieved.

They are also mutually reinforcing as a skill can be learned in a field or area in which one is talented. However, because talents are areas in which one has a natural aptitude for, individuals may find that less effort is required to develop talent and that they derive more enjoyment from activities or functions in which they are talented.

Knowing the difference between a skill and a talent can assist small business owners to identify talented high potential employees who can be taught the necessary skills to perform specific roles. It can also assist small business owners to better manage their employees by assigning them tasks and responsibilities they enjoy and have a natural flair for, building up employees’ self-esteem and enhancing their job satisfaction.

Understanding the difference between skills and talents can assist small business owners themselves in identifying the specific products and services their businesses should focus on, as the small business owners’ talents are likely to be the deciding factor (particularly in the early stages of the business). Doing what you are good at and intuitively understand makes good business sense, as other areas of expertise can be delegated or outsourced.

As part of their human resource management, small business owners should develop a customized plan to develop the skills and talents of each employee (and themselves). This may initially be time-consuming and even frustrating as most individuals tend to have a good understanding of what their skills are, but are not as insightful when it comes to their talents.

There also may not be a director obvious relationship between an identified talent and the needs of the business. Spending time on such an exercise will however yield long-term benefits such as a fully utilized workforce which makes the maximum possible contribution to the workforce, and low employee turnover.


Was this article helpful?
0 out of 0 found this helpful
Return to top
    This article has done a great job in providing a distinction between the two concepts thus clarity. It also challenges a small business owner to the core because it requires one to wear a human resources manager’s or a talent recruiter’s hat which we more often than not have to. The point of departure is that these two concepts are quite complex to explore to a point where one has to look outside of oneself to work with this topic. Can both - talent and skill - be harnessed? Indeed! But a growing number of talent recruiters explain that the two concepts feed off of each other and much more. The question is can you even separate them if you are to achieve much in your business. I think we need both in a person especially if you are a small team and much more -a greatpersonality can help a great deal. More and more talent recruiters recognize that skills are important for any business to thrive but they are increasingly looking for more than just harnessing talent and technical skill they argue that personality traits and soft skills are a necessary addition . As a small business owner you really need this combination. I once worked with a brilliant photographer top class in terms of the quality of work and most talented by any standards but the most crapy personality. He cost me business. So where is the toss?
    No doubt in my mind you can teach many skills necessary for the required outcome over time but attitude is often inherent. Fire the photographer! Nobody is indipensable
    Who said you can have the best mouse trap in the world but its worthless unless omeone buys it? Plenty talent no clients -no win
    One needs to differentiate between people that are efficient and being effective... both are important the former talks to doing things correctly while the latter is meausred by doing the correct things! While it may be possible in 2017 with the available technology to create an incredibly fail safe (efficient) method of building fax machines the Management Board who mandates that strategy is probably not an effecive management Board!
    then what about passion? Clearly it may be difficult if not impossible to find someone who has all 3 attributes i.e skill talent and passion. Great entrepreneurs probably have all three
    Great reference thanks thecashflowguy :) I recently came across an article thatspoke about the link between innovation and skills and I quote a higher skilled and more expert workforce is more likely to generate new ideas and to introduce and adapt to new technology and organisational change. It goes on to say that evidence shows a clear relationship between the skill levels of the workforce and the extent to which firms are innovative. I really like this and can definitely identify with these statements in my daily business life and in my dealings with my employees.
    Remember Albert Einstein? He said Genius is 1% talent and 99% hard worklest we forget :)
    Good point! This brings me to consider management - when someone is promoted to a management position they don'tget a textbook on ‘How to be a Great Manager' and yet management is a skill just like any other skill. Yes some people are better at it than others but the persistent personcan often outperform the gifted person if they are willing to put in the training and effort. Also what about the common philosophy of throwing someone in the deep end and they'll learn to swim? Is that really the best approach for all new managers?
    True that.I really enjoy Anna Pavlov’s approach to this topic she was a Russian prima ballerina of the late 19th and the early 20th centuries and she’s quoted as saying “No one can arrive from being talented alone work transforms talent into genius”. Unpacking this simply means that where the two should converge one is bound to achieve results.
    I had to part ways with unceremoniously. He went and caused so much trouble at multinational firm. He still had a nerve to put me down as his reference. I took the 5th.
    You need a balance thecashflowguy.
    I am full of quotes today... Bruce Lee is quoted saying “I do not fear the person who has practiced ten thousand kicks one time. I fear the person who has practiced one kick ten thousand times.” Chatting to a good friend who is involved in developing young sportsmen. He was saying in a cricket perspective often an inexperienced cricket captain will let his fast bowler bowl against the wind and the slower bowlers to bowl with the wind behind him in an effort to make use of the assistance offered by the wind. An experienced captain will let his fast bowler bowl WITH the wind behind him to increase his speed! That we need to do with talent!
    Good one.
    MichelaGordon. Pleaseshare the link if you can remember it. that will be wonderful to go through the information. And even spread it in other platforms.
    I also believe that hiring people with the right attitude is way more important that those with the right talent or skills as these can be learnt. As they say a bad apple can affect the whole packet and Ihave personalexperience with having hired a very talented and skilled person but her attitude was terrible and she ended up affecting the rest of the team in a very negative way. Luckily she no longer works with us but I learnt a huge lesson and I won't make the same mistake again... (hopefully!!)
    MichelaGordon so true while talent is a naturally given gift an innate ability something you do with little effort and a skill is learned and developed as a small business can you afford to choose one over the other or do you need both in your support staff? So I sought help from the talented artist - actor film director producer musician - Will Smith who has been quoted as saying: “The separation of talent and skill is one of thegreatest misunderstood concepts for people who are trying to excel who have dreams who want to do things. Talent you have naturally. Skill isonly developed by hours and hours and hours of beating on your craft.”
    maybe in the past but the fast pace of business today does not give a non-swimmer a chance buy the skillsyou dont have?
    The late Bill Gibson a good friend to Small Business owners made a comment once when hiring staff that need to be trained where possible recruit and train 2 people just in case one leaves and you have wasted all that time...obviously cash flow and logistics will always play a role
    Malcolm Gladwell wrote in my view an excellent book called Outliers...the 10 000 hour rule-- the number of hours you have to do as an apprentice before you make it to being skilled.. great read... another good one by him is Blink... no he does not pay me a referral fee or a commission ;)
    Going to give my age away now.... can you remember the song never make a pretty woman your wife[if you want to be happy for the rest of your life...]? Does that not also apply to the talented and skilled staff member? Will he or she stay with you once you have recruited him/her? I suppose that will apply anyway so maybe one should adopt a mercenary approach tap the talent and skills for as long as possible!
    Really no commission at all. Be prepared to put in 15 000 because this when you might hit the sweet spot.
    Back to the article many small business owners dont even provide staff with a writtenemployment contract never mind having a clue about human resources management! [Thats why this site is so useful]. Training costs are high not only in Rands and cents but in time so it tends to be relgated to the back of the queue. Sadly because in businesses a customer can easily experience the difference in service between trained and untrained staff! We spend lots of money on furniture and fitings equipment yet are hesitant to empower our staff to deal with customers and improving their skills. #justsaying
    I like the maxim ïf it can be measured it should be managed how does one manage the output of askill or talent? I think it is possible in many cases. Of course repetitive work is pretty staright forward... farmers use the method of paying for example a rate per metre of seedlings planted after having established a benchmark . But non-rpetitive work maybe commission earnings is an indicator but what about the lucky casethat earns huge commissions without much skill or talent? Talent in a specific area is possible to identify but is it possible to measure the impact ? Advetising agencies and marketing divisions create amazing adverts/marekting strategies sometimes but is it measureable immediately? Often not
    I also love his books and have in fact read both of the ones you've mentioned thecashflowguy. He really puts this issue into perspective in Outliers and I would urge all entrepreneurs to read this book (also not getting a referral fee or commission alas!). It is really about putting in the hours and yes PhindileXaba I agree with you - it's more like 15 000 and then 15 000 more etc etc...
    So true... There is another great article on the site that talks to this exact point - it's well worth a read... It's called Can small businesses compete for talent? and here's the link -
    You know thecashflowguy and MichelaGordon true that! I always insist to sit in when candidates are being interviewed because as a small business entity I know that I would like to be supported where I may have a weaknesses so Iwould recruit someone who is strong in that areas. So I look for three things when recruiting not in this order: 1) Talent 2) Some Skill 3) Good Attitude 4) And other personal traits - including soft skills such as the ability to bounce back when the chips are down and much more.
    Remember this one: Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. Calvin Coolidge
    Aren't his books just informative and inspirational. I think it matters not whether it is talent or skill practice perfects. You never see the end of practicing. My daily mantra is put in the hours the results will be evident.
    I know a young ladythat is extremely talented in a specific areabut work is not always available in that space so she has tried moving into an area that is not hertalent and sheis hard at work honing a new skill. Sometimes I wonder whether she will be happy in the newspace as every so often she gets excited about hertalent! What advice do you give a person in that situation?