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Talent vs. Skill: Why it’s Important

Career Strategies & Advice

We are all familiar with the concept of talent and skill, but when it comes to the difference between the two—or the exact definitions of either—things may become a little blurry. With this article, we hope to answer some questions that people may have about talent vs skill and shine some light on the specific definitions of each.

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Talents are natural. Skills are learned.

Both talent and skill can be of great benefit in the professional world. But we need to understand the difference between talent and skill to make accurate decisions and determinations regarding professional hires.

Natural talents are usually tied to the innate ability or natural ability to do a thing well. A person can have a natural aptitude for playing music or working with numbers, or keeping things organized, for example. Talent can also be more abstract; for example, someone might be naturally suited to leadership or be able to approach problem-solving in a unique way.

Skill refers to something a person has learned and worked on. General skills may include bookkeeping, administration, interview skills, etc. Although these things can be learned as a skill, they are not usually naturally occurring, which means hard work and dedication might be needed.

In fact, the general feeling is that a hard-working person is able to learn specific skills simply through learning, repetition, and practice, whereas talents come more naturally and are easier to develop.

A talent can never be acquired, but knowledge can always be grown. This suggests that demonstrated talent can be easier to excel at than skill learning, which suggests that people might be more likely to become more valuable to an organization if they are talented at their job than if they simply learned skills related to their job.

Talent vs. Skill: Why it's Important Talent vs. Skill

Introduction to Talent vs. Skill Concepts

One of the key points that we have learned in business in the last few years is how valuable natural-born talent can be. When someone has a talent, they are more likely to enjoy what they are doing. They are also more likely to put extra effort into further developing that ability.

Additionally, employees with natural talent are more likely to find fulfillment in their job. Their joy, coupled with their capabilities to perform their duties to the best of their ability, is far more reliable than someone who has been appointed for a skill.

However, this does not mean that skill is not valuable. A successful career can be built on skills through hard work. Many people are driven to build knowledge through training and learning, and this acquired knowledge is not worth less than natural talents. Success is within reach when focus and dedication to a job are practiced, and it is important that employers realize this.

Excellence is attainable whether an employee is naturally talented or not. Even someone with talent can be unmotivated if their inner drive is lacking. Simply put, someone with skill can get further if they are dedicated to hard work.

There are also a number of other reasons that someone with talent might be unsuited for a job. When there are personality clashes or ineffective teamwork in a workplace, even a talented individual might fail. As such, someone who lacks talent but has worked hard on developing their skills and put real effort into growing their future should be recognized.


Relationship between talents and skills

The relationship between talents and skills can be difficult to articulate. While some people make a career entirely without involving their talents, it is difficult to make a career without any skills.

In fact, it is believed that the vast majority of corporate careers rely entirely on skill and require little talent overall, and on the flip side, careers in arts or drama rely more heavily on talent. Few people, however, will go their entire lives without learning a skill of some sort. Even the basic maths that we learn at school are a kind of skill.

It should also be understood that even though some people learn, for example, math as a skill, others might possess a talent for it. As previously mentioned, this simply means that those with a talent for math will require less coaching to be successful in mathematics and develop a clear understanding of the subject as a whole. Someone who lacks natural ability for math can still learn it, but it will require a lot more focus and dedication for someone to truly master it as a skill.

We are all endowed with a natural aptitude for certain abilities, and will have acquired others throughout our lives and our journey towards excellent leadership. Many of these aptitudes and skills can be of value to us in a professional sense. How we integrate with teams often comes from a natural place, but can also be developed over time. The ability to lead a team can be innate or can be acquired, etc. Both skill and talent are recognized by employers, and it is likely that an employer might have a preference for one or the other depending on the industry they operate in.


What happens to people who don’t use their talent?

In general terms, talent is something that should be used and developed. When a talent is not used, it can be lost. When someone relies solely on skill to conduct their work, they are more likely to have unsuccessful careers and struggle with motivation.

However, a lack of talent does not mean someone is always unable to pursue a specific career; it simply means that they would need to work harder to get to the same level as someone with relevant talents.


Why you should consider hiring for skills, not just talent.

There might be more effort involved in finding skills in the initial candidate sourcing process. Whatever extra effort is put into finding candidates with the necessary skill will likely be worth it. Even when no natural talent is present, it is still possible to learn through dedication and hard work – therefore developing skills. When a business is dedicated to investing in training, coaching, and other learning opportunities for their employees, they can open up a world of new skills coming into the company through their teams’ ability to learn.


Is it better to hire for a skill?

This might depend on the industry in question. Some industries, like art or music, might be more dependent on natural talent for success than a skill that someone can acquire, but there are a number of corporate industries where skill can be equally, if not more, valuable than talents.

In most cases, elements like motivation and work ethic, in reality, are most valuable to a team. In practice, a healthy balance between those living with talent and those with acquired skills is present in any business.


The Future of hiring for skill and culture.

The pandemic has resulted in major changes to the skillset of the general workforce. Many people lost their jobs and had to reskill or upskill while changing careers or even turning to making a living from their talents, thus abandoning learned skills.

In contrast, employers are becoming more aware of the difference between talent and skill and usually consider this to be a good balance for a workforce team.

The developing world of work is looking bright for those who want to acquire a new skill and for those who want to practice their talent. Both are key elements in an efficient workforce, even if they don’t function in the same way.


Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a significant difference between talent vs. skill?

In theory, there is a significant difference. Talent is something that you are born with and have your entire life. You usually start exploring a talent early in life and can start to work on it during childhood. A skill is something you learn, usually in a formal setting or in practice. However, in practice, talent and skill can function in the same way in a person’s professional life.

What happens when talent is neglected?

If people choose not to work on their talent throughout their lives it is likely that the talent can be lost, especially when skill in another area is focused on instead.

Is talent better than skill?

There is no real evidence supporting the idea that talent is better than skill, but there might be some employers who prefer one over the other. This might be informed by the industry you are working in as some industries are dependent on someone with talent over skill. This article explores this phenomenon briefly.