Talent vs GRIT: what's your Recruitment Strategy?


How we now see Talent

Let’s face it: we are all about Talent in HR and employer communication, aren't we? Most of our people actions revolve around ways to manage talent. We invent new ways to find and attract talents, we set up trainings to develop them, we organise team buildings, use games and wellness competitions, CSR projects and donations to keep people connected, engaged and motivated; we put emphasis on nice diversity & inclusion programs and do our best to shape a culture of fun and loyalty while aiming for results, as we have shareholders to make happy. We might as well admit that all of these would not exist if results were missing on the medium term at least. You especially know what I mean if you are one of those who get little credit for a huge amount of (rather invisible) work where you spend days and weeks and possibly months in convincing your regional directors to allocate more budget to Romania, to not cut down learning and to diversify benefits. Maybe we are even willing to go to extreme miles and completely turn upside down compensation grids, in search of the best talents for our teams. And those who don’t give in to the market dynamics of increasing salaries…well, they struggle a lot to fill in vacancies, to retain their people and to keep their motivation up, while business KPIs have to be met. They turn to recruitment agencies and employer branding last moment gains. But guess what? Recruiters don’t work wonders where budgets are the issue. And last moment employer branding campaigns might not do the trick. It doesn't work this way! All in the name of Talent and the assumption it will work wonders for our managers and will reflect in business indicators ultimately. But do they?


Does it Work?

We are yet to see the ROI on many of these initiatives, although people analytics have developed a lot, the exact impact of people actions remain quite difficult to measure. They can also be made redundant by a lack of leadership. Truth is hard to find. The most intuitive and simple of all measures should be the company’s performance in time. Profitability. That’s the final Key Performance Indicator. But what if you did it all (learning programs, teambuildings, employee engagement, speeches) . Yet, the company's results were below the industry's increase rate? Yes, that's right. How come?


Talent is my Mantra, too!

I have to be honest here: for many years I was completely into the Talent mantra myself (and probably I still am in a big proportion). You may call me an elitist, as I am biased in looking only for highly educated, talented individuals, should I get the chance to choose. Not few of which I was lucky enough to meet, not few of which I was certified to assess. I grew up in HR with this in-house joke of ‘once a headhunter, always a headhunter’, Thief of Talent at the core and…proud of it.


Some Reality Check

Recently, though, I had a debate with a very dear person, someone I appreciate a lot and for me is a model in terms of entrepreneurship and making things happen/achievements. I was quite surprised to learn he had a strong preference for hard working, endurance people with drive for results. Perseverance. He was not mesmerised by the whole Talent philosophy. “Real Talent is rare to find, in fact. And what do you do if you cannot find it or it takes too long to find him/her? Wait and lose business, upset clients, postpone new services or business deals? I prefer to work with people that are up to the task and have the drive to not give up”. That was one point where I felt we were prone to a verbal disagreement and intended to settle for the classical “Let’s agree to disagree”. I decided to ask, though: “What do you actually mean? Best companies in this world are focusing on Talents, their results should speak eloquently enough”. The answer came in a very calm voice: “I prefer to hire GRIT over Talent, if I have to choose between them.’


What the Hell is GRIT?

GRIT…well now, for anyone not familiar or not willing to perform the Google search: “GRIT in psychology is a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual's perseverance of effort combined with the passion for a particular long-term goal or end state (a powerful motivation to achieve an objective). GRIT was defined as "perseverance and passion for long-term goals" by psychologist Angela Duckworth and colleagues, who extensively studied GRIT as a personality trait. They observed that individuals high in GRIT were able to maintain their determination and motivation over long periods despite experiences with failure and adversity. They concluded that GRIT is a better predictor of success than intellectual talent (IQ), based on their evaluation of educational attainment by adults, GPA among Ivy League undergraduates, dropout rate of cadets at West Point US Military Academy, and ranking in the National Spelling Bee”

Not only that, various studies in different fields, including arts, confirmed the same finding: Talent is not the main predictor for success, as we have thought.

Stamina, perseverance, drive, endurance, long term goals. This is it: the best predictor. IQ and Talent have just been dethroned.


Take a Pick!

I have to admit this is an idea hard to digest, at least for me. I am a fan of Talent. I believe in it and have seen it work wonders. The Talent Management is an important part of any people strategy.

Everyone would agree a hard-working, perseverant Talent is the best choice.

But what if you don’t find him/her soon enough in this combination? What if, sorry for saying this, you can’t afford it? That is a reality, not everyone can compete with top tier salaries! Looking for the best Talent within a modest budget is wrong in so many ways, despite ‘salary not being a true motivator’ widely embraced theory. It is not about salary as motivator, it’s about being fair in what you want and what pay for. But that is another topic.

The question I would really like to see answers from you is: Would you focus on GRIT or Talent in your recruitment strategy, presuming you cannot find or wait for the Unicorn with both ingredients in high proportions? What would you prefer if you were in a situation to choose among the two? Let’s find out! I invite you to please share with me in comments your opinions, your two cents on this.

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