What makes talent?

At A&D Resources we work with executives, leaders and talent.

In my frequent encounters with business and HR leaders, I often run into a discussion of potential and talent: 

"Who are they and how do we identify them? 

Then follows... 

"How to motivate, develop and retain them?" 

In the “new” world, where companies increasingly hire for potential rather than position – the job being filled may not be there in 2 years from now – performance and talent becomes very context and task driven. You may be a talent now, but when India, China or Rumania catches up, and the company offshores or outsources your specific expertise, then your talent denomination quickly evaporates.

The RAW model

In discussing talent, I often find it helpful to refer to the RAW model – The raw ingredients of talent – a model introduced in the book “The Talent Delusion” by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic:

The RAW model focuses on what you can measure, and outlines the following components:

Rewarding – A person’s likeability or how rewarding they are to deal with. In a world where results are increasingly generated within projects and matrices, and with collaboration extending beyond dotted reporting lines as well as offshored or outsources resources, you must be able to motivate others to work with you. This is a function of personality and concerns intrapersonal skills (managing yourself) and interpersonal skills (managing others), both of which are captured by the concept of emotional intelligence (EQ).

Able – A person’s ability to do the job. This will not guarantee your success, but it’s a pre-requisite, for employers to show an interest. Sub-components are Expertise; domain or job-related knowledge, experience and skills, and Intelligence, which includes learning ability and reasoning potential. Intelligence is a key determinant of expertise acquisition, and in today’s world expertise quickly dwindles without it.

Willing – A person’s willingness to work hard, or their general motivation. This is generally referred to as ambition, drive or conscientiousness. Essentially this defines a person’s work ethic. If you are both rewarding to deal with and able, then it is generally seen as a talent accelerator.

All these 3 components can be measured, with very considerable validities, depending on your choice of measurement tools (assessments). In fact, you can identify very strong indicators of potential and talent, which can support a much fuller and satisfying dialogue with candidates and employees.

Research and Implications

The RAW model presents the essentials in one way. We could also look at proven research that identifies strong correlations with job success across industries, jobs and age groups. These consistently come out in order of correlation strength as intelligence, personality, motivation and – to a much lesser extent – professional competency. Consistent with the RAW model, the latter is merely a pre-requisite to qualify for a selection process.

Strangely, with all the data and research available, companies are still hiring based on knowledge and skills, only to fire when personality and attitude do not meet with the reality and demands of the work place. The effects of this will only become larger over (short) time.


Written by: Chief Commercial Officer Adam Gade, A&D Resources


Note: Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is the CEO of Hogan Assessment Systems, Professor of Business Psychology at University College London (UCL) and Visiting Professor at Columbia University.