Should I hire for talent, competence or attitude?  What to look for in a new employee? How to be a smart organization? If you have ever been wondering these or similar questions, read the below article which forms part of the research under the “Competence and talent assessment in SMEs – ComTal” project coordinated by OIC Poland Foundation from Poland as part of Leonardo da Vinci Programme (2012-2014).

All national and European statistics confirm that the number of employees is falling down. According to Prof. Baruch Lev (New York University, The battle for brain power; the Economist), by 2025, the number of people aged 15–64 is projected to fall by 7% in Germany, 9% in Italy and 14% in Japan. That is why there isn’t only a need to step up investment in education and training, but also encourage employers to use better the skills and talents of their staff. SMEs are the best companies to implement the talent management strategies to became the smart organizations. The necessity for possessing specialized personnel increases simultaneously with the emphasized lack of those that have the abilities, experience and skills necessary for the good functioning of companies.

Organizations that confer importance to talent management practices have employees that are more involved in reaching performance and more satisfied with their jobs. As well, these organizations have better financial results. In the current global economic context, intense demographical, macro economical and technological changes add pressure over companies, which in order to survive and to be efficient have to transform talent management into a priority. Taking into account that modern structures are built around a horizontal processes (projects) and an essential element of the structure is a team. Project teams are temporary entities that execute specialized time-constrained tasks and then disband (e.g., new product development). Action and performing teams are composed of interdependent experts who engage in complex time-constrained performance events (Kozlowski, Bell, 2003). To sum up, work teamsand groups are composed of two or more individuals who: exist to perform organizationally relevant tasks, share one or more common goals, interact socially, exhibit task interdependencies (i.e., work flow, goals, outcomes),  maintain and manage boundaries (Kozlowski, Bell, 2003), and are embedded in an organizational context that sets boundaries, constrains the team, and influences exchanges with other units in the broader entity (Alderfer, 1977; Hollenbeck et al., 1995; Kozlowski, Gully, McHugh, Salas, Cannon- Bowers, 1996; Kozlowski, Gully, Nason, Smith, 1999).

What about the talented employee? According to Ulrich & Smallwood (2012) talented employees must have skills, wills, and purpose (Ulrich, Smallwood, 2012, p. 60). Competence refers to the knowledge, skills, and values required for today’s and tomorrow’s jobs. Without commitment, competence is discounted. Highly competent employees who are not committed are smart but don’t work very hard. But employees may be competent (able to do work) and committed (willing to do work), but unless they are making a real contribution (finding meaning and purpose in their work). Contribution occurs when employees feel that their personal needs are being met through their active participation in their organization. These three terms are multiplicative, not additive. Thus, three general components describing the competence and talent profile of a team member are Competence, Commitment and Contribution. Analysis of each component will provide the deep understanding of who the talented employee is.

Competences category (ability to work) is measured by nine aspects:

  • Flexibility – ability to adapt and work effectively in various and changing situations and activities in a team. The ability to anticipate and respond to changing circumstances, individuals or groups (Dainty, Mei-I, Moore, 2005a, 2005b; Musioł-Urbańczyk, 2010; Muzio, Fisher, Thomas, Peters, 2007).
  • Team working – ability to co-operate with others, directed at accomplishing the project objectives. It involves honest and open attitude connected with respect for all human values. (Muzio, Fisher, Thomas, Peters, 2007; Dainty, Mei-I, Moore, 2005b).
  • Leadership – is generally described as a sense of responsibility and sense of mission in a long-term perspective, assertiveness and being oriented at achieving the objectives of a team. Leaders are able to focus on development of the team, they change the system in a creative way and inspire others to undertake actions (Dinsmore, Cabanis-Brewin, 2006; Dainty, Mei-I, Moore, 2005; Skulmoski, Hartman, 2010).
  • Lifelong learning means the skill to acquire new qualifications constantly, self-development, the use of one’s own experience, skills to draw conclusions from mistakes (Armstrong, 2007; Millward, Asumeng, McDowall, 2010; Morden, 1997).
  • Communication – comprises written and verbal communication, but also listening skills and proper application of all available communication tools. Moreover, it involves understanding of communication differences, identifying factors which may become a barrier for a team’s success. Communicating is essential for clear passing assignments and providing instructions for the team (Dinsmore, Cabanis-Brewin, 2006; Dainty, Mei-I, Moore, 2005; Skulmoski, Hartman, 2010).
  • Analytical thinking – refers to the need to develop understanding of a situation or problem by breaking it down into component parts, or by tracing the cause and implications of a situation in a systematic manner (Dainty, Mei-I,Moore,2005a, 2005b).
  • Creativity – ability to generate ideas, problem solutions, or insights that are novel and appropriate (Runco, 2004).
  • Problem-solving – ability to identify key components of the problem, to collect and analyze data in order to find a solution or solutions (Muzio, Fisher, Thomas, Peters, 2007; Birkhead, Sutherland, Maxwell, 2000; Kowske, Anthony, 2007; Brill, Bishop, Walker, 2006).
  • Coping with stress – stress resilience in facing failure or negative life events, ability to cope with stress of social, and organizational character, knowledge of relaxation techniques  (Maki, Moore, Grunberg, Greenberg, 2005; Richmond, Skitmore, 2006; Schroder, Ollis, 2012).

Commitment category (willingness to work) is described by six dimensions:

  • Motivation – degree to which person invest attention and effort in pursuits, energy a person expend in relation to work, individual’s degree of willingness to exert and maintain an effort towards organizational goals, knowledge of motivational techniques, (Brophy, 1998, Franco et al., 2002, Mitchel, Daniels, 2003).
  • Proactive – taking proactive actions to avoid problems and to enhance work results (Dainty,  Mei-I, Moore, 2005a, 2005b).
  • Persistence – maintaining the effort and constant concentration on the aim despite difficulties and discouragement (Morden, 1997). This ability is associated with the achievement of goals – the desire for success and focusing on the objectives of the team (Muzio, Fisher, Thomas, Peters, 2007).
  • Self-confidence – the self-knowledge and the skill of relying on one’s own abilities, experience, knowledge and strengths; belief in one’s own abilities in the face of obstacles and new challenges.
  • Responsibility – anticipation and facing up consequences of behaviors, possessing personal values such as: loyalty, commitment and sincerity (Reio, Sutton, 2006; Langworthy, Turner, 2003).
  • Achievement (goal, results) orientation refers to the employee’s concern for working towards a standard of excellence (Dainty, Mei-I,Moore,2005a, 2005b).

Contribution (finding meaning and purpose of one’s job), on the other hand, is recognised using three aspects:

  • Meaningfulness of work – refers to the degree one’s job conveys a sense of value, worthiness and purpose, amount of significance one perceive in the work (Ejere, 2010,  Rosso et al., 2010).
  • Loyalty – the willingness to make an investment or personal sacrifice to strengthen a relationship, an attitude that resides in the mind of the individual and is an individual-level construction of perceived reciprocal obligations, protecting and supporting the team, taking care of team’s interest (Reichheld, 2001, Hart, Thompson, 2007, Musioł-Urbańczyk, 2010).
  • Passion – loving one’s job, experiencing personal meaning from the job (Marques, 2007, Boyatzis et al., 2002).

Now having said all that, what’s your approach to hiring and retaining workforce? Are you doing it right?