The Four Trees of Talent

This is a guest post by Jake Blough, Production Manager at Service Express.  After you read his post, you can also view a video of Jake’s SEI Vision Story.  If you’d like to guest post on this blog please contact me.

It has been said a million times over that a company’s greatest asset is its people.  And it has also been said a million times over that the United States is already in a crunch for talent.  This crunch in talent isn’t necessarily for particular skills or trades, but is in reality more about finding the right individuals with the right strengths.  Looking beyond the skillset and education that a candidate brings to the table, we need to start looking more for fit within the organization.

Over the course of building my team at SEI, and paying special attention to each individual over the years, I have come to the conclusion that there are really only four talent trees into which everyone falls.  The most important thing the hiring manager can do is determine which one of these trees he needs to hire for a particular position, and then find the person that exhibits that talent to bring into the group.

Tree 1:  The Work Expert

Have you ever wondered how someone could put a widget together five hundred times a day, and never get bored, and love his job?  This concept is pretty foreign to most people in management, but there are people who have a special talent in performing work.  It may seem silly to think of a simple assembler as an “expert” but there are stark differences between a person who just “works” and a work expert.  The work expert is constantly in competition with himself to do the job faster and better.  Not content with the process delivered to him on day one, he constantly tweaks his rhythm to achieve higher throughput.  His muscle memory is exact, and he stays engaged through each cycle.  If the goal is five hundred, he will consistently produce seven hundred.

Tree 2:  The Technical Expert

The Technical Expert MUST know how everything works.  She constantly reads, and is constantly hungry for knowledge.  Whether this person is in a truly technical field like electronics, or a completely non-technical field like accounting, this person will be the master of all details, and will always be known as the go-to person for every strange question that might arise.  The technical expert can’t help but to try to know everything about everything.  She must know the syntax not just the theory.

Tree 3:  The Process Expert

Unlike the Technical Expert, the Process Expert cares little about syntax, and cares mostly about theory.  This person will take apart any procedure from five thousand feet, and reassemble it in the most efficient way possible.  Complex problems and procedures are child’s play to the process expert.  Large amounts of data are reduced to simple building blocks where decisions can be made easily.  Details bore the process expert since the details only paint part of the picture.

Tree 4:  The People Expert

The People Expert is in tune with the subtle energies that emanate from each individual.  They can read through the outer layer of what a person says or does to get to the core of people’s actions and reactions.  Being in tune with people at such an intimate level allows them to get the best from others, as well as bring harmony to a team.  On the flip side, they can quickly identify the negative member of the group, and either bring about change in that person, or cut them out of that group.  They are known as great listeners and influencers.

So what do you need?  That’s the harder question here.  At every level of every organization it is important to have all of these trees represented somewhat equally.  So that when there is a spot to fill, you can look at which trees the people already on the team fall into, and identify where the team is weak.  A team filled with Work Experts will get many widgets produced, but will never achieve greatness without a Process or Technical Expert to help them run more efficiently.  And a team filled with People Experts won’t care to assemble widgets or spreadsheets all day.  In my own group I have 3 People, 6 Work, 4 process, and 3 Technical.  By spending time up front deciding which tree we need our new recruit to fall under, we can target our advertising and recruitment efforts specifically to that type of person, and spend less time wasting on candidates that might be great, but not right.