Talent and skills are not the same

Talent and skills are not the same - artist sketching a portrait

Trying to define the difference between talent and skills might be a game of semantics but it’s one worth playing, even if it allows us to see things from a different perspective.

In recent years there has been a steady stream of news on the growing talent gap across multiple industry segments. Last year, Fortune published an article titled 5 Reasons Why Managers Need to Think Hard About the Skills Gap.

Was the use of the word ‘skills’ in that article an oversight? If you read it something obvious occurs; a subtle differentiation between what skills and talent look like. The article points out that skills are a talent acquisition issue.

This is true for two reasons. First, it’s just hard to find talented people. Talent refers to having a natural aptitude or ability, while skills speaks to having a bent towards acquiring expertise in a given area. Second, we need lots of talented people but we then need to invest in those people to ensure that they acquire the specific skills for the specific job we’re asking them to perform.


Get all the talent you can but then focus on ‘up-skilling’ and ‘re-skilling’ as a strategy to ensure people are applying their talent in specific ways.