As a fan of positive language, I am intrigued by a positive word that has not caught on with ordinary business people. That word is talent, used to describe employees.
Talent management, talent acquisition, and talent retention are phrases popping up constantly in my email inbox. Consultants, recruiters, training companies, professional organizations–they are all using the word talent. At the ASTD International Conference and Expo in San Diego, which I attended last week, the word appeared everywhere on banners, booths, and brochures.
Here’s the problem: "Normal" people (the people those consultants, recruiters, and others want to communicate with)–do not use the word talent. They talk about their employees, supervisors, managers, executives, associates, partners, interns, and staff–not their talent. They mention their sales people, engineers, programmers, nurses, customer service representatives, scientists, and other specific employee groups–not their talent.
Our web designer visited the ASTD Expo and stopped by our booth. She asked, "So what’s with all the talent at this convention?" She didn’t understand it.
One of our longtime clients visited our booth, and I asked him whether he used the word talent. He said no, explaining "If anyone used that word in our company, they would sound like an outsider, not like one of us."
So for those of us who are tempted to get on the talent bus, let’s ask ourselves first: Do we want to sound like outsiders? Do we want people to wonder what we are talking about? Of course not. So let’s find out which words our customers and readers use, and follow their lead.