A recent essay about labor and talent caught my eye; its theme: there's a big difference between talent, which is scarce and is the product of the unique attributes of just a few individuals, and labor, which is plentiful and generally follows the plug and play of Fredrick Taylor's management science theory. That op-ed, and many others similar to it, distinguish between the talent supply (really, availability is a better word) and the labor supply.
These essays are summed up by thinking about how supply and demand are at work on a few key points:
- Talent is paid more than labor
- Labor is portable; talent less so
- Labor is relocatable (as in outsourcing); talent is more likely close to the flag pole.
- Labor is replaceable (as in robots and drones); talent is more likely robot or drone compatible (as in programmers and operators, to include high-level talent like doctors)
- Talent is more or less in charge of themselves; labor is more beholding to managers
- Talent may be eccentric and team-toxic (or, their teams are more like groups); labor is more likely homogeneous and team friendly
And how do leaders and managers react to talent and labor?
- Manager apply labor with best operational efficiency in mind
- Managers understand that a mix of labor and talent may be a better economic trade than an all labor force.
- Managers use labor to make the trains run on time
- Leaders recruit talent to introduce friction and destructive innovation, trading growth for OE
- Leaders can envision a future without any trains at all
This month's PMNetwork online magazine (October 2012) has an article on just this question (The myth about talent). But many in industry aren't spending a lot of time musing over the answer: they are moving ahead, as discussed in this essay on development of talent in the K-12 school grades.