Dubai: We know ‘it’ matters. Some go to war for it. Professional sports teams draft for it. Actors audition to show they have it.

Others consider it the ultimate solution and try to manage it. Agents contract for it. Some are innately endowed with it while others strive diligently to earn it.

All try to grow it. CEO’s declare it as their top priority. Inboxes are filled with prescriptions for it. Talent is evolving from a passion for many senior leaders to a science for top HR professionals and a passion.

Through the Gulf states, the talent battles have focused on localisation (e.g., Saudization, Emiratization, Omanization, and so forth). Local talent should lead local companies.

To respond to these talent demands, a multitude of programmes and investments have been made to attract, retain, and upgrade talent. Yet, sometimes after stipulating that talent matters, it is easy to get lost in the myriad of promises, programmes, and processes and lose sight of the basics.

At the risk of grossly oversimplifying, let me suggest that there is actually a deceptively simple formula for talent: Talent = Competence x Commitment x Contribution. Following this formula will help government and private organisations turn their talent aspirations into actions.

Competence means that individuals have the knowledge, skills and values required for today’s and tomorrow’s jobs. One company clarified competence as right skills, right place, right job, right time.

To ensure competence, positions need to be matched to employees. Position assessment means identifying the key requirements of a position based on future customer, investor and strategic demands. These requirements often include technical, social and personal skills.

Individual skills can be determined and matched against key positions to make sure that people are in jobs where they can both perform and grow.

Competence clearly matters, but without commitment, competence is discounted. Highly competent employees who are not committed are smart, but don’t work very hard. Committed or engaged employees work hard, put in their time, and do what they are asked to do.

Commitment shows up in an employee value proposition where employees who give value to their organisation (through insights, hard work, and performance) get personal value back. Employee commitment, or engagement, has been linked to delivering strategic goals and to customer commitment. In too many companies, employees feel undervalued and therefore uncommitted to do their best.

In the last decade, commitment and competence have been the bailiwicks for talent. But, we have found the next generation of employees may be competent (able to do the work) and committed (willing to do the work), but unless they are making a real contribution through the work (finding meaning and purpose in their work), then their interest in what they are doing diminishes and their talent wanes.

Contribution occurs when employees feel that their personal needs are being met through their participation in their organisation. Organisations are the universal setting in today’s where individuals find abundance in their lives through their work and they want this investment of their time to be meaningful.

Contribution comes when employees move from behavioural commitment to emotional connection because find a sense of meaning at work through building on their strengths, melding personal and organizational purpose, personal relationships, positive work environmental, engaging work, and opportunities to learn and grow.

For next-generation employees, contribution becomes increasingly important especially when talented employees have choice over where they spend their professional time.

Simply stated, competence deals with the head (being able), commitment with the hands and feet (being there), and contribution with the heart (simply being). In this talent equation, the three terms are multiplicative, not additive.

If anyone is missing the other two will not replace it. A low score in competence will not ensure talent even when the employee is engaged and contributing. Talented employees must have skills, wills, and purposes; they must be capable, committed, and contributing.

A high score on the talent formula will engender sustained employee productivity that helps an organisation deliver on strategic promised, serve customers, and delight investors.

General managers are the owners of their organisation’s talent. They are ultimately responsive for having the investing in employee’s competencies, delivering an employee value proposition, and becoming meaning makers. HR leaders should become thoughtful talent architects who build blueprints, coach, and facilitate on competence, commitment, and contribution issues.

Talent is not an abstract that everyone pledges to, but does not really happen. When the ideas of talent can be translated into specific competence, commitment, and contribution choices, it moves beyond a clarion call to do to a specific set of leadership actions with positive outcomes.

The wri ter is the Rensis Likert Professor of Business, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan and Partner at the RBL Group.