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Talent Management and Global Talent Management

The term talent management originated from the practitioner literature and many researchers and scholars have argued that the term is imprecise and lacks an accepted definition; indeed, some suggest that the subject is a minefield of ‘rhetorical obfuscation’ [17-21]. Beginning their review of the construct, Cappelli and Keller [18] note that ‘nearly every article written on the topic begins with hand-wringing over the conceptual boundaries of the term’ (p. 306). In keeping with that tradition, it might be appropriate at this point to indulge in some hand-wringing, albeit in a restrained and limited way.

For Reilly [22], it appears that talent management has always been a tricky subject, ‘at risk of becoming mere hyperbole... or of becoming the fad of the conference circuit because the term lacks a clear definition. definitions are, at worst, a melange of different concepts strung together without a clear statement of what is meant by talent and how we might manage it’ (p. 381). Collings et al. [23] are also of the opinion that ‘the concept of talent management is lacking in terms of definition and theoretical development and there is a comparative lack of empirical evidence on the topic’ (p. 1264). Of course, lack of a clear and convincing definition might simply reflect the growing pains of talent management as it moves from its infancy to adolescence [24].

A recent comprehensive review by Cappelli and Keller [18] proposes a definition of talent management which they claim ‘is consistent with traditional approaches and captures what academic researchers have been doing under the heading of talent management. the process through which organizations anticipate and meet their needs for talent in strategic jobs’ (p. 307). This is a broad and somewhat bland definition, but it does accentuate the anticipated strategic-related outcomes of the talent management process, even though it provides little guidance as to the nature of the process itself.

Talent management is usually, but not exclusively, considered to be an aspect of the organization’s ongoing HR activity. Optimally, considerations of talent management should permeate all aspects of the organization—particularly its senior-level management and governance structure—even though talent management might be operationally centered in the HR function. Talent management can be particularly challenging when the organization operates across national and cultural borders. Operating across such borders is explicit (a) for global or multinational corporations, which operate in a number of countries but have a designated home country in which they are headquartered and from which they expand, and (b) to a somewhat lesser extent, for transnational corporations that have operations more evenly dispersed throughout multiple countries. In these border-crossing contexts, talent management has to deal with issues of global expansiveness, both in terms of accessing talent-related opportunities throughout the firm’s entire operational range and in recognizing and developing talent that would not have been available domestically [25].

Like talent and talent management, global talent management (GTM) has also been variously recognized and defined [20, 23, 26, 27]. Some scholars and practitioners regard GTM in fairly general terms, extending ‘domestic’ talent management concepts into the global arena. Caligiuri et al. [28], for example, see GTM as including all of those generally recognized HR activities—attracting, recruiting, selecting, training, developing, and retaining—focused on the ‘best’ employees, in order to achieve organizational strategic priorities on a global scale, taking into account the differences in the organization’s global strategic priorities and in the national contexts within which the organization operates.

Other definitions of GTM have emphasized the dynamic and constantly changing context within which it is practiced. Thus, Tarique and Schuler [20] see GTM as the systematic utilization of ‘international human resource management’ in order ‘to attract, develop, and retain individuals with high levels of human capital (e.g., competency, personality, motivation) consistent with the strategic directions of the multinational enterprise in a dynamic, highly competitive, and global environment’ (p. 124). This definition serves as a useful description of what global talent management is—and of what it might be—but the pressing question is how such a definition might inform the talent management process within organizations that are international in nature, or which purport to be global in their reach. Put differently, how might MNCs recognize and align their talent assumptions, philosophies, and practices in ways that lead to effective GTM?

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