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Talent of People or Talent for Jobs

When faced with acquiring talent, organizations can proceed in two different ways. As Cappelli and Keller [18] put it: ‘Should we begin by identifying a subset of individuals who might be slotted in an array of roles, or by identifying a specific population of jobs that are in some way strategic and then focus on filling those roles with talent?’ (p. 306). Either of these strategies might be appropriate, depending on the circumstances and the nature of the organization. Firms should be flexible and pragmatic in deciding which approach to adopt; nevertheless, approaching talent from either a job or person perspective may signal predispositions in the ways that the organization conceptualizes talent.

Talent of People Lepak and Snell [53] suggest that ‘the value of human capital is inherently dependent upon its potential to contribute to the competitive advantage or core competence of the firm’ (p. 35). The people in an organization constitute a critical resource but, unlike financial or material resources, human capital is rented temporarily and not permanently owned by the firm. Focusing on people in the recruitment and selection process provides a flexible source of high-quality human capital for the organization that can potentially increases its competitive advantage and core competence. Focusing on people in the development and utilization process offers the organization the possibility of retaining and having ongoing access to the human capital that it has acquired [40]. As Becker and Huselid [54] note, there is a difference between the present and future value of employee talent. Present value might, they suggest, be understood as a supply-side phenomenon, whereas future value ‘is a function of how those skills are used and where they are used’ (p. 904).

Talent for Jobs Job-led recruitment and selection involves defining the hole and then looking for the most appropriate peg that fits it. If the ‘hole-like’ quality of the job is considered appropriate, the traditional approach has been to analyze the job and then suggest the kinds of knowledge, skill, ability, and other characteristics that candidates would need to successfully fit the defined that job or the position [55, 56]. The problem is that jobs are not static holes, any more than and people are wooden pegs. The job-centered approach makes the vital talent possibilities of individuals curiously subservient to the talent requirements of inanimate jobs. It also accentuates the presumed stability of the job.

Although job analysis—which privileges the importance and permanence of the job itself—persists, it has gradually been overtaken by a more dynamic appreciation of the importance of the employee and of his/her understanding and management of the job. As Sanchez and Levine [57] observe ‘the scope of job analysis research is being expanded toward a better understanding of work demands as experienced by job incumbents, both individually and collectively through shared perceptions’ (p. 417).

Situations will always exist in which organizations have to fill specific firm-related jobs and will recruit and select candidates with the defined position foremost in mind. This can be a rational and pragmatic expediency, but filling the job is not the same as expanding or enriching the organizational talent pool. Developing and nurturing the people who form the talent pool reduces the organization’s concern about future talent needs and optimize its operational flexibility.

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