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Talent Management: An Overview of the Literature

Talent Management: Different Perspectives

According to Tarique and Schuler [10, p. 124], although there seems to be a growing consensus regarding the meaning of “talent management”, when considering the global environment the exact meaning of global talent management is not so precise. The global talent management will be influenced by the context it appears in and sometimes is used interchangeably with International Human Resources Management [10; see also 11-13].

The 1990s were characterized by a high demand for talented employees, what confronted the organizations with a global shortage of talent, which surpassed the supply [14; see also 15, 16]. This shortage of talent put the focus on how to acquire, retain and manage talent in global business [14; see also 17]. This challenge came to be labelled as “global talent management” [18].

The literature has developed a wide range of perspectives to conceptualize and contextualize talent management [19, 20]. Four main perspectives co-exist [19; see 7, 9].

According to Cooke et al. [19], the first perspective is a universalist and inclusive approach to talent management, which argues that all employees have talent and that talent should be harnessed for the organizational good through a range of HRM practices. Seen as a new fashion of HRM, this perspective was criticized for being undifferentiated [19; see also 7, 21, 22].

The second perspective takes a narrow view and defines talent management as succession planning. In this approach, according to Cooke et al. [19, p. 226]:

... a key task is to develop ‘talent pipelines’ to ensure the current and future supply of employee competence, as well as an organization-wide, holistic talent mindset [7]. Underlining this perspective is a long-term and static view that assumes that what is required in the future (i.e. roles and persons for the roles) is known to the organization, and that what the organization needs to do is to plan for it.

The main critic to this perspective is that it failed to take into account business and labour market uncertainties [8, 19, 23].

The third perspective defines talent management as the management of only relatively small group of employees who demonstrate considerable potential, that is the management of talented employees [19; see also 16, 21, 22]. Managing only talented employees implies to identify who those persons are through pre-defined criteria and “then manage them effectively through a set of tightly coupled HRM tools, activities, and processes” [19, p. 226]. However, the focus only on individuals identified as talented may be negative to the organizational culture, discouraging teamwork and collaborative spirit [19].

The fourth approach moves from individuals to strategic positions, where talent management is the “strategic management of ‘pivotal positions’ rather than ‘pivotal people’” [19, p. 226]. According to Cooke et al. [19, p. 226]:

Building on the works of Huselid et al. [24] and Boudreau and Ramstad (2005), which argued for an increased focus on key positions instead of talented individuals, this perspective of TM [Talent Management] focuses on organizational processes and systems for identifying key positions that are strategically important to the organization and filling them with the right personnel through well-developed HR systems and processes [9]. These key positions are not confined to managerial roles, and may include functional and technical positions, which may have a significant impact on organizational performance [9].

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