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Research Method

Positioned within the interpretative paradigm, this study assumes that reality is a social construction that cannot be understood independently from the actors that create that same reality [29, p. 59]. Within this paradigm, a qualitative approach is adopted in order to understand the phenomena through the meanings that individuals attribute to them [30]. Therefore, the main objective of this chapter is to contribute to a better understanding of the meaning attributed to the concepts talent and talent management and of how HRM may play a relevant role in attracting and retaining talents, from the point of view of students of the curricular unit International Human Resources Management.

Research on talent management has been mainly focused on assessing if firms adopt strategic talent management policies and practices, with researchers defining at the start what talent is; or researchers exploring how companies define talent and how they manage talented employees [19]. Given the limited studies in Portugal about HRM and talent management and the fact that this phenomenon is developed in the practice of HRM or/and by HR consulting companies, this study provides a different perspective of this topic by analyzing the perceptions of third year students that are finishing their graduation and will be facing the challenges of finding a job. Portugal has been since 2008 facing a difficult financial situation with repercussions in all domains of society. One of these was an exodus of qualified young people. Therefore, in the context of the curricular unit of International Human Resources Management, the students were invited to define what talent is and what talent management means (below the list of questions asked will be presented). In doing so, it was possible to explore how these students perceive the importance of knowing what a talent is and what perceptions they have about which companies are exemplar in the management of talents and about the practices adopted regarding the development, waste or loss of talents.

Each of the respondents are enrolled in the curricular unit where the topic of international talent management is debated and group work on the topic is developed by the students. The first author is the teacher of this curricular unit and permission was asked to the students to pass the paper version of the qualitative survey so they could fill out with their writing and without any interference. This process was developed at the beginning of the school year (September, 2016), with just a contextualization of the research. Confidentiality was guaranteed to respondents. In surveying the respondents, they were asked to address the following questions, originally written in Portuguese and analyzed in Portuguese and only after the results were translated into English:

  • 1. What talent management means to you?
  • 2. For you what is a talent?
  • 3. How can HRM help a company to attract talent?
  • 4. How can HRM help a company to retain talent?
  • 5. Can you identify three talents (individual and/or collective)?
  • 6. Can you identify a business company that, in your opinion, adequately manage its talents?
  • 7. Can you identify any team/person that has done or does good talent management?
  • 8. In your opinion, how can a company waste/lose its talents?
  • 9. Thinking about yourself, what talents do you have?

The curricular unit is optional and students from a diversified number of courses are enrolled, in a total of 50 Portuguese students, from Management (19), Economics (3), International Relations (26), and International Business (2). Most of the students (43) age ranges between 20 and 22 years old, with 22 men and 28 women. The average time of respondents was 40 min and all questions were answered. From the 50 students, only the ones from management had previously attended a curricular unit of HRM. Content analysis was adopted following a thematic line guided by the research questions that were reflected in the survey questions, according to the list provided above.

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