Defining talent management

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Literature Review

  1. Definition of Talent Management
  2. Evolution of Talent Management
  3. Benefits of Talent Management
  4. The Traditional Acquisition-Retention Talent Management Model
  5. Shortcomings of current approaches to Managing Talent
  6. Building Talent: A Shift in Mindset. The Springboard to a New Level: Develop, Deploy, And Connect
  7. An evaluation of Employees needs to remain competitive in the 21st century

Definition of Talent Management

This new age economy, with its attendant paradigm shifts in relation to the human capital, in terms of its acquisition, utilisation, development and retention, has placed a heavy demand on today's HR professionals. Today HR is expected to identify potential talent and also comprehend, conceptualise and implement relevant strategies to contribute effectively to achieve organisational objectives.

Definitions of the word 'talent' appear only in Buckingham and Coffman (1999): 'recurring pattern of thought, feeling, or behaviour that can be productively in Michaels, Handfield-Jones, and Axelrod (2001). 'the sum of a person's abilities - his or her intrinsic gifts skills, knowledge, experience, intelligence, judgement, attitude, character, and drive. It also included his or her ability to grow'. Talent management is about the identification, development, and management of the talent portfolio- i.e., the number, type, and quality of employees that will most effectively fulfil the company strategic and operating objectives' (Knex & Ruse, 2004: 231) and involve individual and organisational development in response to a changing and complex operating environment. It includes the creation and maintenance of a supportive, people oriented organisation culture.(Stockley, 2006: 1).

Many attempts have been made in defining Talent Management. Talent management as the use of an integrated set of activities to ensure that the organisation attracts, retains, motivates and develops the talented people it needs now and in the future.(Armstrong,2000). Smilansky (2005) states that it is 'aimed at improving the calibre, availability and flexible utilization of exceptionally capable (high potential) employees who can have a disproportionate impact on business performance'. The process of talent management should not be limited to the favoured few. This point was made by Delong and Vijayaraghavan(2003) when they suggested that the unsung heroes of corporate performance are the capable steady performers.

On the contrary, Pfeffer (2001) warns that the "war for talent" is the wrong metaphor because it overlooks the extent to which teams of people will often operate more effectively than mere collections of individuals. However, O'Reily and Pfeffer (2000) pointed out that companies that adopt a "talent war" mindset may place too much value on outsiders and high-flyers and downplay the talent already in the company.

Talent is the capacity to achieve a near perfect performance. It results in desired spontaneous behaviour and is a natural ability, not primarily acquired through effort (Lunn 1992).

Lunn(1992) recognised four types of people.

  1. Those who make things happen.
  2. Those who think they can make things happen.
  3. Those who watch things happen.
  4. Those who do not know that anything has happened.

The strategy of attaining a sustainable competitive advantage through human resources has been further accentuated by a number of authors who stressed on the paradigm shift from Human Resource Management to Talent Management. (Sears, 2003 and Taylor 2002) , These scholars emphasize talent management through strategic staffing, training, recruiting and retaining talent, in order to achieve superior business outcomes.

Most of our authors recognised, that people are important assets in organisation. Today there is no such thing as "to remain employed", this battle has been lost, and the new battle is "to remain employable".

Today talent is the scare resource, giving rise to talent markets. Yet is no "decision science" to help leaders optimise their talent decisions. John Boudreau at the University of Southern California and his research partner Pete Ramstad argue that this is a critical step in the evolution of HR. Hr executives often define their efforts in terms of policies and programs. Instead, they must provide analytical insights and support to help leaders improve their talent decisions, not just implement them.

An evaluation of Employees needs to remain competitive in the 21st century

As an employee, you must know the skills you have and how these skills can be marketed to other employers. Furthermore, there is a need for continually update and upgrade your skills and be aware of new roles you may be required to fill.

Also, develop skills aligned to business needs, an attitude that is focused yet flexible and a dedication to continuous learning and personal excellence. Employees need to deliver a solid performance in support of the organisation's goals.

As an employee it is vital that you discover, or re-discover, yourself through self-awareness. Understand your personality and work style, what drives you and what your preferences are in a work situation. Invest in yourself through developing an understanding of your work behaviour.

Be aware of the key characteristics of employability and what employers value in the people they hire and promote. There is a new emphasis on effective communication and interpersonal skills, with a growing awareness of the need for EQ (emotional quotient) as well as IQ.

Good teamwork is required from people with positive and flexible attitudes. There is a growing demand for problem-solving, creative and innovative thinking skills, with an increased willingness to take risks. Continuous learning is a necessity together with a commitment to personal excellence.

If an employee is developing a managerial career, do be aware of the new managerial realities. There is a need to become a coach - to nurture and develop the skills and abilities of your staff. Learn to delegate and empower, manage transition and change, and develop managerial leadership based on influence, not power.

Benefits of Talent Management

Talent Management is the implementation of a framework of integrated strategies and systems that are designed to improve the processes for recruiting, developing and retaining talent. Talent management has its benefits.

Some of the benefits are given below:

  • Talent Management helps manager to better plan for future human resource needs.
  • Talent Management enables an organisation to build a high performance culture that is a magnet for talent.
  • Organisation can attract and engage the best talent.
  • Talent Management drive individual potential and build on employee performance.
  • nsuring a ready pool of talent to meet present and future needs and to entice lost talent to re-join the organisation for a longer term.
  • Help organisations understand their current and future resource requirements.

Furthermore Talent Management calls for a systematic and comprehensive approach that links all the Human Resources programs that first of all delivers a performance-oriented culture and achieves low employee turnover. Secondly sustaining high levels of employee satisfaction and delivering a cadre of qualified replacements. Thirdly, ensures efficient and effective investment in employee compensation and development. And lastly, ensures application of carefully crafted competencies in the selection and performance evaluation processes.

The Traditional Acquisition-Retention Talent Management Model

Figure1. Conventional Talent Management

The Traditional Talent Management Process

In the traditional Talent Management process, organisations focus their energy on "acquiring" and Retaining".


Acquiring involve all the sub-processes around finding, attracting and engaging highly talented individuals into an organisation. The core concept of talent acquiring is to get away from the "fill in the box" thinking to one that is more pro-active and much closer to building the skill sets required to achieve business success. Hence, in order for acquiring to be successful, there is a need to attract talent through Branding, Recruitment, Collaborative sourcing, Compensation and Diversity and inclusion.


Attraction of Talent through branding. The word Brand itself means a unique and identifiable name or symbol that serves to differentiate competing products and services. Both a physical and emotional trigger to create a relationship between consumers and the product/service. Branding also give birth to the word reputation and image. Reputation is the acknowledgement that an organisation's shareholders give about its behaviour, based on the fulfilment of its promise to clients, employees and society. Image is the perceptions and assessments that live in the public's mind. In toto, Brand = Reputation + Image.

As a competitive response in a tight talent market, organisations are turning increasingly to strategies of "employer branding". Employer branding uses aspects of corporate identity and reputation to achieve multiple objectives of human resources management. "Having a strong brand for employees is a competitive advantage and a strategic advantage. It really does help us attract the best candidates.......Beth Sawi Chief Administrative Officer, Charles Schwab Corporation.


By definition, recruitment refers to the process of attracting, screening and selecting qualified people for a job at an organisation. This is done through the recruitment channels which include different channels such as the traditional advertisements in local, international newspapers, professional institutions' bulletins, magazines, portals, also through Direct mailing, Radio/television. The use of posters -outdoor and Transit, employee referral program. Furthermore we have the word of the mouth via significant individuals, third party websites, organisation's recruitment website, recruitment fairs and search consultants commonly known as Headhunters who are engaged in the business of "hunting" talents.

Collaborative Sourcing

It is working together across borders to attract and hire the best talent the market place has to offer everywhere in the world. This is done through Candidate Sourcing Centre which are established at major cities within given regions which are staffed by Recruitment Specialists whose role is to work directly with the country HR specialists to understand recruitment needs and provide valued propositions and solutions. And lastly, Joint Campus recruitment at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity is a collective mixture of individuals, cultures and organisational expertise. It is all the differences that make each individual unique and things that people have in common that connect them. Diversity includes everyone.

Inclusion is behaviours, policies and practices that allow people develop to their full potentials.


Retain also known as employee retention is a business management term referring to efforts by employers to retain current employees in their workforce. Retention can be done by Performance Management, Succession planning, Mobility, Rewards Management, Accelerated Development and Coaching/Mentoring.

Performance Management

Performance Management can be defined as a strategic and integrated approach to delivering sustained success to organisations by improving the performance of the people who work in them and by developing the capabilities of teams and individual contributors. Armstrong and Baron, 1998. Performance management has greater integration with the plans of the organisation; it is the fundamental process of management and part of the everyday activities of a manager and is based on all employees making contributions to the overall performance of the organisation. The main purpose of performance management is to drive improvement in business, build organisational and individual capability and carving out consequences for performance ad non performance. In order to monitor the performance of individual and the organisation performance standards are necessary. A performance standard dedicates acceptable level of behaviour at work and provides a degree of reliability and guidance.

Succession Planning

Succession planning is to design to ensure that there is continuity when an individual leaves the organisation. The objective of succession planning need to be defined vis-a-vis what is the organisation trying to achieve? Is it to find successful potential at the senior management level or is it to drive through the organisation?

The target audience are: Role Based program which focuses on specific key positions which are either difficult or critical to the business success.

Individual Based Program which focuses on particular people with the potential for advancement.

Pool Based Program which focuses on a number of high potential people who conceivably could move into any of several leadership positions.


Mobility is about having right people in the right place at the right time. Mobility must be Leadership, Talent and Resource driven vis-a-vis catering to the succession and talent needs of the organisation. Mobility programs can only work if it is link to the overall business strategy of the organisation and if inputs from business and function stakeholders are being solicited, whereby the employee must see the benefit of it and often comes from experiences from within the organisation.

Reward management

Reward need to be meaningful to the individual and directly relate to the strategy and key drivers of the organisation's success. It is the individual and not the organisation that determines the value of any reward. Hence, reward need to directly support the creation of magnetic cultures vis-a-vis an environment that draws people in and gives them good reasons for staying and contributing in an energized fashion. It must incorporate both extrinsic and intrinsic rewards to meet the needs of the employees. Rewards can be given in terms of financial that is: Base salary, sales commission, Individual incentives, profit sharing, stock option, discounted share purchase. It can also be given in terms of Non-financial that is: Praise and recognition, formal commendations and awards, favourable mention in company publications, status indicators, time off, more challenging work environment.

Mentoring / Coaching

Mentoring is a private relationship between 2 individuals based on a mutual desire for development towards an organisational objective. The relationship is a non-reporting one and infringes none of the organisational structures in place. It is additional to other forms of assistance, not a replacement....C Conway (John Wiley & Sons Ltd)

Coaching is unlocking a person's potential to maximize his or her performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teach them.....John Whitmore in Coaching for Performance.

Mentoring involves helping people transform themselves, their communities and their world. It involves impacting people's visions and values as well as helping them to reshape their way of being, thinking and actions. It involves challenging and supporting people in achieving higher levels of performance while allowing them to bring out the best in themselves and those around them. It means going through a deep learning that results in embodying new skills and capabilities. It involves expanding people's capacity to take action.........Robert Hargrove in Masterful Coaching.

Shortcomings of current approaches to Managing Talent

Organisations focus their energy on "acquiring" and "retaining" critical talent especially when talent is scarce. This focus on the end points is problematic for many reasons. To begin, the resulting process is linear because employees are often ignored once they are recruited into an organisation. As such, they can become pigeonholed without the opportunity for redeployment. Instead, individuals need flexibility to try on new roles and organisations need flexibility to shift to marketplace demands.

When labour get tight, most organisations hunt for external candidates to fill their most critical jobs (acquisition) and try to convince current employees to stay (retention). These companies offer money, perks, and new challenges. But this is more of a knee-jerk response than a clear strategy. Sometimes it works. But more often it only delays, or even fuels, the inevitable churn of good people. Refer to Figure1.

In particular, companies pay too much attention to "acquiring" talent, the front-end of the process. It is understandable that it is far easier to phone an executive search firm or post openings on a web site than it is to "grow" someone into to deal with the internal politics of redeploying people from within. But such shortcuts are costly. The average cost to replace an employee is typically one and a half times her average annual salary because of costs from recruitment, productivity losses, training, relocation, and other costs.

New candidates can take a year or more to master their jobs. Moreover, a company that focuses on external talent can erode the commitment of internal candidates who perceive a bias against them.

Common retention approaches are problematic too. Often, they are driven by simple metrics such as employee turnover. But the numbers say nothing about why people leave. In exit interviews, those leaving frequently resist giving the true reasons for their departures for fear of burning bridges. Finally, turnover does not measure people's commitment to the company. When jobs are scare, it is easier to retain a non-committed workforce.

As a result, by focusing in the end points of managing talent (acquisition and retention) rather than on the middle ones (deployment and development), organisations ignore the things that matter most to employees. When this happens, companies set themselves up for inevitable churn, which becomes especially hazardous in a tight labour market.

Attraction and retention are important metrics. But to be effective, talent management strategies must be built around the things that generate the most value and matter most to employees, the "customers" of this process. That is, their development and deployment and connection to others.

Building Talent: A Shift in Mindset. The Springboard to a New Level: Develop, Deploy, And Connect

A growing number of successful companies, such as Microsoft, Southwest Airlines, and SAS, are taking more than their fair share of the talent marketplace and cultivating high performers in key positions through a very different method.

Rather than starting with recruiters, they first look inside to match employee experience and aspirations to the company's evolving strategic needs. They also take recruiting seriously, in large part to achieve ambitious growth targets. But their historically low turnover rates let them spend much less time battling churn and a lot more time outmanoeuvring the competition.

As the competition for critical talent heats up, organisations must rethink the ways they manage these people. To begin, they must identify the segments of the workforce that drive their current and future growth. Then, rather than focus on metrics outcomes (acquisition and retention), they must concentrate on the things that employees care about most: developing in ways that stretch their capabilities, deploying onto work that engages their heads and hearts, and connecting to the people who will help them achieve their objectives. By focusing on these three things, attraction and retention largely take care of themselves.

To deal with the coming Talent shortage, organisations must let go of outdated and ineffective recruitment and retention strategies and instead opt for talent-management models that nurture, inspire and reward employees in new ways. This shift enables forward-looking organisations to develop an integrated talent-management strategy based on what we call the develop-deploy-connect cycle. (see figure 2)

Figure 2.

The develop-Deploy-Connect model should be at the core of an organisation's talent strategy. By focusing on these three elements, organisations can generate capability, commitment, and alignment in key workforce segments, which in turn improve business performance. When this happens, the attraction and retention of skilled talent largely take care of themselves.

By "develop" mean providing the real-life learning employees need to master a job. We don't mean just traditional classroom or online education. As importantly, it mean the "trial-by-fire" experiences that stretch their capabilities and the lessons they learn from peers, mentors, and others.

Gone are the days when companies were satisfied to find loyal, hardworking candidates. Instead, they need a mix of highly analytical people with technological savvy, creativity, global know-how, adaptability, and great communication skills to collaboratively solve complex and rapidly changing issues.

The best way to develop critical talent is through the collaborative resolution of real-life issues (action learning). People learn the most in situations that stretch them, the "trial by fire" experiences that put them slightly outside of their comfort zones. They learn not by pondering a hypothetical problem, but by directly tacking real issues.

As a senior Microsoft Human Resources executive has noted: "we have very limited educational and training opportunities for our managers. But i think that we have absolutely developed leaders. You get people having to move from managing ten people to managing 200 overnight. That kind of stretch in the job will either create growth or death. Fortunately, we have such great people that most of them have just grown by leaps and bounds.

Mentoring and coaching are also important to learning especially when expectations are made clear and tied to explicit goals. It gives employees greater diversity and exposure to the business than traditional one-on-one coaching.

Furthermore, develop enable GEN-Yers to experiment and take risks as they figure out their niche within the organisation. Help clarify their vision of which skills will serve them well in the future and allow them (GEN-Yers) to learn technical, personal and relational capabilities. It also provides employees with the infrastructure to determine what motivates them. And lastly, develop provide learning through gaming scenarios, online interaction and also learn about their organisational responsibilities.

By "Deploy", mean working with key individuals to identify their deep-rooted skills, interests, and knowledge, find their best fit in the organisation, and craft the job design and conditions that help them to perform. If people learn the most in jobs that stretch them, they perform best when they can actively discover and define the role that will tap their deepest passions and skills and the conditions required to succeed. For some, the key to feeling more committed is flexible work arrangements. Deployment is about matching the correct candidates to a critical job.

Deploying talent also means helping those who are mismatched in their jobs. By mismatched, it does not just mean lack of capability, although this is often the case. People are also mismatched when they have the skills, but not the burning interest.

As Tailor identify work in ways that fulfil individuals' needs while still affording them the flexibility that they need to do their jobs well. By and large, people are capable of doing many things, with the proper experiences, support, and connections; they are apt to gravitate to roles that unleash their passions. Indeed, some of the most successful business people were never educated or trained for the roles they mastered. For example, the founder of the Lotus Development Software company, Mitchell Kapor, had been a disk jockey and transcendental meditation teacher in his past careers. Another one is, Ray Kroc sold milkshake machines to restaurants before he started to build the Mc Donald's empire in 1954 at age 52. His modest sales roots wouldn't have predicted his later success as one of America's greatest entrepreneurs and CEOs.

Hence, it is not unusual for people to try on different roles before they find the one for which they are best suited. But by and large, people don't find the right fit until they "taste, touch, and feel" it. INSEAD Professor Herminia Ibarra explains that finding one's career niche involves a process of experimentation. In her year of research, she has discovered that people often need to try several roles before they find their best fit. Self-introspection is crucial, and she argues, but cannot offer the insights provided to us by hands-on experience.

Furthermore, deploy align organisation roles with employee interests, allowing Gen-Yer to learn their strengths and about new career opportunities. It also creates mechanisms to align organisation roles with employee needs and expectations in a productive way.

By "Connect", mean providing critical employees with the tools and guidance they need to build networks that enhance individual and organisational performance, and improve the quality of their interactions with others. Most require the backing, decision-making help, and knowledge of key individuals, both inside and outside an organisation. In order to increase performance in today's complex organisations, leaders must help key individuals build rich, diverse networks. For instance, decades of research led by the University of Chicago and Stanford University validate the link between the strength and diversity of social networks and one's influence, or social capital. Social capital determines one's ability to gain access to information, solve problems collaboratively, and achieve goals.

Work largely happens "off the organisational chart: through our informal networks. The glue that binds people together in these networks is Trust. Microsoft

People with rich networks tend to solve problems faster, and with better results. Organisations can do a lot to help individuals increase the quality of their interactions and knowledge flows. Encouraging "communities of practice," the self-organised groups that form around a common mission or interest, is one such means. Hence, the quality of a person's informal networks also has a substantial impact on his performance. Rob Cross (university of Virginia) and Wayne Baker (university of Michigan) are making great strides to understand the characteristics of networks that lead to individual and organisational performance. In one study, they found that the "energy" we send to each other in our interactions is four times a greater predictor of performance as the information that we bring to the table. We create positive energy when we listen carefully, respect others' needs and perspectives, and promptly answer questions. This focus on networks and connections is one with which few organisations have deep experience.

Furthermore, connect also enable Gen-Yer to foster the networks that they need to succeed and guide them on cultivating healthy relationships within those network and create feedback mechanisms that link employee contributions to larger organisational goals.

The Develop-Deploy-Connect model is interconnected and virtuous. An improvement in one area naturally leads to an improvement in another. Likewise, effective deployment occurs when people have the knowledge, skills, networks, and relationships they need to succeed. Finally, effective connection happens when people are deployed in work that engages their curiosity. In these circumstances, they are more likely to learn from and teach (i.e., develop) others.

Benefits of the Develop-Deploy-Connect Model

Importance benefits result from the virtuous circle. One is capability. When highly capable individuals work together, they build organisational capability. The second is the alignment that occurs when the right people are in the right jobs. A third result is commitment. People are more likely to master work that engages them, fosters their growth, and encourages productive relationships. When people feel the organisation take a keen interest in their interests, skills, and connections, they are far less tempted to look for challenges outside.