Literature Review Defining Talent Management Talent managementLiterature Review Defining Talent Management Talent management

Literature Review


Defining Talent Management

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Talent management is
a relatively new business term of which it seems to have been first coined
around the turn of the twenty-first century by a group of HR consultants working
for McKinsey & Co, since when it has become very widely used across the
world (Chambers et al, 1999).  Though it is a ‘hot topic that has just
attracted everyone’s attention; on the other hand, organisations fails to fulfil
talent demand worldwide (Pruis,

An accurate
definition of talent management remains somewhat unclear (Hughes and Rog, 2008). Talent
management could be defined ‘simply as developing and improving the performance
of individuals and organisations’ and possibly team performance (Rees and French, 2013.  Cappelli )2008:74) also supported this basic ideology of talent management
by stating ‘at its heart talent management is simply a matter of anticipating
the need for human capital and then setting out a plan to meet it. It is
commonly agreed that talent management is a practice which aims to achieve
developing people for the benefit of the organisation, it is however a topic of
much debate when it comes to how organisations implement successful talent
management. CIPD (2007)
state that ‘Talent is unique to an organisation and is extremely influenced by
factors like industry, its nature, individuals, and implication at group level
and so is likely to change over time. This helps explain the difficulty in
gaining a globally accepted definition of talent management as it is the coming
together and refining of multiple HRM and HRD practices, of which there is no
single recipe for guaranteed success due to the variants of the existing
organisation and what the organisation aims to achieve through a talent
management programme.

(Collings and Mellahi 2009:304)
provide one of the most commonly used definitions which helps to further
explain talent management and it’s complexities in depth by defining talent
management as ‘Activities and processes that involve the systematic
identification of key positions which differentially contribute to  the organisations sustainable competitive
advantage, the development of a talent pool of high potential and high
performing incumbents to fill these roles, and the development of a
differentiated human resource architecture to facilitate filling these position
with competent incumbent and to ensure their continued commitment to the
organisation’. Wellins et al
(2006) suggest the ‘activities and processes’ aforementioned as being
made up of a combination of “the recruitment, development, promotion and
retention of people, planned and executed in line with your organisations
current and future business goals’. This further explains the HR planning
process to achieve talent managements intended result but again highlights
these will bespoke to organisational needs.

vs Narrow Scope

(Pilbream, S. and Cobridge, M. (2010) state that talent management from a broad perspective is an array of HR
practices are incorporated within talent management from ‘HR planning, through
recruitment and selection, to employee engagement, performance management ,
career development, coaching and mentoring, employee retention and
involvement’. Contrary to this (Taylor,
2014, p.6) explains at the other extreme there is a far ‘narrower’ view
of what talent management consists of, focusing almost exclusively on workforce
planning and succession planning activities. “It is primarily seen as an
activity which is concerned with ensuring that in the future an organisation is
able to meet its core skills needs. “Those who use the term in the narrow
perspective have developed a series of ‘water metaphors’ to give it meaning.
They commonly make reference to ‘talent reservoirs, ‘talent pools, ‘talent
pipelines’ and most recently to ‘talent waves’ (Jamali, Khoury, and Sahyoun, 2006).


Whilst there is not one perspective
this does not mean that either are invalid but perhaps re-enforces that there
is no clear definition due to talent management being ‘unique to the
organisation and its relation to multiple influencing factors’ (CIPD, 2007).


Inclusive vs Exclusive Approach

“There is now a
well-established debate in the field of talent management relating to who
exactly in an organisation should be considered to be ‘talented’ and hence on
whom talent management activities need to be focused” (Taylor, S., 2014, p.6)

Originally, talent management has
been coined as a highly exclusive construct: It is a tool for employees who are
valuable and unique (Lepak & Snell, 1999). Tansely, 2011) said that “Almost
all of the organizations cluster their talents to talent pools. In some
organizations, these talent pools are classified into senior and junior groups
for different positions. The others describe a specific group of people as a
talented group” of which CIPD (2015) suggest “Those that target specific groups
of staff usually focus on high-potential employees. Bethke-Langenegger et al 2011:527) support this
view point in that  ‘we understand talent
management to be a distinctive process that focuses explicitly on those persons
who have the potential to provide competitive advantage for a company by
managing those people in an effective and efficient way and therefore ensuring
the long-term competitiveness of a company. Morgan (2010) also was of the belief that “talents
are those individuals who are capable of making a major transformation to the
function of a company”.

So how do we derive
who is talent from an exclusive approach? Whelan and Carcary (2011) say that “often this
‘exclusive perspective’ only really encompasses senior managers and those who
have the potential to succeed them in the future, although some companies
extend their notion of ‘talent’ to include some professional groups and people
with good technical skills that are in short supply. The mass of the workforce
are not seen as comprising ‘talent'”. Research by the CIPD (2015) supports this trend as from
a survey giving multiple choice of the main objectives of organisation’s talent
management activities, The top two responses were ‘Developing high-potential
employees 56%’ and ‘Growing future senior managers/leaders’ 54%. Though this is
a common notion that an exclusive approach should extend only to top talent
with potential to progress to management or technically skilled jobs in short
supply this itself can be problematic and lead to alienation, conflict and
demotivating to those excluded. REFERENCE

This relationship is
explained further by the social exchange theory (SET) which in
brief is a “social exchange that com­prises actions contingent on the rewarding
reactions of others, which over time provide for mutually and rewarding
transactions and relationships” (Cropanzano & Mitchell, 2005, p. 890).

Contrary to this approach Lewis and Heckman’s (2006)
philosophy of ‘inclusive talent management’ prefers to regard all employees as
being part of the talent pool. From an Inclusive talent management perspective “Everyone
has the potential to make a real contribution to the achievement of competitive
advantage or the meeting of strategic objectives. The extent of contribution
may vary from individual to individual, but with the exception of very poor
performers, everyone comprises a part of an organisations overall stock of
human capital and thus needs to be covered by talent management policies and
practices”. CIPD research suggests Half of organisations include all
staff in talent management activities, rising to two-thirds of organisations with
fewer than 1,000 employees (CIPD 2015).

Whilst smaller organisations with
fewer than 1000 employees favour an inclusive approach. This suggests that the
inclusive vs exclusive debate can be influenced by the size and structure of
the organisation perhaps due to the difficulty to talent manage a large number
of employees across multiple levels hierarchical levels.

Thought smaller organisation
prefer and inclusive approach, Talent management activities are seemingly
more common in larger organisations, with “nearly three-fifths of organisations
report they undertake talent management activities. In addition, talent
management activities are more common in organisations where L&D strategy
is aligned to the needs of the business (CIPD, 2015).


Skilled managers impact more than just the organisation itself; they are
critical to organisational success and even national economic well-being. For
this reason, management development is at the forefront of the agenda in
enhancing the skills, competencies and knowledge of UK managers’ (CIPD,2016)

Talent management focus remains
on developing high-potentials and future leaders The main priorities of talent
management activities are similar to the last few years. Developing
high-potential employees and growing future leaders remain the most common
objectives. Both of these objectives, however, are more common in larger
organisations. Smaller organisations are more likely to focus on enabling the
achievement of the organisation’s strategic goals and retaining key employees
(CIPD, 2015)

has grown rapidly in the last 30 years and ‘development’ as a theme cuts
through many traditional areas. The current heightened interest in talent
management includes a great deal of debate and research around talent
development (Rees and French,
2013). (Thomas, 2001, p.184) defines
development as ‘a process of competency attainment and of self-differentiation
in the sense of progressively distinguishing oneself from the environment and
from other people in order to create a unique self-identity’.

The vastly divergent nature and characteristics of the management base
means that the task of identifying and providing effective learning
opportunities for managers presents a significant challenge for HR and L&D
professionals (Schiemann, 2014).

Managers are a diverse population: some are highly qualified with MBAs,
huge industry experience and proven management ability, while others operate at
middle or junior levels or in operational roles encompassing line management or
project management responsibilities. Yet whatever the level of managers,
development is a constant need. Properly planned, structured and evaluated
management development built around the needs of the organisation can make a
critical difference as it builds the capability of the individual in a way that
contributes to sustained organisation performance. It is also essential to
enhance the people management skills of line managers, as their role is
critical in supporting employee engagement and hence helping to drive high
business performance levels. (CIPD,2016)

Managers at all levels need a certain set of skills associated with their
people management role, and these need to be developed. It should also not be
assumed that well-qualified professionals who attain promotion to posts involving
line management responsibilities will automatically be able assimilate the
people management role.

Some organisations draw up succession plans ensuring that high-potential
individuals gain the skills, experience and knowledge required to take up senior
managerial roles as they become vacant in the future. However, it is important
to recognise that all managers, even those who are not identified as
high-potential for taking up senior roles in the future, may benefit from
access to learning and development opportunities.


development needs

Regular individual review of performance allows managers to discuss work
issues and achievement and identify their personal learning plans. (CIPD,2016)

360 degree feedback (sometimes just 360 feedback), which seeks feedback
on performance from a wide range of individuals, can be particularly helpful as
it addresses the impact of managers’ behaviour on others, including those who
report to them. (CIPD,2016)

Development centres

The purpose of specialist management development or assessment centres is
to focus on opportunities for personal development, as well as to gauge
potential and help make selections for promotion to senior managerial posts.
These centres often include work-related activities and group work, as well as
coaching and psychometric assessments.


importance of Talent management

L professionals
can begin to build a compelling strategy such as talent management to ensure
that innovation takes off in their own organisation. It’s important for HR,
L&D and OD specialists to work closely with other business functions to
create cultures of agility and continuous learning and improvement, to help
organisations survive and thrive in these times of unprecedented change.” (Torrington et al., 2017).The
influence of talent management in turn
can ‘seek to attract, identify, develop, engage, retain and deploy individuals
who are considered particularly valuable to an organisation (Beardwell and
Thompson (2017). This
is supported by the studies of CIPD
(2015) whom found the most popular step taken to improve the aspect of
staff retention was through increasing learning and development opportunities

Whilst talent management is a relatively new concept “If
core competencies leads to organisational capability and competitiveness, then
developing employee competence will be a strategic priority”. (Gratton, 2000). This is
seemingly becoming increasingly recognised and ever more evident in today’s
competitive markets and challenging economic times of which ‘over half of organisations report that talent management is
prioritised by their CEO (54%)’ (CIPD 2015). This aligns with the notion that HR’s modern role is
to develop strategy and add value to organisations.


talent management activities are
considered to be more effective in organisations that are more active in
encouraging the development of L capability (see Section 6).37

HRM and HRD could be considered separate
aspects of an overall HR function, while one of these sub-functions may take
precedence over the other at any one point. (Rees and French 2013) HRD is often seen as a
sub-set of HR

and Spector, 1989) Strategic HRD is “a proactive, system-wide intervention,
linked to strategic planning and cultural change”

and Garavan (2009) argue that the primary responsibility of HRD professional
traditionally  focused on identifying,
selecting and evaluating training programmes. In effect this equates to
transactional HR. However, Gubbins and Garavan contend that the role of HRD
includes the consideration of environmental forces, and how the development of
employees can add to competitive advantage’.

The HRD function can play an
important part in developing an organisations culture to learn and aspire to be
a ‘learning organisation’. However caution needs to be adopted here in that we
need to continually strive to link learning with performance (Henderson, 1997)

HRD has been defined as
encompassing activites and processes which are intended to have impact on
organisational and individual learning, the terms assume that organisations can
be constructively conceived of as learning entities, and the learning process
of both organisations and individuals are capable of influence and direction
through deliberate and planned interventions. Thus, HRD is constituted by
planned interventions in organisation individual process”. (Watkins and Marsick, 1997).


Given the widely divergent nature of the management base, it is important
to consider a variety of approaches that may be appropriate for differing
management groups or individual managers and to tailor solutions accordingly.

A wide array of formal and informal learning methods, ranging from
in-house and external courses, workshops and seminars to coaching and
mentoring, project working, networking, e-learning, blended learning and action
learning, may be relevant for the development of managers, depending on the
nature of the role and seniority or career stage of the individual. Read
our factsheet on
learning methods. 

While developing communities of
practice, using learning technologies to bring talented groups together and
courses at external institutions are more common in smaller organisations.

High-potential in-house
development activities and coaching are most popular High-potential in-house
development schemes, coaching, mentoring and buddying schemes are among
organisations’ most commonly used and their most effective talent management

Formal learning

A wide range of
formal education and training courses and qualifications are available in
respect of management development, with options including:

undergraduate, postgraduate (most
notably the MBA) or other higher education qualifications in
business/management. These tend to cover the main disciplines associated
with management in general, such as finance and accounting, marketing, HRM
and operations management, and may also encompass specialist options (for
instance the management of innovation, risk or compliance) or
occupationally-specific modules (such as retail or healthcare management).
qualifications such as national or Scottish vocational qualifications
(NVQs/SVQs) in the area of management/business studies.
courses and qualifications from
management membership organisations including the ‘chartered manager’
programme provided by the Chartered Management Institute (see Useful
specialist courses, including
those delivered by professional bodies as part of continuing professional
development (CPD) programmes.
management apprenticeships in
a wide range of areas such as purchasing and supply management.

Formal educational
provisions may represent highly stimulating and useful ways of acquiring
knowledge or learning about the techniques of management, though the costs of
such provisions may be substantial. 

Certain formal
courses are often taken by individuals at an early stage of their management
careers, for instance some companies sponsor new employees on MBA or similar

However, formal
provision may be relevant at any or all stages of a manager’s career, for
example, a long-standing manager in the field of employee relations might wish
to undertake a formal course covering latest employment law developments.

Work-based methods

Coaching and mentoring

These are one-to-one
methods that offer personally-tailored reflection and discussion in confidence
between a manager and another individual about that manager’s development.
Coaching and mentoring are also skills that managers need to master themselves
in order to manage others effectively. Find out more in our coaching and mentoring factsheet.


This involves the
pairing up of two managers who each spend a day (or other set period of time)
shadowing the other, followed up with a de-brief where the shadower can feed
back observations to their colleague.


Taking another role
via a secondment can help managers with broadening skills, knowledge and
experience. Read our secondment factsheet.






Blended approach?

is clear there is no universally agreed definition of talent management and it
is best to perhaps accept that there are a range of perspectives when we think
of talent management ‘as it is a multi-dimensional concept which different
organisations and writers use in rather different ways’. This demonstrates that
perhaps talent management can be used and is most effective when bespoke to the
organisation and its desired strategy and end goals of talent management. ‘Non
is right or wrong and each has something to offer the praciticising HR Manager’.
((Taylor, S., 2014, p.6)



MARTIN (2012)

Resourcing and talent planning survey report CIPD 2017

Learning and talent development survey report 2015


Evaluation of talent management programmes

Talent management activities are
‘fairly’ effective In similar findings to last year, threefifths of
organisations with talent management activities believe they are at least
fairly effective, although just 5% say they are very effective. High-potential
in-house development schemes are linked with increased effectiveness, while
those who use courses at external institutions gave lower ratings of
effectiveness.35 (CIPD, 2015)

In order
to understand whether learning interventions offer value, the costs of the provision
need to be compared with the value of expected and actual outcomes. If the
latter are around specific task accomplishment then they may be relatively
quantifiable, although effectively developing the overall capacity to manage is
less tangible.

For more
on our work into the value of learning and methods of assessing the
effectiveness of learning generally, see our Evaluating
learning and development factsheet.

Despite a
massive estimated global spend on management development programmes, it remains
difficult to identify specific links with organisational effectiveness and
success, partly because of difficulties in identifying which changes are caused
by such provision and which may be attributed to other factors.



Dr. John
McGurk, learning and talent development research adviser at the CIPD, said:”Formal
education courses may be slightly out of vogue as a learning and development
intervention, but for an innovation focus they may be crucial. External
conferences, workshops and events are also important as they allow employees to
‘bring the outside in’. 

McGurk adds: “At its root, innovation is about learning and change, but
also about leadership, decision-making and culture. Practitioners need to gauge
their own organisation and help to drive innovation further in their own


The critical role of management in innovation
cannot be overstated. Managers who seek innovative behaviour in themselves
and others will allow firms to harness more of the ideas, creative
solutions and improvement suggestions which drive innovation.
Innovation is both a powerful form of learning
and is powered by learning. It is important to ensure that learning and
development, OD, change management and other development interventions
support the innovation imperative.
Innovation is best designed as a systematic and
project-based endeavour
Innovation is collaborative and networked, based
on sharing knowledge and insights, and works best when people focus
externally as well as internally.