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Economics and Business Review, Vol. 8 (22), No. 4, 2022: 136-162 DOI: 10.18559/ebr.2022.4.7 Who is talent? Implications of talent definitions for talent management practice 2 3 4 Agnieszka Skuza , Habte G. Woldu , Shawn Alborz Abstract: Although talent is considered imperative for gaining a competitive advantage, talent management programs’ ee ff ctiveness is unknown. It is believed that consensus on a strong theoretical underpinning for identifying talent and its general den fi ition is yet to be achieved among academia and practitioners. This lack of integration and agreement on a single deni fi tion among scholars lead to more confusion which inhibits the advancement of talent management scholarship. The notion also requires renewed attention in the post-pandemic era because everything may not go back to normal as pre-pandemic. This study addresses the gap and focuses on reviewing the existing schol - arship on talent den fi itions and its conceptualization in one place. The study also aims to present the potential implications of talent den fi ition on talent management prac - tices. Among the various implications discussed, it is argued that a single approach to talent den fi ition makes the company vulnerable as it is not using the full potential of talent management. Finally, based on this in-depth review, the study will highlight po- tential critical research areas towards which the scholarship of talent may be extended. Keywords: talent management, human capital, human resource management. JEL codes: M12, M54. Introduction In the past couple of decades, organizations have been increasingly adopting various TM programs to attract, retain and develop top talent. This is happen - Article received 15 September 2022, accepted 1 December 2022. Institute of Marketing, Poznań University of Economics and Business, al. Niepodległości 10, 61-875 Poznań, Poland, corresponding author: email@example.com, https://orcid. org/0000-0002-5265-4335. Naveen Jindal School of Management, Department of Organizations, Strategy and International Management, The University of Texas at Dallas, 800 W Campbell Rd, SM 43, Richardson, TX 75080, USA, firstname.lastname@example.org, https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0817-2670. Naveen Jindal School of Management, Department of Operations Management, The University of Texas at Dallas, 800 W Campbell Rd, SM 30, Richardson, TX 75080, USA, salborz@ utdallas.edu, https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6392-1622. A. Skuza, H. G. Woldu, S. Alborz, Who is talent? Implications of talent den fi itions 137 ing because of the drastic changes in the work-life where work has become more complex, changeable and unsecure (Nilsson & Ellstrom, 2011). The shi ft from a commodity-based economy to a knowledge-based economy has also changed the status of human resource management and its role in organiza- tions. Therefore, organizations have become more focused on highly talented individuals. TM has thus become a top priority and more strategic for organi- zations worldwide (Kusi, Opoku-Danso, & Afum, 2020; McDonnel, Collings, Mellahi, & Schuler, 2017). A recently published report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) states that due to the impacts of COVID-19, sixty percent of organizations are taking a more strategic approach to their TM. Similarly, another survey of Global Talent Trends (2020–2021) by Mercer reports that because of COVID-19 coupled with technological im- provements, talent now has the option to work digitally. This statement is sup - ported by a study that estimated 25% of employment was generated in digital sectors (Fanna, Tolan, Torrejon, Urzi Brancati, & Fernandez-Macias, 2020) and till May 2020, 76% of companies asked all or most of their employees to work from home (McKinsey, 2020). It is also estimated that the leadership of 43% of organizations believe that the lack of proper management of human capi- tal in their organizations has inhibited its growth and prot fi ability (Pandita & Ray, 2018) in the pre-COVID era. Post-COVID, this situation would further worsen and bring more challenges for HR, such as what type of work arrange- ments would work to attract and retain the best talent? In the face of these challenges, the conceptualization and operationalization of TM require renewed attention because there is already a lack of consistency in its operationalization in the organizations (Gallardo-Gallardo, Thunnissen, & Scullion, 2020). Furthermore, existing talent identic fi ation practices and ee ff c - tiveness are among the grey areas that need further exploration (Ready, Conger, & Hill, 2014; McDonnell & Skuza, 2021). It is, therefore, no wonder that a sur- vey of CIPD in 2013 reported that only 6% of the organizations consider their talent recruiting practices as ee ff ctive. This study argues that for organizations to practice TM and extract its associated perks, they first need to understand what talent is. However, confusion exists in the conceptualization of talent as there are several den fi itions and views about this concept in the existing litera - ture (u Th nnissen, Boselie, & Fruytier, 2013; Wiblen, 2016). Today the situation regarding the talent den fi ition remains the same as pointed out by Ashton and Morton (2005, p. 30) that there “isn’t a single consistent or concise den fi ition”. For example, existing literature on talent conceptualizes it from a human-centric view or who should be termed talented (Crane & Harwell, 2019; Meyers & van Woerkom, 2014). Some authors describe talent as “generic” (Lewis & Heckman, 2006), whereas others term it as “unique” (Lepak & Snell, 1999). It is believed that consensus on a strong theoretical underpinning for iden- tifying talent and its general den fi ition is yet to be achieved among academia and practitioners. This lack of integration and an agreement on a single den fi i - 138 Economics and Business Review, Vol. 8 (22), No. 4, 2022 tion among scholars lead to more confusion which inhibits the advancement of TM scholarship (Gallardo-Gallardo et al., 2020; Thunnissen & Gallardo- -Gallardo, 2019). To address these gaps, this study focuses on reviewing the existing scholarship on talent den fi itions and its conceptualization. The study also aims to present potential implications of talent den fi ition on TM practices. Finally, based on this in-depth review, the study will also highlight potential critical research areas towards which the scholarship of talent may be extend- ed. Hence a synthesis of the existing talent scholarship will be presented with a road map for further research. e r Th est of the paper is organized as follows: in the next section, a discus - sion on the methodology is presented for the selection of the articles for this review. This section is followed by a detailed discussion of the findings related to different definitions of talent. The future research directions section makes the last part of the paper. 1. Search strategy In line with previously adopted methodologies (e.g., Nijs, Gallardo-Gallardo, Dries, & Sels, 2013; McDonnell et al., 2017) this study relied on refereed jour- nals for downloading relevant papers published in the last two decades (since 2001). e Th Business Source Complete database was chosen as the departure point to search for articles that cover the themes of talent identic fi ation and den fi ition in the organizational context. The search was limited to English- language publications in peer-reviewed academic journals that mentioned “talent identic fi ation” (talent ident*), “talent den fi ition” (talent den*), fi and/or talent conceptualization (talent concept*) in their title, abstract or keywords. It was decided to exclude a range of documents such as editorial notes, sym- posia, proceeding papers, letters, notes, presentation slides, editorial materials, and book reviews. Our search procedure generated 72 articles. Further, to better contribute to a theoretical understanding of talent defi - nition and identic fi ation, the search was expanded to the APA PsycInfo data - base (as recommended by Nijs et al., 2013). APA PsycInfo is the premier index for researching psychological literature and indexes psychology journals, book chapters, books, and dissertations. The search resulted in retrieving 204 relevant articles; however, it must be stressed that the vast majority of articles focused on educational psychology and sports psychology. Since the interests lay in tal- ent identic fi ation, den fi ition and conceptualization in the business context the publications that are loosely associated or lack focus on organizational talent were excluded. As a result, our search narrowed to 42 publications, of which 30 overlapped with articles identie fi d in the Business Source Complete data - base. A total of 84 publications were left. The list of journals with the number of publications is included in Table A1 in the Appendix. A. Skuza, H. G. Woldu, S. Alborz, Who is talent? Implications of talent den fi itions 139 2. Approaches to talent definition and their implications for TM e r Th eview demonstrated that the den fi itions of talents are primarily context- specic a fi nd therefore, variations can be found while comparing them. Selecting one den fi ition over another is linked to a die ff rent TM process. Table 1 can be referred to for some of the examples of talent den fi itions in the extant litera - ture. All these den fi itions can be combined into several approaches that can be extracted from the extant literature while den fi ing talent. e fi Th rst approach mainly focuses on selected few employees, also known as the elite approach, or all employees, which is called the egalitarian approach. Table 1. Different definitions of talent No. Authors Definition 1 Epicurea’s Leadership individuals who can demonstrate high levels of potential to Model’s deni fi tion (in make a distinctive die ff rence to the business, combined with Huang & Tansley, 2012, proven capability for high performance in any role p. 3680) 2 Wiblen (2016, p. 96) talent is indicative of certain individual employees; valuable skills and capabilities; pivotal roles and positions; or its entire workforce 3 Gallardo-Gallardo, the ability, capacity, capability, commitment, competency, Dries and González- contribution, experience, knowledge, performance, and po- -Cruz (2013, p. 293) tential, patterns of thought, feeling or behavior, and skills that are related to the characteristics of people 4 Meyers, van Woerkom denfi ed talent through five approaches, i.e., gieft dness, and Dries (2013) strength, competencies, high potential, and high perfor- mance 5 Ulrich, Brockbank, talent equals competence (able to do the job) times com- Johnson and Younger mitment (willing to do the job) times contribution (finding (2007, p. 3) meaning and purpose in their work) 6 Tansley and others talent consists of those individuals who can make a die ff r - (2007, p. 8) ence to organizational performance, either through their im- mediate contribution or in the longer-term by demonstrat- ing the highest levels of potential 7 Collings and Mellahi the pool of high potential and high performing incumbents (2009, p. 307) that the organization can draw upon to fill pivotal talent po - sitions 8 Boudreau and Ramstad the key roles within organizations that die ff rentiate perfor - (2005) mance 9 Cooke, Saini and Wang talent are those who are highly educated and (have the ability (2014) to be) high achievers/performers in the organizations 140 Economics and Business Review, Vol. 8 (22), No. 4, 2022 No. Authors Definition 10 Meyers and others a natural ability to be good at something, especially without (2013) being taught 11 Cheese, Thomas, and essentially, talent means the total of all the experience, knowl- Craig (2008, p. 43) edge, skills, and behaviors that a person has and brings to work 12 Silzer & Dowell (2010, in some cases, ‘the talent’ might refer to the entire employee p. 14, 18) population an integrated set of processes, programs, and cultural norms in an organization designed and implemented to attract, de- velop, deploy, and retain talent to achieve strategic objectives and meet the future needs of the company 13 Michaels, Handfield - the sum of a person’s abilities—his or her intrinsic gifts, -Jones and Axelrod skills, knowledge, experience, intelligence, judgment, atti- (2001, p. xii) tude, character and drive. it also includes his or her ability to learn and grow 14 Hinrichs (1996, p. 11) (…) a unique mix of innate intelligence or brainpower, plus a certain degree of creativity or the capacity to go beyond established stereotypes and provide innovative solutions to problems in his everyday world, plus personal skills which make him ee ff ctive in his relationships with his peers, his su - periors, and his subordinates 15. Tlaiss (2021, p. 64) talent has been operationalized as human capital, which can be assessed in terms of value and uniqueness 16. u Th nnissen and talent is a bundle of interrelated components of outstanding Arensbergen (2015, abilities, interpersonal characteristics and excellent perfor- p. 195) mance 17.Peterson, Tahssain -Gay individuals who can make a die ff rence to organizational per - and Laila (2022, p. 121) formance either through their immediate contribution or in the longer term by demonstrating the highest level of poten- tial (…) the focus of talent management therefore centers on identifying employees who constitute key human capital resources Source: Extracts from the reviewed articles from Business Source Compete and APA PsycInfo databases. e s Th econd approach is associated with the trait or skills approach. Gagné (2000) calls it high order innate abilities or acquired competencies. The third ap - proach is talent identic fi ation based on the current performance or the potential to achieve exceptional results in the future. The fourth approach, as discussed by Gallardo-Gallardo (2013) in their review paper on TM is the object (talent as people’s characteristics) versus subject (talent as people) approach. A detailed discussion on this fourth approach can be found in (Gallardo -Gallardo et al., 2013; Gallardo-Gallardo & u Th nnissen, 2015). This paper is limited to an in- depth discussion of the first three approaches. A. Skuza, H. G. Woldu, S. Alborz, Who is talent? Implications of talent den fi itions 141 2.1. Approach 1: Egalitarian versus elite approach When one thinks about talent from the angle of this approach, the first question that comes into mind is whether die ff rentiation should be made between the talent and the non-talent. This approach revolves around the premise that every individual is talented and can create value for the organization. Therefore, an organization must invest in all employees to develop those talents (Buckingham & Vosburgh, 2001). This approach is considered the egalitarian approach (Tetik, 2016) or the inclusive approach (Gallardo-Gallardo et al., 2013). Indeed, oe ff r - ing developmental opportunities to all employees will ae ff ct employee motiva - tion and commitment to the organization. a Th t is why Leigh (2009) reports that nearly half of the studied organizations believed in this approach. This approach is also helpful in reducing the risk of identifying the wrong people. In support of this approach, authors like O’Reilly and Pfee ff r (2000) also stressed focus - ing on the value of the entire workforce instead of just fewer and selected ones. Service industries around the world have adopted this approach. For example, the hotel industry considers their frontline and room service staff equally es - sential to give satisfying customer service which generates more revenue for the organizations (Boudreau & Ramstad, 2005). The egalitarian approach also ensures the equal distribution of resources across all employees instead of just focusing on a few selected ones, which intrinsically brings the fair treatment of all employees. Hence, their morale gets boosted despite not being in the elite group (Groysberg, Nanda & Nohria, 2004). On the other hand, critics of the elite approach believe that exclusive talent identification and selection leads to injustice and inequality (Harris & Foster, 2010). As far as the critics of this approach are concerned they have termed it as a costly and inee ff ctive proposition (Gelens, Dries, Hofmans, & Pepermans, 2013). Furthermore, the term TM which has replaced the name of human re- source management also becomes questionable if the egalitarian approach is believed to be valid. Another main criticism of this approach is that it makes the boundaries between strategic human resource management and TM blur and the die ff rentiation between the two becomes more problematic. It is argued that TM stems from focusing on a few people with specic s fi kills and compe - tencies (Boudreau & Ramstad, 2005). Therefore, the term TM may lose its ra - tionale if one focuses on the egalitarian approach. On the other hand, the elite approach can be justie fi d when the needs of selected employees are die ff rent than those of the average employees (Peterson et al., 2022). Extant literature is dominated by the Elite approach to TM, though there are die ff rent interpretations of how employees should operate in a group. For example, authors like Chuai, Preece, and Iles (2008) underscored the impor- tance of focusing on the unique and valuable employees in an organization. Here valuable means developing relevant skills and competencies for ee ff ctive - ly performing a job, whereas uniqueness means that there is a degree of diffi - 142 Economics and Business Review, Vol. 8 (22), No. 4, 2022 culty in copying an employee or replacing him/her. Tansley and others (2007, p. 8) describe them as “those individuals who can make a die ff rence to organi - zational performance, either through their immediate contribution or in the longer-term by demonstrating the highest levels of potential”. Similarly, other authors like Collings and Mellahi (2009) vow for such an approach that can identify vital positions in the organization, giving leverage over other organiza- tions and identifying high-performers and high-potential individuals who can be prepared for those positions in the future. Stahl and others (2007) den fi ed talent as those people who have outstanding performance and are the toppers in the list in terms of current performance and future potential. Authors like Festing and Schafer (2014) den fi e talent as people who have above-average skills, abilities, knowledge, experience, intelligence and potential. Williams (2000) de- scribes talent as people who possess exceptional abilities and can demonstrate outstanding performance in die ff rent activities and circumstances. Silzer and Dowell (2010) consider talent as a group of people who have exceptional abil- ities to perform in a specic a fi rea, competency, or more general performance. However, Silzer and Church (2010) hint towards individualizing and distin- guishing talents based on their needs, scope, and the type of activities. Studies conducted by authors like Sonnenberg, van Zijderveld and Brinks (2014) and Bjorkman, Ehrnrooth, Makela, Smale and Sumelius (2013) argue that TM pro- grams lead to improve motivation, commitment, willingness to learn and in- tent to stay with talented individuals, which is translated into positive n fi ancial performance. Their study further emphasizes the need for proper communi - cation about the talent program to all employees to avoid ambiguity and make the programs more successful. Although the elitist approach enjoys dominance in theoretical and practical domains, the method is not free from criticism. For example, doubts are being raised on the potential cost of leo ft ver employees’ motivation and commitment from the talent pool. According to Gagné (2000) only 3 to 5% of employees fall in the domain of top talent, which begs the question of what will happen to the remaining 95% of the employees. So far there is a lack of empirical evidence on the negative impacts of TM programs on the remaining employees. To this end theorists are using Adam’s theory of justice (1965) highlighting the need for a conducive environment for minimizing the negative emotional responses of the non-talents. Studies suggest that this theory may help initiate the dis- cussion on how to keep the non-talent engaged and minimize their emotional breakdown in response to a TM program (Gelens et al., 2013). e t Th heory of justice assumes that employees compare the outcome of their performance appraisal with other peers and how much their say was included in the same. It also distinguishes how people perceive justice based on observ- ing the allocation and distribution of organizational resources (distributive justice), what procedures are adopted for the distribution of these resources (procedural justice), how the organization informs/communicates the deci- A. Skuza, H. G. Woldu, S. Alborz, Who is talent? Implications of talent den fi itions 143 sions of distribution (informational justice), and how the relationship between an employee and supervisor are built on openness, trust and mutual respect (interpersonal justice). Increased transparency, open communication and in- tegrity of available information may play a critical role in mitigating the nega- tive consequences of those groups that are not considered as talent in a TM program of the organization. Furthermore, Golik and Blanco (2002) add that transparency and consistency help avoid psychological disruption, while Lai and Ishizaka (2020) believe that their absence in an organization may lead to the divergence of social identity. Similarly, the organization can also communi- cate the conditions and requirements about how those groups can join the TM program in the future, which will also create hope in their minds and there- fore further mitigation may occur. Studies have found that if an employee has an open, respectful and trustworthy relationship with a line manager, his/her perception of injustice will be mitigated (Lind & Tyler, 1988). Therefore, having a good relationship with the line manager along with clear communication of the requirements for inclusion in the talent would play a key role in reducing the negative impacts on their motivation and commitment. While elitist and egalitarian approaches are two opposite sides of the con- tinuum, companies around the globe are striving to create a balance between the two extremes and are increasingly looking for solutions. Although the in- clusive approach might be realistic it is oe ft n limited to just lip service with no actual implementation (Kaczmarska & Sienkiewicz, 2005). While on the other hand investing in a small, selected group that is oe ft n no more than 10% of the total employees, is also a risky proposition. Such talented people are always the target of competitors and can be lured at any time; therefore, the organiza- tion’s investment in the development will be lost. Consequently, organizations strive to expand this talent pool and enrol other groups such as experts or fresh graduates. A distinctive set of tools and procedures are adopted for the identi- c fi ation and development of talent in each of such group. Among some of ex - amples for such initiative is job enrichment, giving additional responsibilities, putting them on diverse projects and rotating them between different depart - ments to have a flavour and understanding of all key sections of the organi - zation, oe ff ring them mentoring and coaching (a relatively cost-ee ff ctive way) for their development and bring tangible results for the organization (Garavan, Carbery, & Rock, 2012). 2.2. Approach 2: Talent as innate abilities or acquired competencies? e s Th econd approach to identifying talent is based on the premise that whether a person is a talent by birth (innate abilities), also called trait approach, or based on their competencies acquired through education, practice, and behaviour. The r fi st approach, i.e., innate abilities, is concerned with the set of internal abilities 144 Economics and Business Review, Vol. 8 (22), No. 4, 2022 such as cognitive abilities, personality traits and motivation that are not highly susceptible to change over time (Tyskbo, 2019). This approach can be linked with the elitist approach, which refers to the limited supply of talented people. e Th acquired competencies approach identifies individuals who possess above average competencies and the will to develop these competencies further. Extant literature on innate abilities mainly derives from the education do- main focused on identifying students who perform outstandingly in their ex- ams, sports, and other competitions (Meyers et al., 2013). Scholars and practi- tioners from the field of HRM believe that talented people are gie ft d and have innate abilities. For example, Hinrichs (1996, p. 11) argues that “a unique mix of innate intelligence or brainpower, plus a certain degree of creativity or the capacity to go beyond established stereotypes and provide innovative solu- tions to problems in his everyday world, plus personal skills which make him ee ff ctive in his relationships with his peers, his superiors and his subordinates”. Studies suggest that investment in the development of selected few would lead to signic fi ant and disproportionate financial benets f fi or the organizations as well as helping in retaining high performers (Becker, Huselid, & Beatty, 2009). Conceptualizing talent as innate abilities has significant implications for TM in an organization. For example, more attention and sophisticated approaches may be needed to identify and onboard a talent involving several staged psy- chological tests to identify their cognitive abilities, interpersonal abilities, per- sonality types, or intellectual abilities (Miś & Pocztowski, 2008; Meyers et al., 2013). Furthermore, individuals with innate abilities are not available in more signic fi ant numbers therefore the talent pool is very small. Studies suggest that organizations which believe in this approach place talent on senior positions. e Th y also have focused on leadership development programs, including inten - sive and on and off-the-job training programs including interactions with the top management. Such an approach is not immune to risks due to the changing nature of work because of the technological developments and the COVID-19 pandemic. Already scholars and practitioners were questioning the loyalty of Generation Z and Millennials. This situation could worsen post-COVID, which, combined with further technological developments, will encourage work arrangements in which an individual does not permanently associate with any organization. iTh s situation poses a greater risk of financial losses on the development of talent by the organizations. On the other hand, employees who are not identi- e fi d as talents do not have the opportunity to develop their skills, knowledge, and abilities, which may hamper their growth, motivation and commitment. In contrast to the first approach the conceptualization of talent as compe - tencies focuses on planned learning and development. Identification of talent in this approach includes testing their above-average competencies, i.e., knowl- edge, skills, and experience that create signic fi ant value for the organizations (Meyers et al., 2013). Ericsson, Prietula, and Cokely (2007) argued that experts A. Skuza, H. G. Woldu, S. Alborz, Who is talent? Implications of talent den fi itions 145 across all domains, such as sports, dance, chess, medicine, etc., are always made through training and development. Under this approach the criteria for iden- tifying talented people include the assessment of their ambitions, skills, and willingness to learn. Similarly, Ericsson and others (2007, p. 117) stressed that talent should be “demonstrated by measurable, consistently superior perfor- mance”. Underlying the importance of evidence for talent, De Haro (2010) notes that in the absence of evidence to achieve exceptional performance, in- nate abilities and not competencies should be considered. The same practice of believing in evidence is prevalent in organizations too. For example, a study conducted by Dries and Pepermans (2008) on thirteen organizations expressed unwillingness to identify someone as a talent before they perform exceptionally well over two to three consecutive years of performance. Likewise, the perfor- mance evaluation process is a detailed, evidence-based assessment supported by examples, multi-directional (360-degree feedback), and meeting with line managers to carry out in-depth discussions on their performance. More com- plexities emerge in this approach when it comes to the development of talent. Organizations in this approach mostly rely on on-the-job training, such as job enrichment, job enlargement, job rotation, putting them on specialized pro- jects, mentoring, coaching, and meeting with top management. Furthermore, in this approach, the role of managers in talent identic fi ation is increased, which has an associated risk of subjective bias and selection of the wrong people for the job. This issue is highlighted by Silzer and Church (2010) by associating it with the lack of skills of the managers to identify the right people for the right positions. They further stressed the development of managers for similar responsibilities to make the TM program more ee ff ctive and successful. Three particular areas of development for managers were high - lighted by Silzer and Church (2010), i.e., 1) what to observe, 2) the process of categorizing these observations, and 3) knowing their limitations and weak- nesses that may ae ff ct the categorization process. Another area for managers to develop is a broader understanding of the role of TM and their role in tal- ent identic fi ation. Although the HR department plays a vital role in develop - ing management’s skills in TM in general, one tool that particularly stands out from all others is the calibration meetings held at various levels of organiza- tions. Such meetings enable the managers to discuss and compare die ff rent candidates and their lucidity for appointments. They also assist in standardiz - ing the assessment standards across the organization. e Th re are several benets o fi f the competency-based model for organizations. First, since the assumption is that everyone can be trained and developed, it allows all people to participate and develop their competencies, thereby boost- ing their careers. Secondly, this approach encourages individuals to take the initiative and responsibility for their development, capitalize on the oppor- tunities to be more involved in existing job roles, take additional job respon- sibilities, become part of strategic initiatives and work on diverse projects to 146 Economics and Business Review, Vol. 8 (22), No. 4, 2022 expand their knowledge, skills and abilities. These initiatives not only keep the employee more engaged and motivated, but they also help the organiza- tion reduce the cost of hiring, increase retention, and improve employees’ per- formance, ultimately translating into financial benets f fi or the organizations (Gelens et al., 2013). However, more recent studies indicate that, there is a need to find a balance between innate and acquired talents in an organization which intends to ex- plore talent in a holistic approach. While innate talent is necessary to achieve high performance in a dynamic organization, it is not suci ffi ent by itself, when the acquired component of talent is ignored (De La Calle-Duran, Fernandez- -Alles, & Valle-Cabrera, 2021; Tyskbo, 2019). 2.3. Approach 3: What to measure—past results or potential e Th third approach to talent is also ree fl cted in two schools of thought i.e., whether talent is identie fi d through one’s past performance or whether he/she should be identie fi d by assessing future potential. Tansley and others (2007, p. 8) explained the identic fi ation of talent through this approach as “those in - dividuals who can make a die ff rence to organizational performance, either through their immediate contribution or in the longer-term by demonstrating the highest levels of potential”. McDonnell and others (2017) argued that high performers must fill key positions and that lower performers must be filtered out. This approach sees talent as a resource that should be managed within an organization based on their performance level, hence focusing on coercive per- formance, something Jack Welch of General Electric was famous for (Michaels et al., 2001). Even though there is no evidence to support that a high performer today will also be a superstar tomorrow, in essence, organizations take results as a precursor for talent identic fi ation (Dries & Pepermans, 2008; McDonnell & Skuza, 2021). The reason for so doing is that performance is more objective and easier to justify. iTh s approach was more prevalent in the early stages of TM, which was mainly adopting the succession planning approach. A clear understanding of the targeted position and expectations from the employees make this approach more ee ff ctive. However, questions have been raised in the extant literature of TM for iden- tifying talent mainly based on past results. More and more focus is shifting to - wards identifying talent through the future potential and expected value gen- eration for the organizations. iTh s assessment is not based on moving talent to a specic p fi osition or future job roles as their career progress (Sears, 2003; Skuza, 2018). Scholars argue that talent identic fi ation should be based on the individual’s potential to become a key player in organizational performance (Chamorro-Premuzic, Adler, & Kaiser, 2017). Potential means the future possi- bility that an employee can become more than her/his current position (Silzer & Church, 2007). Potential can be interpreted as the “probable upper-bond tra- A. Skuza, H. G. Woldu, S. Alborz, Who is talent? Implications of talent den fi itions 147 jectory of what an individual may achieve during his/her career (Finkelstein, Constanza, & Goodwin, 2018). Generally, the potential is understood as a scarce commodity, and only a few people get identie fi d as high potential individuals (Meyers et al., 2013; Ulrich & Smallwood, 2012). Despite the widespread use of the term high potential, understanding its exact meaning remains unclear (Silzer & Church, 2009). Besides, several other challenges can also be noted in talent identic fi ation via potential. For example, the list of potential components for die ff rent talent groups would vary, so its identic fi ation would be a daunting task. Furthermore, no agreement exists in the extant literature on the components of high potential (Dries & Pepermans, 2012; Lombardo & Eichinger, 2000; Silzer & Church, 2009; Player, Randsley de Moura, Leite, Abrams, & Tresh, 2019). Similarly, external factors that in- u fl ence some potential components, such as motivation and aptitude toward learning, may depend on the organizational environment. This would further complicate the assessment of potential components. Therefore, a broader as - sessment of the potential components from various angles and perspectives, such as through 360-degree assessment, would help ee ff ctively identify talents in the organization. Potential is not ree fl cted solely on somebody’s action and demonstrated be - haviour but also on the managers’ ability to perceive that those traits are indic- ative of potential and to nurture them into future performance (Dominick & Gabriel, 2009; Golik & Blanco, 2021). However, it is believed that some manag- ers may not be skilful enough to comprehensively understand the den fi ition of potential and its assessment or rely solely on their subjective judgement (Blanco & Golik, 2021). Therefore, a more centralized approach would be needed for talent identic fi ation through the potential to overcome this challenge. The cen - tralized approach would consider the direct manager’s recommendations as an initial stage, followed by a series of calibration meetings to help establish con- sensus across the organization. 3. Discussion and implications Despite TM being an important field of study, conceptual clarity and agree - ment on a single den fi ition of talent are still absent. e Th re are diverse opinions about what talent is and how it can be conceptualized. Scholars and practi- tioners have developed their definitions and conceptualizations, keeping their contexts and needs. Similarly, there is also a lack of clarity in academia as to how the understanding of the notion of talent can be developed (McDonnell & Skuza, 2021). As a result, organizations are forced to make intuitive assump- tions and develop their own models and den fi itions. The assessment here indicates that there is no single best approach to de - fine talent and therefore, organizations may choose a definition that best suits 148 Economics and Business Review, Vol. 8 (22), No. 4, 2022 their situation, hence context matters (u Th nnissen et al., 2013). For instance, Meyers, van Woerkom, Paauwe and Dries (2020) found that small and me- dium size organizations tend to use more inclusive talent identification ap - proach when compared to larger organizations. It must be noted that this re- ality is not always mentioned in the theory of talent management. Hence the authors call for more consistency and clarity of definition between theory and practice (Dries, 2013). e Th se findings suggest that there are different approaches to talent defini - tions, each with its own merits and demerits as well as die ff rential inu fl ence on the practice of TM. For example, the elitist approach (i.e., focus on 3–5% of employees only) has several distinct implications. Under this approach, TM is centrally controlled with the keen involvement of top management and HR departments. In this approach, the line manager role also becomes more im- perative to identify top talent. Hence, they are developed to the extent of having a keen eye and making distinctions between talented and non-talented people. Similarly, TM mainly focuses on preparing tomorrow’s leaders; therefore, their leadership development remains a priority. This approach also influences or - ganizational culture. A study conducted by Mayers and others (2020) indicates that an elitist approach to talent is usually associated with a firm’s instrumental HR strategy, which is focused on increasing performance, while an egalitarian approach is associated with soft HR strategy, which emphases on employees’ development and well-being. Therefore, the elitist approach is aligned with the private sector, which manifests performance-focused culture, while the egalitar- ian approach works better in the case of the public sector, as the latter intends to protect workers’ interests (Tyskbo, 2019). On the other hand, in the egalitarian approach, organizations may adopt a more decentralized approach. The organization focuses on identifying every - one’s hidden talents and placing them based on those talents. Similarly, train- ing and development are for all the employees of an organization and not just for a selected few. Similarly, die ff rent consequences can be noted from the second approach, i.e., talent as innate abilities or learned competencies. Either of these approaches would require a different method of talent identification. For example, talent as innate abilities would require more sophisticated cognitive and personality tests at hiring. Whereas talent as a competency would need different assess - ment tools to test the required competencies in an individual thereby becoming more complex with multiple tools and techniques for assessment and evalua- tion. Furthermore, objective measures or tools can be used to assess an indi- vidual’s innate abilities. However, knowledge and skills assessment need more observation and demonstration. Likewise focusing on innate abilities would hinder the path for other people to join the talent pool. Consequently, addi- tional organizational eo ff rts would be needed to foster a sense of fairness by promoting transparency and objectivity while identifying talent. A. Skuza, H. G. Woldu, S. Alborz, Who is talent? Implications of talent den fi itions 149 While taking the approach of past performance versus high potential, sev- eral other implications can be noted. For example, the high potential approach would require the line managers to be experts in identifying future potential, which is highly complex and challenging. Identification of high potential may be inu fl enced by context and is subjective in nature. Studies suggest that man - agers oe ft n follow their intuition during evaluations (Silzer & Church, 2009). Sometimes managers’ personal bias may make things cloudier and inu fl ence their judgment. er Th efore, calibration meetings would be required during tal - ent identic fi ation process and appraisals. This would help in standardizing the procedures across the organization. On the other hand, the den fi ition of talent would require a signic fi ant revi - sion in the post-COVID era coupled with the technology boom. In the ae ft r - math of COVID-19 and rapid technological developments, the availability of talent has become more dic ffi ult because of several reasons. First, organizations made several redundancies at the pandemic, ae ff cting their trust level of tal - ent over the commitment from the organizations (Frankiewicz & Chamorro- -Premuzic, 2020). Second, technological developments have blurred the bound- aries across countries and talented people can easily switch jobs to die ff rent sites while staying at their original location. Third, the Gig economy has also empowered talent even more because they can now work from anywhere in the world for any organization they want while enjoying the freedom of time and place. Their jobs have become more entrepreneurial in nature ( Castrillon, 2021). Therefore, organizations must change their corporate culture and oe ff r e fl xibility in terms of time and place. Similarly, more sophisticated and multi- staged techniques may be adopted to identify and acquire talent. e a Th uthors believe that scholars and practitioners need to understand bet - ter who the talent is and how one can identify talent in the organizations. The lack of evidence-based techniques and their ee ff ctiveness, along with the vary - ing approaches, leave the organization in limbo about the outcomes of TM pro- grams. Moreover, post-pandemic and rapid technological developments make it signic fi antly challenging for the organization to acquire the right people for the right roles. Hence understanding talent and its den fi ition is important for making distinctions and informed decisions (Gallardo-Gallardo et al., 2020). Although all the approaches are context-specic fi , extant literature with empir - ical evidence about the ee ff ctiveness of each approach is largely silent. Hence more empirical studies are needed to test the ee ff ctiveness of each approach and its consequences for the organizations to extend the TM scholarship fur- ther. Table 2 provides a summary of the discussion. fi ft ff fl ff ff ff ff ff ff  Table 2. Summary of different approaches to talent and their inuence on TM practice Approach Pros and cons Implication on TM practice Egalitarian vs egalitarian – equal distribution of resources among all – TM is decentralized elitist – positive eect on motivation and commitment of many – “talent” is a synonym of “employee,” and tm implementa- – limited risk of identifying the wrong people tion is limited – focus on all is eective for service sector, e.g., hotel indus - – while the egalitarian approach is based on equality and try fairness, organizations need to categorize positions/jobs – focus on all is expensive and ineective based on their value and uniqueness to capitalize on TM – risk of losing high performing individuals – talent management is closely associated with a “so” ap - – the dierence between the egalitarian approach and stra - proach focused on facilitating employees’ development tegic HRM is blurred, and the usefulness of TM is ques- tionable elitist – the elitist approach helps retain high performers – TM is centrally controlled – more eective allocation of resources; cost-eectiveness/ – high involvement of top managers and HR efficiency – the role of line managers is imperative for talent identica - – focus on a few aects the motivation of a non-talent group tion and development negatively – the selection of people under the elitist approach must be – most resources are spent on a selected few, which brings transparent and fair to dispel rumors and demotivation. a risk of losing investment if talents leave – opportunities must be given to all employees to participate – create inequalities in a workforce that has been rhetori- in the selection process cally encouraged to work together – proper communication about the talent program to all employees must be secured to avoid ambiguity – organizations strive to expand the talent pool and enrol other groups such as experts or fresh graduates – a distinctive set of tools and procedures are adopted to identify and develop talent in each such group – an exclusive approach to talent is associated with “hard” instrumental approach focused on performance ff ff  Approach Pros and cons Implication on TM practice Talent as in- talent as in- – talented people (innate) have outstanding abilities and – more attention will be needed for onboarding and engag- nate abilities nate abilities skills ing talent having innate abilities or acquired – innate talent requires less investment in talent develop- – highly sophisticated selection techniques are required competencies ment – eorts may be needed to minimize/eliminate the subjec - – limited people with innate abilities/small talent pool tive bias of managers during the time of identifying tal- – since an organization focuses on small talent groups, there ented people is a risk of losing high performing individuals – retaining people with innate abilities is challenging for or- ganizations talent as – more people are included in the talents’ pool, and poten- – more complex with multiple tools and techniques for as- acquired tially everybody can be a talent sessment and evaluation: assessment needs more observa- competencies – employees are motivated to achieve above-average perfor- tion and demonstration mance – calibration meetings are necessary to standardize the un- – employees take the initiative and responsibility for their derstanding of talent development – managers need to be trained to be able to identify talents – talent identification is decentralized involving managers effectively of all levels – a message of fair treatment across the organization can be – acquired competencies approach may be used to boost the promoted through this approach careers of all the employees – employee should be oered additional job responsibilities, – limited resources may inhibit the implementation of this participation in strategic initiatives, and diverse projects approach in letter and spirit ff ff fi ff ff fi  Past results or past results – identication based on past results is more objective and – since performance may not determine future performance potential easier to justify in dierent roles, a more balanced approach of past results – judging past performance does not require specialized and future potential may be needed training of line managers. – this approach requires the determination of future roles – majority of people can be judged by past results whereas and an understanding of the target position responsibili- potential is a scarce commodity ties – past results may not guarantee future success – judgement on past performance is questionable and may not be eective for future roles potential – future potential assessment can help make better talent – training of line managers is needed to identify high poten- planning and resource allocation tial individuals – meaning/conceptualization of potential is subjective and – the concept of high potential needs agreement on a single up for debate denition – external forces may aect the future potential/perfor - – calibration meetings are necessary for discussing and mance of the employee agreeing on the potential of an individual – judgment of future potential is a challenging task and may – a broader assessment of the potential components from not be 100% accurate various angles and perspectives, such as through 360-de- – needs high involvement and the ability of line managers to gree evaluations identify potential effectively – the future potential may be suered due to external forces, – subject to managers’ personal biases and hence they must be kept in mind while making TM programs Source: Based on the reviewed articles from Business Source Compete and APA PsycInfo databases. A. Skuza, H. G. Woldu, S. Alborz, Who is talent? Implications of talent den fi itions 153 4. Future research directions 4.1. General research directions i Th s study has explored several conceptualizations of talent. Therefore, the log - ical next step would be to develop such TM models or frameworks that can help explain the challenges identified above. Furthermore, as recommended by previous studies (e.g., Meyers et al., 2013), discourse analysis may be con- ducted to understand the current status of the definition and understanding of talent by organizations. Similarly, various approaches to talent management have been discussed in this study. Based on this review it is understood that consensus on a sin- gle deni fi tion can neither be achieved nor desirable. However, researchers and practitioners can agree on the commonalities to den fi e the boundary condi - tions of this term (McDonnell et al., 2017). Furthermore, in line with the pre- vious reviews on TM (e.g., Gallardo-Gallardo et al., 2013), the term talent itself has not been proven as a standalone construct. As discussed earlier, the term is sometimes considered as either egalitarian or elitist, innate abilities or acquired competencies and its identic fi ation is based on current performance or future potential. Therefore, further studies are needed to establish its standalone po - sition and the value it can bring to the field of human resource management beyond strategic HRM, succession planning, etc. (Chuai et al., 2008). While considering the elitist approach, one research avenue is to bring em- pirical evidence of the negative impacts of TM programs on those employees who are regarded as talent. Although theoretical studies propose that it may hamper the motivation and commitment of left-out employees (Gelens et al., 2013), little if any evidence is available to support these claims. Besides, studies on how to reduce/mitigate these negative reactions from non-talent employees are also needed to understand the notion better. Regardless of the above discussion, ae ft r a thorough review of the existing literature on talent potential, several areas remain unanswered and therefore, require the focus of future studies. Those studies may respond to the follow - ing: whether the components of potential vary based on the organization, loca- tion, culture, gender, or functional levels of the companies; which components are essential at what stages of an employee’s career?; what are those contextual factors that are ae ff cting the components of potential such as determination, enthusiasm, and willingness to work?; to what extent, the potential can be de- veloped?; what is a dominant set of components that ae ff cts the potential more signic fi antly than others? And what components of potential are impacting the ee ff ctiveness of a TM program? Furthermore, future studies should also adopt a more pluralistic approach to talent management by including the perspective of different internal actors (Tyskbo, 2021). Most empirical studies rely on HR or top managerial perspec- 154 Economics and Business Review, Vol. 8 (22), No. 4, 2022 tive, while much less attention has been placed on gaining insights from oth- er stakeholders, such as talents or line managers (McDonnell, Skuza, Jooss, & Scullion, 2021; Farndale, Pai, Sparrow, & Scullion, 2014). Finally, it is important to highlight that although the search process of this study encompassed only publications that were conducted in the English lan- guage, it has global perspectives in its contents. As the study covers diverse ge- ographical areas, including Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, and the USA, it is believed that the study’s outcome will apply to global researchers and organizations that focus on talent management for HRM strategy. However, future review studies should include research stud- ies conducted in other languages, which would give a more in-depth under- standing of the talent selection and identic fi ation challenges in the global and local contexts. 4.2. Research directions in the ae ft rmath of COVID-19 A Harvard Business Review article by Frankiewicz and Chamorro-Premuzic (2020) argued that talent had left the building in the face of rapid technologi - cal developments and COVID-19. Because of both of these factors, people have started working from home through various online platforms; therefore, it is unlikely that everything would return to normal anytime soon. Hence new rules for TM are required. Organizations would need to develop a new working culture based on equality and fairness to both the employees and employers. Likewise, the same article also highlights the opportunity of access to global tal- ent. Since technology has enabled people to work from anywhere in the world, geographic boundaries have become blurred, so the talent pool has become big- ger and better. Researchers now need to develop models that can attract this global talent. An international talent attraction would mean acting as a global organization that embraces diversity, inclusion, and a level playing e fi ld for all. Similarly, technological developments have further opened new opportu- nities for the talent to work in the Gig economy without keeping a permanent or long-term association with any organization. Platforms like Upwork, People per Hour, Guru, Freelancer, Fiverr, etc., have enabled talented people to work as freelance consultants. Companies are also now increasingly relying on these platforms to procure the services of individuals without committing them to any additional benets s fi uch as healthcare, insurance, or other well-being ini - tiatives. Under such circumstances, researchers need to understand how and under what circumstances organizations can win the war for talent or should they even fight this war anymore? The pandemic has further accelerated this work approach for both employees (now as freelancers) and employers (called as clients over the Gig economy). This also gives people a sense of being their boss and working in their time and place of choice, which is a signic fi ant mo - tivating factor. A. Skuza, H. G. Woldu, S. Alborz, Who is talent? Implications of talent den fi itions 155 Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has also ae ff cted economies around the globe. Studies suggest that the US economy has dropped by over 35% and the Eurozone by an average of 12.1% (Aguinis & Burgi-Tian, 2021). Because of this global situation, organizations had to freeze hiring and implement layos. ff Similarly, those who kept their jobs had to “face pay freezes, cancelled bonuses, and pay reductions (Aguinis & Burgi-Tian, 2021, p. 234). Under such circum- stances, TM remains a challenge for all organizations despite its potential role (see Aguinis, 2019 for details). Hence, further studies are needed to explore the potential of TM in crises, as highlighted by Aguinis and Burgi-Tian (2021). Conclusions In concluding this study, it is essential to point out that the study is vital for re- searchers as it adds an additional dimension to the existing limited literature that relates specic fi ally to talent management (TM). The study, which is based on a literature review from various human resource publications, persuades read- ers and researchers to acknowledge that organizations that aim at optimizing human capital need to den fi e TM broadly and diversely. It is suggested in the paper that three important TM selection categories/approaches are discussed and recommended for an organization that aspires to optimize the benet o fi f human capital. Firstly, organizations, in their quest for the selection of talent, ought to balance the need for egalitarian and elitist TM. Such an approach is inclusive in nature and undoubtedly helps organizations adopt ee ff ctive HRM strategies. Such organizations are expected to be more dynamic and sustain- able in their business operations. An organization that adopts a comprehen- sive/inclusive TM strategy will benet f fi rom both high performance-focused culture and the well-being of their employees. Secondly, organizations may search for talent by focusing on innate abilities or acquired competencies dur- ing talent selection and identification. The authors of this study caution against the strategy of selection being solely based on a single selected factor. Our rec- ommendation for organizations is to appreciate both approaches and to avoid discriminating one from the other or giving preference to one over the other. Finally, in evaluating talent, using time factors (past, present, and future), this research acknowledges that TM can be viewed based on the role and ee ff c - tiveness of an individual observed in his/her past. However human resource management strategies may need to be cautious about overplaying the past to predict the future. The past performance of individuals should be identie fi d by assessing future potential. For instance, Tansley and others (2007) explain that the identic fi ation of the talent of individuals should be evaluated based on his/her actual contributions at a given time (past and present) or/and should be supplemented by considering the potential to make a die ff rence in an or - ganization that seeks growth and dynamism in the longer-term. The latter ob - 156 Economics and Business Review, Vol. 8 (22), No. 4, 2022 jective requires the organization, in their selection, to approach TM be based on individuals’ past/present “ee ff ctiveness/performance” but also by consider - ing individuals’ highest levels of potential. In the current global environment, which is full of uncertainty due to the current global political instability, fast technological changes, and outburst of epidemics, such as COVID-19, as well as the disruptive environmental changes, it makes the prediction about the fu- ture more challenging if not impossible. Hence, organizations in their search for selecting talent should be flexible and inclusive, as adopting one model or school of thought may always be risky in the dynamically changing future. Appendix Table A1. List of journals with number of published papers that included talent identification, talent definition, and/or talent conceptualization in their title, abstract or keywords Number Journal Name of TM papers International Journal of Human Resource Management 7 Talent Development & Excellence 6 Personnel Review 6 Industrial and Organizational Psychology 4 Employee Relations 4 Annals of Operations Research 2 European Journal of Training & Development 2 Global Business & Organizational Excellence 2 Human Resource Management 2 International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management 2 Journal of Business Research 2 Journal of Management Development 2 Journal of World Business 2 Strategic HR Review 2 Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice & Research 1 Agricultural Management 1 Annals of The University of Oradea, Economic Science Series 1 Annual International Conference on Enterprise Marketing & Globalization 1 Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources 1 Asian Academy of Management Journal 1 A. Skuza, H. G. Woldu, S. Alborz, Who is talent? Implications of talent den fi itions 157 Number Journal Name of TM papers Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences 1 Career Development International 1 Educational Management Administration & Leadership 1 European Management Review 1 Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal 1 Frontiers in Psychology 1 Global Business & Management Research 1 HFM (Healthcare Financial Management) 1 Human Resource Development International 1 Human Resource Management Journal 1 Human Resource Management Review 1 Intangible Capital 1 International Journal of Construction Management 1 International Journal of Economic Perspectives 1 International Journal of Productivity & Performance Management 1 International Journal of Public Administration 1 International Journal of Training & Development 1 Journal of Contemporary Issues in Business & Government 1 Journal of Management Policy & Practice 1 Managing Leisure 1 MIT Sloan Management Review 1 Organization Development Journal 1 Personality and Individual Differences 1 Polish Journal of Management Studies 1 Psychological Science 1 Research in Economics 1 Review of General Psychology 2 Scandinavian Journal of Management 1 Social Science Quarterly 1 Sojourn: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia 1 Strategy & Leadership 1 e Th Journal of Positive Psychology 1 Source: Business Source Compete and APA PsycInfo databases. 158 Economics and Business Review, Vol. 8 (22), No. 4, 2022 References Adams, J. 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Economics and Business Review – de Gruyter
Published: Dec 1, 2022
Keywords: talent management; human capital; human resource management; M12; M54
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