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Talent management and its link to leadership and management development

1. Introduction

The word talent represents, in particular in this essay, expertise or the knowledge gained through experience – expert skills or experience/knowledge in a particular field. By the term talent management, the author refers to managing the four stages of the following process. First, selecting and employing skilled individuals according to the organisation’s need for skills, second, providing them with an environment in which they can apply their skills in practice with respect to improving the employers’ business performance, third, developing their talent in order to further support organisation’s business plan, and fourth, retaining those individual, or retaining their knowledge. The next part of the essay presents the investigation of these processes and interdependence between, in detail.

In this essay, the author illustrates the great interdependence between the continuous improvement of the four stages and success of talent management. The two key objectives of this essay are, first, to investigate the concept of talent management, in detail, and second, to present insights into the relationship between talent management and leadership/management development.

2. The concept of talent management

Talent Management has been the cornerstone of Human Resource Management (HRM) strategy in many organisations for over a decade. Sparrow et al. (2014) affirm that although, over a decade, talent management has been considered an important factor in advancing business performance, the concept of talent management has not been precisely defined, nor it received a theoretical development. For that reason, success of applied talent management has not been agreed upon. Barlow (2006) explains that most of organisations focus on the leadership roles or employees who have the potential for such roles and do not have a certain clarification of what they consider talent. She adds that the talent management practices and Human Resource activity, in these organisations, become alike and interchangeable terms.

Lewis and Heckman (2006) remark that this uncertainty and confusion exists for the reason that various terms are used interchangeably with regards to different elements of talent management (such as, Human Resource Planning or Succession Planning), although each has specific practices mostly different than the other ones. Davis (2007) describe that talent management is strategic corporate approach which comprises interdependent processes of first, employing individuals who have talent(s) required for a particular employ, second, retaining those employees and third, further developing their talent to achieve preferable business performance, consistently. He explains that achieving optimum business performance through these three processes of talent management would be feasible, only if the management itself is talented.

Davenport, et al. (2010) explains that analysing, for example supply chain management or customer relationships is very similar to analysing talent, for the reason that they have comparable analysing process from the start to the end. They explain that analysing talent begins with clarification of identity – individuals’ professional background – and ends with aligning changing needs of the organisation with real-time deployment of talent.

3. Four stages of talent management strategy

3.1. Sourcing talent

The two methods of sourcing talent are internally – selecting current employees within the organisation who have the required talent and can shift position or department or employees who , for example, can participate in more than one project – and externally – looking for talent outside the organisation. Sourcing talent internally has significant priority. One of the first criteria that each corporate assigns to sourcing talents, as Davis (2007) suggests, should be assuring that the needed talent does not exist or is not available within the corporate, for the reason that, current employees have a better understanding of the business through experience and also the corporate has a clear understanding of its employees’ profiles. Knowing that, either sourcing internally or externally requires adopting an appropriate sourcing talent technique. He remarks that one of the most important elements of a reliable technique is to clarify the skills or personal qualities the source needs to have to deliver what is required, rather than focusing on the job description. In other words, how individuals accomplish specific tasks should receive more attention than the number of tasks they can maintain.

In order to specify the skills required for a certain job in the organisation, the author suggests applying cross-functional decision making concerning talent. Cross-functional collaboration literature (e.g. Levy, 2011; Hislop, 2005; Slagter, 2009)suggest that the main advantage of bridging HRM and the function within the department, which requires the talent, gives the experts in both departments to set the most feasible talent selection criteria. Davenport, et al. (2010) describe that analytical HR consist of collaboration between HR and other functions or departments. This collaboration will result in optimum talent management through which the organisation would benefit the most from its intellectual capital. They explain that Analytical HR integrates individuals’ performance data with organisational objectives which be followed by better understanding the areas which need talent development. This shows the great interdependence between this element of talent management and talent development.

3.2. Work environment

In this part of the essay, the author investigates the relationship between work environment/climate and successful talent management from two parallel perspectives. Firstly, the impact of work environment on employee satisfaction and productivity is non-negotiable and its influence on success of talent management, in term of retention, is considerable (Botha, et al., 2011). In order to maximise the performance of talents, providing motivational features embedded in the design of work environment followed by satisfying talents need – where they can elicit their skills fully – is as critical as a competitive salary is for attracting and retaining talents. For example, as Yeh (2007) expresses, HR especial practices for highly mobile talents has positive impact on minimising turnover and maximising employee satisfaction. On the other hand, HR acculturation practices prepare a work environment, especially for entry level employees, in which employees will have the opportunity to better understand organisational beliefs and work towards its goals.

The second perspective is the impact of work environment on knowledge elicitation and transfer between experts and other employees or functions within one organisation (Botha, et al., 2011; Hislop, 2005; Hofer-Alfeis, 2008). There is another great interdependence between two stages of talent management, motivational work environment and retaining expert’s knowledge. The author investigates this element in detail, in section 3.4.

3.3. Talent development

Education and training

In the process of talent management, continuous talent development plays an important role. Davis (2007) affirms that one of the fundamental talents required in advancing talent management is learning ability of candidates. Moreover, education element of this process is not limited to academic degrees. It includes professional workshops, certain courses and so on. Skilled workers will have the opportunity to further develop their knowledge and learn about the current works in their area of profession.

Communities of practice

Hislop (2005) defines that community of practice represents a group of people who, to some extent, have shared identity, common knowledge and overlapping values which results in creating social conditions conductive to knowledge sharing. Motivating communities of practice, and in particular the ones including skilled workers, to actively participate in sharing, creating and utilizing knowledge will be followed by individuals’ talent development. Significant advantage of this element is increase in the transfer of experts’ knowledge to other employees followed by reducing the impacts of leaving experts and its risk for the organisation. . Fisher and White (2000) emphasise that supporting effective communities of practice networks have significant motivational role in retaining experts and as a result, reducing knowledge loss.

Cross-functional practices

As mentioned in section 3.1, talent management advances through collaboration between functions from the start point of the process. Promoting cross-functional experts’ collaboration will also create an opportunity to better identify the areas that needs further talent development. The author suggests shifting from centralized to cross-functional (decentralized), for example in HR practices, assist the performance of talent management, and illustrated the details associated with this method in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Cross-functional communication chain

3.4. Retaining talent/knowledge

One of the most influential HRM practices for retaining talents or at least their knowledge, suggested in Human Resource (HR) literature, is motivation. Motivation is foundation of almost all other strategies required for talent retention, for example reward systems (Menon & Pfeffer, 2003). Reward systems are, in fact, a major factor motivating employees to collaborate efficiently and effectively (Droege & Hoobler, 2003). Winkelen and McDermott (2008) report that not many organisations employ proactive strategic approaches to prevent talent loss, instead most of them seek ad hoc and reactive approaches.

After investing time and money in addition to sharing corporate strategies with talents, the main concern for any organisation would be retaining talent as long as possible. Although the organisation does benefit from this investment in terms of overall performance improvement, every organisation wants continuous profit from this investment. If the talents leave the organisation then not only the whole process needs to be repeated resulting in extra investment but also, particularly in the cases that talents shift to competitors as they take their knowledge of the corporate with them which is higher in risk than any other expenses the organisation might face. Hofer-Alfeis (2008) characterises leaving experts/talents a significant challenge for HRM more than any other function within an organisation. He explains that retiring, shifting positions within an organisation or shifting to another organisation raises the need for approaches through which the organisation, at least, retain the experts’ knowledge when retaining the experts themselves is not possible.

De Long and Davenport (2003), Levy (2011) and Winkelen and McDermott (2008) affirm that the fundamental step in any talent retention strategy should, first, include identifying talents critical to business performance and, second, using tools and techniques assuring transfer of their tacit/undocumented knowledge to other employees within the organisation. Among the HR practices, Hofer-Alfeis (2008) suggests, job rotation is one of the most reliable ones in terms of spreading the knowledge and making the organisation less dependent on talents. Slagter (2009) adds that network building and conducting seminars facilitates knowledge elicitation and transfer between experts and other employees. Hislop (2005) affirms the interdependence between recruitment and selection process and retaining knowledge. He explains that selecting and recruiting talented individuals with compatible values to those of existing culture of the firm, and the ones who are willing to engage in knowledge transfer practices, will further facilitate the process of talent management.

3.5. Summary

The four stages of talent management strategy investigated in section 3.1, 3.2, 3.3 and 3.4 is summarised in Table 1.

Talent management stages Method Elements
Sourcing talent Internally/externally
  • Candidate identity
    • Experience
    • Expertise
    • Qualifications
  • Organisational critical needs
Work enviroment N/A
  • Work culture
  • Work performance review
  • HR and employees communication ways
  • Addressing employees’ concerns
  • Employee welfare
  • Salaries
  • Risk of job loss
Talent development Internally/externally
  • Education
  • Training
  • Communities of practice
  • Cross-functional collaboration
Retaining talent/knowledge N/A
  • Opportunites for employee career development
  • Competitive employee support
  • Knowledge elicitation and transfer

Table 1: Four stages of talent management

4. Concluding marks

The qualitative analysis in this essay highlighted that talent management is not limited to HR practices. It showed that to succeed in talent management, a strategic approach, involving many functions within a firm, is a necessity and it will benefit from covering all the four stages of strategic process of talent management proposed, in parallel. Moreover, findings of detailed investigation of elements of each stage revealed that there is a strong interdependence between all the stages of talent management strategic processes and there is a great need for continuous improvement of the process to achieve advanced business performance. The author concludes that talent motivation – such as providing great place to work at, opportunities for developing career and so on – has the greatest effect on success of talent management and especially retaining experts or expert knowledge. Furthermore, talent management strategy that aims at improving business competitive performance needs professional leadership and management talents.

Works Cited

Barlow, L., 2006. Talent development: the new imperative?. Development and Learning in Organisations: An International Journal, 20(3), pp. 6-9.

Botha, A., Bussin, M. & de Swardt, L., 2011. An employer brand predictive model for talent attraction and retention. SA Journal of Human Resource Management, 9(1).

Davenport, T. H., Harris, J. & Shapiro, J., 2010. Competing on talent analytics: What the best companies know about their people – and how they use that information to outperform rivals. Harvard Business Review , 88(10), pp. 52-58.

Davis, T., 2007. Talent Assessment A New Strategy for Talent Management. s.l.:Gower Publishing Limited.

De Long, D. W. & Davenport, T., 2003. Better practices for retaining organisational knowledge: lessons from the leading edge. Employment Relations, 30(3), pp. 51-63.

Droege, S. & Hoobler, J., 2003. Employee turnover and tacit knowledge diffusion: a network perspective. Journal of Managerial Issues, 15(1), pp. 50-64.

Fisher, S. & White, M., 2000. Downsizing in a learning organisation: are there hidden costs?. Academy of Management Review, 25(1), pp. 244-251.

Hislop, D., 2005. Knowledge management in organisations: A CRITICAL INTRODUCTION. s.l.:Oxford University Press.

Hofer-Alfeis, J., 2008. Knowledge management solutions for the leaving expert issue. Journal of Knowledge Management, 12(4), pp. 44-54.

Levy, M., 2011. Knowledge retention: minimizing organisational business loss. Journal of Knowledge Management, 15(4), pp. 582-600.

Lewis, R. E. & Heckman, R. J., 2006. Talent management: A critical review. Human Resource Management Review , Volume 16, p. 139–154.

Menon, T. & Pfeffer, J., 2003. Valuing internal versus external knowledge. Management Science, 49(4), pp. 497-513.

Slagter, F., 2009. HR practices as predictors for knowledge sharing and innovative behavior: a focus on age. International Journal of Human Resources Development and Management, 9(2/3), pp. 223-249.

Sparrow, P., Scullion, H. & Tarique, I. eds., 2014. Strategic Talent Management: Contemporary Issues in International Context. s.l.:Cambridge University Press.

Winkelen, C. & McDermott, R., 2008. Facilitating the handover of knowledge. Knowledge Management Review, 11(2), pp. 24-27.

Yeh, Y., 2007. A renewed look at the turnover model for accounting knowledge work force. Journal of the American Academy of Business, 11(1), pp. 103-109.

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