There is no doubt that more and more organisations are implementing talent management strategies and frameworks. However whilst talent management is fast becoming a strategic priority for many organisations, Collings & Mellahi (2009) suggest that the topic of talent management lacks a consistent definition and is still largely undefined. Literature reviews reveal that one reason for this is that the empirical question of “what is talent?” has been left unanswered.
The term talent has undergone considerable change over the years. It was originally used in the ancient world to denote a unit of money, before adopting a meaning of inclination or desire in the 13th century, and natural ability or aptitude in the 14th century (Tansley 2011, as cited in Meyers, Woerkom, & Dries, 2013). Today’s dictionary definition of talent is “someone who has a natural ability to be good at something, especially: without being taught” (Cambridge Dictionaries Online, 2014). This definition implies that talent is innate rather than acquired. This holds important implications for the application of talent management in practice. For example, it influences whether we should focus more on the identification/selection of talent or the development of talent.
Talent management is defined as “an integrated, dynamic process, which enables organisations to define, acquire, develop, and retain the talent that it needs to meet its strategic objectives” (Bersin, 2008).
Integrated talent management implies we take a more holistic approach; starting with the identification of key positions and capabilities required which contribute to an organisations sustainable competitive advantage (Collings & Mellahi, 2009). Equipped with this information we are better able to gather talent intelligence to help determine capability gaps, identify individual potential, and any areas for development. Talent intelligence and performance tools capable of gathering this type of information include: well validated psychometric assessments, 360° surveys, engagement surveys, post appointment and exit interviews etc. Strategic and integrated talent management is not only essential in the current market, but provides an opportunity to be pro-active rather than reactive in addressing your critical talent needs.
We suggest that key components of an effective talent management process would include:
- A clear understanding of the organisations current and future strategies.
- Knowledge of key positions and the associated knowledge, skills, and abilities required (job analysis and test validation projects can assist here).
- Objective metrics that identify gaps between the current and required talent to drive business success.
- A plan designed to close these gaps with targeted actions such as talent acquisition and talent development.
- Integration with HR systems and processes across the employee lifecycle.
What is clear is that talent management is becoming more and more important as organisations fight for the top talent in a tight job market. Key to success will be identifying what ‘talent’ looks like for your organisation and working to ensure they are fostered through the entire employment lifecycle.
Meyers, M. C., van Woerkom, M., & Dries, N. (2013). Talent—Innate or acquired? Theoretical considerations and their implications for talent management. Human Resource Management Review, 23(4), 305-321.
Collings, D. G., & Mellahi, K. (2009). Strategic talent management: A review and research agenda. Human Resource Management Review, 19(4), 304-313.
Bersin Associates. (2008). Talent Management Factbook.