Human Resource and Talent Management

Talent Management

Talent management (TM) encompasses the range of activities used to attract, control, motivate, and retain talented people in a firm. The aim of talent management is to extract the maximum possible value out of employees with the right capabilities to ensure a firm achieves its objectives. Talent management began as a practice that was involved with recruitment processes in organizations where the right candidates were identified and encouraged to join a firm. It evolved to the management of high performing employees who were critical to an organization’s success. Beyond that, talent management has been an extension of comprehensive human resource management (HRM) practices seeking to ensure that all employees in a firm achieve personal and corporate objectives and have a pleasant working environment that encourages full participation.

In this regard, talent management faces the risk of being another gimmick or new approach for ordinary human resource management.1 However, the differentiating thing between TM and HRM is the incorporation of new knowledge in the former, given that TM does not merely make HRM legitimate and credible as an organizational function. Based on the research by Chuai, Preece and Iles2, TM relies on the segmentation of the workforce. This allows a company to become supportive of its most gifted workers without losing the entire focus of the rest of the workforce. Based on TM practices, companies recognize individual employees based on their performance and handle them optimally to sustain their good performance. It implies that the best performance of some employees will only meet average standards, while the performance of others will meet exceptional standards of the company. TM enhances the management ideology to include leadership practices and engage in the realization of competitive capabilities of an organization. It implies that unlike HRM, which can exist in an organization without critical measurement of its contribution, TM must provide sufficient information about its contribution to organizational performance constantly.

Concerns about the shortage of talent could be interpreted in two ways. Firstly, such concerns show that there are not enough qualified job candidates in the labor market. Secondly, this can be an indication of failed talent management in organizations. While examining the second comment, it is also important to note that talent shortages can exist in localized situations, but only consultants and senior managers gain from the discourse of talent shortage in a global scene. The notion here is that organizational employees are average and organizations have to sift for exceptional employees to perform exceptionally. Thus, they have to pay premium prices for their managers and consultants to identify the high-potential employees and retain them.3

Another concern about basic TM approaches is that they contribute to the notion of HRM, where employees are seen as measurable, trainable, and dispensable resources.4 The approach that the human resource practice evaluates is whether to look after employees based on the available provisions of the economic conditions or to look after employees, regardless of the current economic condition. The second approach offers a utilitarian view of talent that can survive in the end because it is detached from the turmoil that organizations experience in boom and recession periods of economies.

Therefore, it appears that there are two divisions in talent management. The first division sees talent as resources first and engages in management in an effort to improve this resource. The second division considers talent as not a resource in itself, but a quality within every employee and the duty of an organization is to highlight this idiosyncratic ability and match with to the needs of the organization. Therefore, in the first division, an organization would be checking employee performance after creating various initiatives for talent improvement. It would then categorize employees based on their performance as talented or untalented. In the second approach, the same thing would happen, but the organization would have information on why some employees do not seem to improve their performance, despite the provision of particular instruments for carrying out their job. With this knowledge, TM moves on to increase the fitness of particular employees for jobs that require most of their skills and then measure their performance according to their quality type and job type.

The above view highlights the importance of workplace differentiation and becomes the differentiating factor between TM and HRM. Macro-level approaches of talent look at the flow of skilled knowledge workers in international labor, while micro-level approaches look at the identification of individual talent, together with the design and implementation of talent strategies. In addition, Downs and Swailes5 call for the definition of talent as a socially constructed phenomenon, which takes place with different meanings in different contexts. Although talent management seeks to empower employees, it can also appear as a source of dehumanization in an organization. The selection of a minority makes employees view the organization as discriminatory over their worth as human capital, rather than their nature as human beings.6

The capability approach as an economic theory explains that two individuals will measure the same in functionality based on their nutrition when one is starving and the other is fasting. Therefore, it is not enough to measure basic monetary based performance to explain well-being; instead, measurements should embrace the extent of enjoyment of freedoms by an individual. In this case, the fasting person is at a better performance position than the starving one due to the ability to choose to have food. In TM, the same capabilities’ approach is useful because it shifts the practice from focusing on the needs of the organization to focusing on the freedoms of individuals. In the traditional approach of TM, some individuals are sacrificed for the greater good of the organization. In the second approach, the organization provides sufficient frameworks to allow and ensure individual employees are pursuing the goals they value. Thus, on their part, employees will work for the greater good of the organization as a means of sustaining their livelihoods and freedoms. The effect of this approach and understanding is the promotion of inherent characteristics of loyalty and commitment to an organization, which allow employees to flourish and function according to their capabilities.

Eventually, TM differentiates itself from HRM by focusing more on individual perfection and the outlook of the organization, which facilitates the two-way management approaches. Employees can influence the conduct of the organization as much as the organization influences their conduct, thereby creating mutual goals that are achievable and sustainable, unlike the one-sided resource-performance goals that HRM embodies. Unless organizations are moving beyond the utilitarian approach to talent management, they risk being implementers of glorified HRM practices that do not sustain the goal of talent management in the end. The understanding here is that the segmentation of workforce without the right background information and one that relies on resource-performance thinking will fail to enrich some talent that can be a source of innovation in the company, but is overlooked because it does not fit with current work practices.

Therefore, talent management goes a step further and breaks down the resource, unlike the general philosophies of HRM that go along the lines of how an organization regards its human resources, develops them, and manages for them in the realization of competitiveness. It relies much on the understanding of talent along a matrix of stability and being developable while at the same time being inclusive and exclusive to the organization.7

Discipline and Grievance

In the wake of the 2008 global recession, companies faced many challenges with employee relationships as they embraced difficult decisions and changes. Managers apply one of the following disciplinary sanctions in individual disputes. First, they issue a formal verbal or written warning, suspend a worker, make deductions on pay, and do an internal transfer or dismiss the employee. On their part, employees express discontent in the workplace by being absent and they can leave the employer or make a complaint in their country’s employment tribunal. Most workplaces will have a formal procedure for handling disputes. At the same time, those lacking formal procedures survive because of their small nature. Some firms rely on the procedures set by their industries. Discipline cases arise when an employer is dissatisfied with an employee or employees, while grievances in the workplace arise when an employee or employees are dissatisfied with their employer.

Katz and Flynn8 conducted an employment relationship study involving workplace leaders and managers in Broward County, Florida. They explain that the modern definitions of conflict in the workplace see it as a natural and important process that will always occur. However, companies do not have to always view it negatively. Management of conflict can yield positive results for the workplace environment. For example, it can enhance the learning and effectiveness of an organization. Performance problems come more from strained relationships than they do from lack of skills. Unmanaged conflict creates psychological problems because it makes a workplace hostile.9

In different organizations, the mechanisms used to address conflict will depend on power as the capability and means of accomplishing things, organizational demands as the differing expectations of work duties, qualities and speed, and worth, which refers to self-esteem, and other emotional needs. In Broward County, Florida, results of the survey by Katz and Flynn10 showed that the main sources of disagreement in surveyed companies were employee-employee issues, employee-manager/supervisor issues, employee-client issues and manager-client issues, arranged from the most prevalent to the least prevalent. At the same time, the companies that were surveyed had formal and informal grievance processes. Twenty-one percent of employees and managers from companies that had a grievance process did not know the process, while 36 percent of employees expressed satisfaction with the process. Other indicators of the results were that managers did not define conflict universally. Many saw it as dispute between employees and managers or other employees. The researchers attributed differences in conflict definition as the root cause of conflict in organizations.

In the past, companies relied on collective actions because employees opted for collective industrial action to express grievances. Today, there is an increase in individual employment disputes.11 Saundry, Mcadle and Thomas12 showed that mediation worked positively in a study to examine the effectiveness of mediation as a grievance resolution mechanism for a National Health Service primary care trust. The approach allowed the existing union to use mediation as an alternative to formal union grievance channels. This created a partnership with the management that facilitated better conflict resolution and improvement of working relationships, such that the method continued to gain respect and support from union leadership.

The study explains that the use of mediation as a method of handling employee grievances in workplaces in the UK is facing increased adoption. The argument for mediation is that it promotes early resolution of disputes, thereby reducing the costs and lessening the risk of litigation. Introduction of in-house mediation has salient impacts on the nature of managing conflict and resolving them when there are trade unions involved in a formal process. It allows both the unions and management to have parallel alternatives to formal lengthy processes.

Most employers practice a zero-tolerance policy on workplace violence. Such policies put employees on notice. The policies also state an explicit discipline action that the employer will take if an employee violates the policy. Despite the harshness of the policy, many workplaces continue to harbor violence and threats. According to Cole,13 130 real-life supervisors involved in a role-playing study expressed little consistency in their decisions regarding disciplinary measures. The most common response to handling disciplinary issues was making time to have an informal discussion with the concerned employee. Supervisors only opted for verbal and written warnings when they had to do so due to the existence of specific instructions for discipline. Nevertheless, a significant minority of supervisors in the study continued to apply less severe disciplinary outcomes, despite the existence of clear instructions on actions that they should take.

The evidence confirms that consistency in discipline can be difficult to achieve for supervisors. Supervisors apply inconsistent treatment because they deal with varied employee situations. For example, the cause of employee lateness can be due to a family emergency or over indulgence in alcohol. When supervisors approach the two lateness cases differently, their approach appears as appropriate. However, inconsistencies that arise between supervisors, where one follows the provisions of the organization strictly while another exercises restraint on some issues, leads to problems. The differences cause rifts in employees in support or against a particular supervisor, which affects the employee organizational commitment and respect for overall company disciplinary measures.14

According to Colvin15 high involvement work systems are beneficial to the reduction of conflict triggering events. These include disciplinary and dismissal decisions and dispute resolution activities. Despite the finding, the author still contends that dispute resolution procedures in organizations still produce mixed effects. In non-union workplaces, increased reliance on due process protection in dispute resolution leads to increased grievances filling and higher appeal rates. This could be an indication of employee and employer trust in the process. However, the increased reliance on due process was found not to affect the precursors of conflict.

The study by Colvin16 distinguishes the workplace environment as a trigger for conflict and the dispute resolution activity as the resolution of conflict. In cases where there are no due process protections, employees may view an entire conflict resolution process as a mockery. In such cases, most employees will fail to use the method because it does not seem fair. Employees trust in the system of unionized bodies of dispute resolution because of the presence of a neutral labor arbitrator. However, in non-union settings, the employees have to rely on provisions and the conduct of employers to verify the potential of getting justice when they raise grievances.

More employees feel free to raise complaints when the conflict resolution process is assuring. Moreover, organizational implementation of enhanced protective measures of due process will also have to deal with a high number of employee grievances. At the same time, it is likely that the management will reduce its exercise of strict disciplinary measures as a way of reducing their exposure to the conflict resolution process in the firm.

In the end, any form of dispute resolution and disciplinary procedure in a firm depends on robust representative structures and high trust relationships with employers.17 Workplace discipline continues to be subjected to workplace and statutory regulation. Many companies adopt particular approaches as measures that ensure compliance with conflict management. In a survey done on UK companies18, most employees thought that a formal process in hearing discipline cases ensured natural justice prevailed. In cases where union representation was available, union representatives tended to follow up issues to prevent their reoccurrence. However, there was no follow up of issues in non-union representations. It shows that unions can help maintain higher levels of employee discipline, especially in cases where they support informal interventions and still play a formal role.


Chuai, X, Preece, D & Iles, P 2008, ‘Is talent management just “old wine in new bottles”?; The case of multinational companies in Beijing’, Management Research News, vol 31, no. 12, pp. 901-911.

Cole, N 2007, ‘Consistency in employee discipline: an empirical exploration’, Personnel Review, vol 37, no. 1, pp. 109-117.

Colvin, AJ 2012, ‘Participation Versus Procedures in Non‐Union Dispute Resolution’, Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, vol 52, no. s1, pp. 259-283.

Downs, Y & Swailes, S 2013, ‘A capability approach to organizational talent management’, Human Resource Development International, vol 16, no. 3, pp. 1-15.

Katz, NH & Flynn, LT 2013, ‘Understanding conflict management systems in the workplace: A pilot study’, Conflict Resolution Quarterly, vol 30, no. 4, pp. 393-410.

Meyers, MC & van Woerkom, M 2014, ‘The influence of underlying philosophies on talent management: Theory, implications for practice, and research agenda’, Journal of World Business, vol 49, no. 2, pp. 192-203.

Saundry, R, Jones, C & Antcliff, V 2011, ‘Discipline, representation and dispute resolution—exploring the role of trade unions and employee companions in workplace discipline’, Industrial Relations Journal, vol 42, no. 2, pp. 195-211.

Saundry, R, Mcardle, L & Thomas, P 2013, ‘Reframing workplace relations? Conflict resolution and mediation in a primary care trust’, Work, Employment & Society, vol. 27, no. 2, pp. 213-231.

Swailes, S 2013, ‘Troubling some assumptions: A response to “The role of perceived organizational justice in shaping the outcomes of talent management: A research agenda”‘, Human Resource Management Review, vol. 23, no. 4, pp. 354-356.


  1. Xin Chuai, David Preece and Paul Iles, ‘Is talent management just “old wine in new bottles”?’, Management Research News, Vol. 31, no. 12, 2008, pp. 908-909.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Yvonne Downs and Stephen Swailes, ‘A capability approach to organizational talent management’, Human Resource Development International, Vol. 16, no. 3, 2013, pp. 267-270.
  4. Ibid, pp. 278-280.
  5. Maria Christina Meyers and Marianne van Woerkom, ‘The influence of underlying philosophies on talent management: Theory, implications for practice, and research agenda’, Journal of World Business, Vol. 49, no. 2, 2014, pp. 192-198.
  6. Stephen Swailes, ‘Troubling some assumptions: A response to “The role of perceived organizational justice in shaping the outcomes of talent management: A research agenda”’, Human Resource Management Review, Vol. 23, no. 4, 2013, pp. 354-356.
  7. Maria Christina Meyers and Marianne van Woerkom, ‘The influence of underlying philosophies on talent management: Theory, implications for practice, and research agenda’, Journal of World Business, Vol. 49, no. 2, 2014, pp. 192-193.
  8. Neil H. Katz and Linda T. Flynn, ‘Understanding Conflict Management Systems and Strategies in the Workplace: A Pilot Study’, Conflict Resolution Quarterly, Vol. 30, no. 4, 2013, pp. 393-400.
  9. Neil H. Katz and Linda T. Flynn, ‘Understanding Conflict Management Systems and Strategies in the Workplace: A Pilot Study’, Conflict Resolution Quarterly, Vol. 30, no. 4, 2013, pp. 393-410.
  10. Ibid. p. 401
  11. R. Saundry, L. McArdle and P. Thomas, ‘Reframing workplace relations? Conflict resolution and mediation in a primary care trust’, Work, Employment & Society, Vol. 27, no. 2, 2013, pp. 213-231.
  12. Ibid. p. 229
  13. Nina Cole, ‘Consistency in employee discipline: an empirical exploration’, Personnel Review, Vol. 37, no. 1, 2007, pp. 110-117.
  14. Nina Cole, ‘Consistency in employee discipline: an empirical exploration’, Personnel Review, Vol. 37, no. 1, 2007, p. 110.
  15. Alexander J. S. Colvin, ‘Participation versus Procedures in Non-Union Dispute Resolution’, Ind Relat, Vol. 52, 2012, pp. 259-261.
  16. Ibid. p. 280.
  17. Richard Saundry, Carol Jones and Valerie Antcliff, ‘Discipline, representation and dispute resolution-exploring the role of trade unions and employee companions in workplace discipline’, Industrial Relations Journal, Vol. 42, no. 2, 2011, pp. 195-211.
  18. Ibid.

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