Merlin Entertainment Company’s Talent Management


Organisations involved in the hospitality and tourism industries in the United Kingdom are among those that face challenges of talent management and talent retention (Kichuk 2017). These challenges are mainly associated with attraction, career development, and retention of staff; high labour turnover; demand and supply in the industry; and a leadership issue (Kichuk 2017). Mason (2017) claims that, according to the British Hospitality Association, the hospitality industry is “the fourth largest employer in the UK” (par. 7).

Moreover, since the economic downturn, the hospitality industry in the UK has been among the most productive sectors (British Hospitality Association 2017). According to its productivity report, the hospitality industry “has produced a declining capital-output ratio, showing that it is using capital inputs more efficiently” (British Hospitality Association 2017, p. 10). On the whole, hospitality is a labour-intensive industry that contributes to constant employment growth in the UK.

For this industry, talent management and retention are important because human resources in general and their distribution and management, in particular, are decisive for businesses related to accommodation, tourism or catering. Moreover, proper staffing policies can be beneficial for sustainability in the global hospitality industry (Jones, Hillier & Comfort 2014). This paper provides an overview of one of the competitive companies involved in the hospitality industry in the United Kingdom, Merlin Entertainments Group; presents an analysis of the current literature concerning the issue of talent management; outlines challenges faced by Merlin Entertainments; and gives recommendations that can be used to manage the existing challenges.

Company Profile

Merlin Entertainments is among the most significant entertainment companies of European origin operating in Europe. Merlin manages 124 attractions in 25 countries around the world (Merlin Entertainments Group Ltd 2017). The company runs such famous brands as Alton Towers Resort, Sea Life, Lego Land. Thorpe Park, Wild Life, and many others. The major goal of the company is to “deliver unique, memorable and rewarding experiences to millions of visitors across our growing estate” (Merlin Entertainments Group Ltd 2017, par. 1).

The company believes that approaching this objective becomes possible due to their team, their commitment and passion, and specific character of their brands that are always easy to distinguish among the others because they are usually challenging and innovative.

Being “first and foremost an entertainment company,” Merlin formulates its passion as “putting smiles (or screams) on people’s faces and giving our customers memorable experiences” (Merlin Entertainments Group Ltd 2017, par. 2). The company is creative and constantly drives fir excellence, thus making its visitors involved in the brands it represents. On the whole, the company identifies a secret of their success as loving what they do.

The vision of Merlin Entertainments is “to become the worldwide leader in branded, location-based, family entertainment” and their strategies work to follow this vision (Merlin Entertainments Group Ltd 2017, par.3). Thus, one of the major strategies accepted in the company is to establish a family entertainment company that demonstrates continuous growth as well as high return and is grounded on strong brands.

One of the peculiarities of Merlin Entertainments is its attention to the issue of talent management. The company believes that its talent fuels development. Consequently, one of the focuses of Merlin entertainments is to create and promote their employees by suggesting interesting and perspective careers. The company spends both time and financial resources on nurturing and retaining the existing talents and attraction of new ones.

Moreover, it provides opportunities for professional development, offers its employees training that is necessary to do their job efficiently, and supports the employees in their diversity initiatives. To empower learning and development opportunities, Merlin Entertainments equips its employees with the skills to be efficient workers and disclose their potential in their career with Merlin. It is achieved through a variety of provided training opportunities.

Talent Management Literature Review

Talent management has been a matter of research both in the global context and related to specific companies. It has been influenced by some underlying philosophies that are frequently used in research on talent management (Meyers & van Woercom 2014). These philosophies fall into four dimensions and can be either of two, stable / developable and exclusive / inclusive. They all have a certain effect on talent management practices. For example, inclusive/stable philosophy suggests HR and talent managers “to deliberately design talent-management systems that acknowledge the unique qualities of all employees and aim to capitalize on them” (Meyers & van Woercom 2014, p. 197).

Farndale et al. (2014) discuss the balance of individual and organizational goals in global talent management (GTM). They focus on the functioning of multinational companies that come to realise their need to bring up leaders and their talents to provide efficient management of international operations. The researchers conclude that “from both a theory and a practice perspective, it is evident that the effective adoption of a mutual-benefits perspective to GTM is challenging” (Farndale et al. 2014, p. 2012).

In case of efficient implementation, it can become stimulate an increase in competitive ability of a company because it allows involving suitable talents into assignments. Machado (2017) analyses competencies and global talent management. The book provides an overview of such aspect of talent management as transferable skills development, talent mobilization and redistribution, and peculiarities of talents of different generations within a job market. Moreover, this work deals with talent management in both multinational corporations and no-for-profit sector.

Bauer (2015) makes an attempt to provide a common and generally understood language for talent management through a presentation of competencies important for work. The author differentiates skills related to talent as those of informal communication, special expertise, learning agility, etc. It is also mentioned that all the skills can have different importance as a person climbs the talent ladder (Bauer 2015). For example, communication skills can be more useful at higher stages while learning agility is equally significant at different stages.

A work by Adamsen (2016) is a critical overview of talent and an attempt to demystify talent management. The author speaks about the significance of talent and origins of talent management that root back to business and sports. Moreover, a supposition is made concerning the prevalence of detecting, identifying, and selecting talents over the need for talent itself.

Talent management comprises some psychological aspects. Dries (2013) makes a contribution to the study of talent management, providing a comparison of the existing works on this problem. The author gives a critical look at the phenomenon of talent management. He also states that talent management differs from strategic human resource management both in implementation and design.

Still, Dries (2013) agrees that HRM literature makes a significant contribution to the study of talent management because it “explicates the social exchange relationship between organizations and their employees” (p. 7). As for psychological component, it is treated as a missing connection between organizational performance and HRM strategies. Moreover, treatment of talent from an individual difference perspective can be beneficial during the process of personnel selection because it allows consideration of such meaningful aspects as personality, cognitive ability, and expert knowledge (Dries 2013).

Apart from evident benefits, talent management comprises certain challenges. For example, Festing and Schäfer (2017) single out generational challenges to talent management due to specific attitudes of representative of different generations to work. Another specific aspect of talent management includes its retention strategies and maintenance of work-life balance (Deery & Jago 2014). The research reveals that work-life balance is a significant variable in the research of diverse issues of employee management and retention. Some other important factors influencing employee attitudes, such as “job satisfaction and organisational commitment, personal dimensions, such as stress and alcohol abuse, and WLB have become closer and intertwined” (Deery & Jago 2014, p. 453).

Another aspect to mention in the context of talent management is the importance of staff selection. Thus, Turner and Kalman (2014) believe that it is necessary to make up human resources before developing products. The authors provide ways of using talent management to approach competitive advantage in global organizations. Turner and Kalman (2014) develop global strategies for talent management and define the role of CEO in this process. Moreover, the authors state it is possible to attract talent at all levels and manage talent providing complex assessments of the company performance.

A study by Jain and Bain (2017) investigates the current situation regarding the performance evaluation and talent management in corporate communication. This research used a national survey that revealed some possibilities for communication leaders that can be useful in performance evaluation. Moreover, the authors included some major trends and effective practices in assessing the efficiency of communication.

Capelli and Keller (2014) analyse conceptual approaches and practical challenges related to talent management. The authors review new themes emerging in the current talent management. For example, they mention such new issues as “the challenge of open labour markets, including issues of retention as well as the general challenge of managing uncertainty; new models for moving employees across jobs within the same organization, and strategic jobs for which investments in talent likely show the greatest return” (Capelli & Keller 2014, p. 305).

Boella and Goss-Turner (2013), in their turn, discovered human resource management that also included talent management in the hospitality industry. In fact, they provide a guide for the application of theories in practice. Their work includes tips on efficient resourcing of the hospitality industry, peculiarities of human resource development, the significance of rewards, employment relationship, and contemporary issues of HRM and hospitality. In any issue, it is important to study both past and current theories and, finally, provide directions for future research. As for talent management, Al Ariss, Cascio, and Paauwe (2014) predict that such topics as the age of the employees, difference in generations, diversity in work attitudes, and new working methods can be the matters of discussion in the future.

Challenges and Opportunities for Merlin Entertainments

A big company working internationally, such as Merlin Entertainments faces many challenges on its way. One of the controversial aspects that can be both an advantage and a disadvantage is a workforce and client diversity (Merlin Entertainments Group Ltd 2017). On the one hand, the company believes that the people working there make a good tool for success. Diversity in staffing provides the company with an opportunity to find the best person for every position in the company. On the other hand, diversity, cultural first of all, can lead to misunderstanding between the staff members.

One of the nice opportunities suggested for women is ‘Women at Merlin’ ([email protected]) programme. It is a successful initiative that enables women to grow within the Merlin Entertainments. Moreover, it provides women with the necessary support and possibilities to approach the realization of their ambitions within the company. Nevertheless, this initiative can also be challenging due to the gender aspect involved. With the initiative aimed at women, the company is at risk of being treated as discriminative.

Another issue that is both beneficial and challenging is acceleration policy supported by Merlin Entertainments. It enables young graduates to start their career in the company. The evident advantage of this strategy is the opportunity the graduates get. They can start a career immediately after their business schools in a famous company and thus get valuable experience. Nevertheless, too many young college graduates as the company employees can negatively influence company performance due to the lack of experience.

Finally, an opportunity provided by Merlin Entertainments is Merlin’s School of Magic. The company believe that its employees need continuous development and provide them with this possibility. The company considers that continuous development is crucial for the success of the business. Thus, Merlin School of Magic is “an online collection of learning materials and webinars that are provided by the world-renowned Ashridge Business School, to help enhance the personal and professional development of all our employees around the globe” (Merlin Entertainments Group Ltd 2017, par. 7). These materials include resources about on-line business and management development and can be accessed from any place comfortable for the employee.


In times of talent shortening, companies interested in talent retention should apply competitive recruiting strategies (Trost 2014). Strategic and long-term talent relations management (TRM) can be beneficial for the company. Hiring talent means investing in the company’s future. Talent staff performs better than average employees and are expected to bear the higher potential for the company.

Thus, Merlin Entertainments is on the right way in working with talented staff. To succeed in this direction, the company should probably pay more attention to university and college graduates. A good strategy can be hiring students part-time as a part of the practice process. The opportunity to see future employees during real work is more valuable than simply reading their CVs at the interviews. In case talent is found, the task of the company is to attract him or her to work.

Another recommendation for Merlin Entertainments if to follow the selected policy of talent management, but probably with slight alterations. For example, the idea with the ‘Women at Merlin’ programme is beneficial but challenging. To reduce this challenge, the company should establish some similar programs for other groups of employees to keep them interested. Moreover, such an approach is expected to attract talent staff interested in career development.

Furthermore, Merlin Entertainments is currently running a perspective program for staff development. Its Merlin’s School of Magic is an example of an initiative developed to provide continuous development of employees. Still, it can be improved through allowing employees to try themselves in different positions within the company. It will not only empower the process of revealing talent employees that could not show themselves in their permanent position but would also positively contribute to communication between the employees of the company.


Generally speaking, talent management is a popular trend in the contemporary business world. Efficient and professional staff is key to success in many companies all over the word. The specific character of managing talent depends on every company. For example, those that decide to bring up staff for themselves can be more successful than the companies that look for the experienced employees.

Talent management and retention are particularly important in the hospitality industry because in involves much human cooperation that needs to be professional and effective. Merlin Entertainments is an example of a company that is interested in its staff since it provides good opportunities for professional growth and continuous development. Such strategy can be beneficial for a company that has certain corporate features and policies and wants new employees to follow them.

Still, despite many opportunities for Merlin Entertainments’ employees, there are still some ways to improve talent management strategies that can be applied by the company. On the whole, any company that wants to stay competitive in the market, should take care of its staff and spend tine and financial resources on its development, education, and training. Such approach can provide sustainable position of the company in the field and contribute to its profitability.

Reference List

Adamsen, B. 2016. Demystifying talent management. A critical approach to the realities of talent. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, NY.

Al Ariss, A, Cascio, W & Paauwe, J. 2014. ‘Talent management: current theories and future research directions’. Journal of World Business, vol. 49, no. 2, pp.173-179.

Bauer, TN. 2015. Competences at work. Providing a common language for talent management. Business Expert Press, New York, NY.

Boella, M & Goss-Turner, S. 2013. Human resource management in hospitality industry: a guide to best practice. Routledge, London.

British Hospitality Association. 2017. UK hospitality industry – productivity report. Web.

Cappelli, P & Keller, JR. 2014. ‘Talent management: conceptual approaches and practical challenges’. Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, pp. 305-331.

Deery, M & Jago, L. 2014. ‘Revisiting talent management, work-life balance and retention strategies’. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, vol. 21, no. 3, pp. 453-472.

Dries, N. 2013. ‘The psychology of talent management: a review and research agenda’. Human Resource Management Review, vol. 23, no. 4, pp. 286-289.

Farndale, E, Pai, A, Sparrow, P & Scullion, H. 2014. ‘Balancing individual and organizational goals in global talent management: a mutual-benefits perspective’. Journal of World Business, vol. 49, pp. 204-2014.

Festing, M & Schäfer, L. 2017. ‘Generational challenges to talent management: a framework for talent retention based on the psychological-contract perspective’. Journal of World Business, vol. 49, pp. 262-271.

Jain, R & Bain, M. 2017. ‘Delivering higher value through higher performance: insights on performance evaluation and talent management in corporate communication’. Public Relations Journal, vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 1-18.

Jones, P, Hillier, D & Comfort, D. 2014. ‘Sustainability in the global hotel industry’. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 5-17.

Kichuk, A. 2017. ‘Understanding talent management in the hotel sector: employees’ narratives of personal career development’. PhD thesis, Bournemouth University, Bournemouth.

Machado, C. 2017. Competences and (global) talent management. Springer, Cham.

Merlin Entertainments Group Ltd. 2017. Talent and development. Web.

Meyers, MC & van Woercom, M. 2014. ‘The influence of underlying philosophies on talent management: theory, implications for practice, and research agenda’. Journal of World Business, vol. 49, pp. 192-203.

Mason, D. 2017. Overview of the hospitality and events sector in the UK. Web.

Trost, A. 2014, Talent relationship management. Competitive recruiting strategies in times of talent shortage. Springer, Berlin.

Turner, P & Kalman, D. 2014. Make your people before you make your products. Wiley, Chichester.

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