Talent Development, Maintenance and Retention

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Strategic human resource management (SHRM) is regarded as a management strategy employed to manage the employees in order to achieve a strong competitive advantage. Basically, SHRM entails the management of the employees’ contributions to the firm so as to achieve the desired goal. Talent management is an essential aspect of SHRM. As an individual concept, talent management is essentially hard to define. Talent management can be viewed from different viewpoints. This depends on the company’s operations. Nevertheless, talent management entails attraction, identification, recruitment, development, motivation, promotion, and retention of staff that has the potential to succeed in the organization. This essay will explore the fundamental aspects of talent management and their role in organizational success.


Talent Management has become a dominant theme driving strategic HRM over the recent past. According to a study conducted by Sandler (2006, p. 13), over three-quarters of the respondents identified talent management as a top subject in HRM today. Organizations are increasingly becoming aware of the fact that they are likely to experience massive loss as a result of losing their crème de la crème talent (Foster, 2005, p. 28) since most of their senior executives are bound to retire in less than ten years. Combined with the diminishing number of the younger generation in the industrialized nations, there is a probable shortage of talents in the near future.

This shift in population is transforming the nature of psychological contracts, such that employees are becoming more aware and are able to choose companies based on certain factors, for instance, policy diversity, life balance, and degree of freedom (Foster, 2005, p. 29). Skilled and gifted personnel are less flexible and very mobile. Therefore, highly educated professional employees view themselves as investors and not assets in a company (Gratton & Ghoshal, 2003, p. 3).

This is a massive change from the state of affairs in the past where there was a considerable rationalization, laying-off, and streamlining to enhance efficiency. This was followed by a renegotiation of the psychological contract away from the concept of job security and symbiotic work relationships. The renegotiation of the psychological contract was aimed at maintaining employability and effective management of personal profiles to develop individual careers (Gratton & Ghoshal, 2003, p. 4).

Having weakened the rapport between the organizations and the employees, companies are now striving to overturn the situation. On the other hand, having been through the ordeal, are employees keen to strengthen their relationship with the employers? The future labour market is likely to favour the employee over the employer. Therefore, understanding and efficiently managing employee contracts enhance organization’s sustainability and profitability. However, there is need for open agreement on the contribution of each party (Gratton &Ghoshal, 2003, p. 4). For this reason, prospects and pledges linked to profession and how to manage competencies will be essentially significant in the coming years.

Different view points on talent management

As an individual concept, talent management is essentially hard to define. Talent management can be viewed from different viewpoints. This depends on the company’s operations and environment. Generally, there are five viewpoints that are common in the HR practices, namely: process viewpoint, cultural perspective, cut-throat viewpoint, developmental viewpoint, and HR planning perspective (Farley, 2005, p. 54).

The process perspective is where the management is required to optimize individuals with the organization. Process perspective puts all the systems in place to allow individuals with high potential to establish their career and achieve something in the organization. As long as they meet the process requirements, they will move ahead. In this case, individuals are expected to discover the best opportunities on their own. The process perspective is supported by the ICT systems, which opens up non-reward competition among employees and various departments that would be obscured under silo mindset (Farley, 2005, p. 55).

Cultural perspective, on the other hand, holds the view that talent management is a state of mind where talent is considered to be very essential for business progress. Here talent is paramount and talented individuals can flourish or falter on their own doing. The prospects are great for high achievers. It is regarded as the least structured approach and suites the nonconformists in the organization (Michael, 2006, p. 6). Competitive perspective is where more emphasis is on the identification of the talented individuals, discovering what they want and giving it to them, if not, the rival’s will. This is the most dominant perspective among the consultants and outsourcers. This approach suits the most ambitious individuals and those who consider rewards as a measure of achievement (Woodruffe, 2003, p. 20).

Developmental perspective claims that talent management is an accelerated development route for the highly proficient individuals. Here the organization pays a lot of attention during the recruitment process so as to acquire the best talent in the market. They are then developed and promoted from within to make the most of the available opportunities for highly promising individuals (Wilcox, 2005, p. 97).

Lastly, the HR planning perspective suggests that talent management is about identifying the right individuals for the right job at the right time, and performing appropriate task (Mucha, 2004, p. 96). Mucha (2004, p. 98) states that this is supported by advanced ICT systems, which outline various diverse scenarios and prospects for individuals that move in and out of the organization similar to a game of Chess.

Definition of talent and talent management

Irrespective of the perspective chosen, the most important question of what should and what should not be regarded as talent must be tackled. According to Tansley et al. (2006, p. 3), talent management requires HR experts and their customers to understand and know how to define talent, who they consider to be talented and how their profiles should look like. Chowdhury (2002, p. 5) defines talent as an enterprise spirit, temperament, creativity, breaking of rules and initiation of change. Using this description, it is highly doubtful if any organization would want more than 5% of this category of employees in their company. Bowen, Carmen and Rajnandini (2002, p. 103) describe talent as individual skills or competencies that enable them to perform their tasks at a high level.

According to Hansen (2007, p. 12), talent in the organization denotes the core employees and leaders that propel the business forward. These employees and leaders are high performers and act as role model to other employees. Therefore, talent is a fundamental capacity of the organization and correspond to a small fraction of the employees (Berger and Berger, 2004, p. 19). According to Laff (2006, p. 43), talent management is more than just finding and developing employees. Talent management invokes a logical view that constitutes numerous roles and procedures.

Talent management is a continuous and upbeat process. It entails attraction, identification, recruitment, development, motivation, promotion and retention of staff that have the potential to succeed in the organization. However, all these activities must be connected and integrated to the context of the business and its strategy (Berger and Berger, 2004, p. 22). Even though talent management requires an all-inclusive approach, numerous studies describe it using different models and facets (Farley, 2005, p. 56). However, this study will distinguish and be built upon three fundamental parts of the talent management process; development, maintenance and keeping hold of key talent.

Talent management requires a sustainable commitment from all levels of the organization and should not be limited to the HR department (Laff, 2006, p. 45). Talent management that is restricted to the HR department is normally cut off from the market and is incapable of responding to the market dynamics. There have been numerous debates among researchers concerning who should manage talents in the organization (Laff, 2006, p. 47).

A number of authors argue that HR department is at risk of annihilation since most of its functions are being outsourced or moved to other units. A number of organizations have training and talent development departments separately from the HR department (Laff, 2006, p. 45). These organizations believe that the human resource should be changed into expert strategic partners. As a result, they have managed the overwhelming task of developing an integrated approach with joint collaboration between the HR department, management and other departments/sections (Berger and Berger, 2004, p. 23).

Developing high potential employees

Whether the emphasis is on personal competence or organizational competence, development is essential in creating a talent management system (Berger and Berger, 2004, p. 23). Laff (2006, p. 46) asserts that it is important for organizations to create a catalogue of skills and instruments to develop and assess employees. Berger (2004, p. 4) argues that the emphasis should be on the competencies rather than potential.

Romans (2005, p. 16) restructured an organization using the human capital pipeline system model. His model was completely anchored on role competency instead of personal proficiency. As a result, this led to the separation of competency from individuals and dehumanized the work environment. According to Woodruffe (2003, p. 20), to achieve sustainability talent management requires organizational commitment to progressive professional development.

This will be evident through various development experiences provided in the organization, deviating from the conventional classroom training based approaches. These may include training, developmental conventions, job mobility, makeshift and urgent tasks, group work, extramural operations and many more. Wilcox (2005, p. 98) stresses that corporate institutions of high learning can help by connecting learning and strategy, and preparing individuals for upcoming challenges.

Many organizations tend to focus on employee flaws as opposed to their strength. As a result, they come up with strategies that are aimed at their weaknesses (Laff, 2006, p. 46). Laff (2006, p. 47) asserts that while emphasizing on weaknesses may help to avert failure, putting emphasis on strengths may lead to optimal success. In addition, employees may feel motivated and discover novel ways of utilizing their strengths for the benefit of the organization. He also holds the opinion that organizations at this point in time need to strategize their HR systems so as to develop the existing talents and competencies. This will prompt employees to take initiative and demonstrate their capabilities. This is viewed as a change from management to control to an empowerment approach (Laff, 2006, p. 4 9).

Many talent management processes are geared towards the development of specific personnel. In order for these individuals to advance, they are required to have an array of learning and development experiences to enable them carry out their roles (Berger, 2004, p. 8). The fundamental question here is where the emphasis of the organization’s developmental operations lies. Is it on handling limitations that individuals and organization have, or is it on development of strengths that are illustrated to improve them more?

A study conducted by Bowen et al. (2002, p. 122), established that successful organizations tend to emphasize on individual strengths by letting employees become masters in their job and in some way specialists. Some emphasize on professional talent, industrial talent and managerial talent. This once more permits individuals to specialize on areas where they have strengths. However, many organizations have a tendency to lay down development goals that restrict employees on areas where they should improve on, rather than emphasizing on personal strength to make the employee ‘better’ in all perspective. The biggest question is what is next for those already identified as talented individuals?

One of the solutions to this quandary is ‘accelerated path’ technique, where talented individuals are allowed to follow the same path as others but faster. After this they proceed to a tailored profession path that is mapped out to meet a particular demand (Bowen et al., 2002, p. 123).

Graduate trainee program is an example of accelerated path, while customized paths are found in most organizations that are going through rapid growth (Tansley et al., 2006, p. 5). To a certain level, talented persons are highly likely to be self directed learners. They are highly motivated to learn and develop through positive experience as opposed to negative experience (Tansley et al., 2006, p. 22). Tansley et al. (2006, p. 30) claims that this is the best method of sorting out talent. Nevertheless, a lot of caution should be taken when handling development paths. This is because accelerated path could hinder ethical development.

Talent maintenance and retention

Talent development, maintenance and retention cannot be isolated, even though the structure of the essay may suggest so. This is only done to create a lucid and coherent structure for the essay. In fact, identifying, appraising, developing and retaining talent should, in reality, be totally interlocked under the confines of the concept. Talent maintenance and retention can simply be defined as the employer’s efforts to keep hold of the most important employees in order to achieve the objectives of the organization (Farley, 2005, p. 29).

Employee maintenance and retention also assists in averting unnecessary loss of human and intellectual capital, minimising the cost of employee turnover, and enhances the HR stability and commitment (Hansen, 2007, p. 11). Hansen (2007, p. 12) gives five reasons why individuals leave organizations, which all apart from compensation which is lowly ranked, is tied to cultural and communication matters, for instance, the perceived feeling of the organizational culture and reputation, lack of support, and support from the leadership or deficiency of feedback that makes workers consider themselves insignificant.

This point is also supported by Gratton and Ghoshal (2003, p. 6) who identifies poor management as the fundamental reason behind employee turnover. His study emphasizes on the correlation between culture and exchange of knowledge and ideas within and without the organization.

According to the study conducted by Bowen et al. (2002, p. 118 ), the organization considered everyone to be talented in accordance to its egalitarian culture that aims at providing equal opportunities and benefits to all without any discrimination. Most managers emphasized that the organization did not look at certain individuals as more talented than others since everybody passed through similar process of talent identification.

This is one of the bases for arguments regarding talent management, that is, the degree to which it is regarded as all-inclusive or restrictive. The restrictive approach poses a danger of discriminatory tendency of making sure that the future leadership is replicated from the present leadership. At the same time, all-inclusive approach poses a danger of maintaining the status quo, which could be disadvantageous to the very ambitious, reward and goal driven members of the organization (Tansley et al., 2006, p. 3).

Since majority of companies that use definite talents management system are found in industrial economies, the discriminative capitalist beliefs are likely to be embraced. However, in this context, “all inclusive” approach to talent management is expected to be successful in motivating and keeping hold of the most talented individuals in the organization (Chowdhury, 2002, p. 67). According to Sandler (2006, p. 14), talent market is in short supply.

There is always a risk that, if the system for managing talent mainly emphasizes on talent description and division, the company may lose direction. Therefore, each department of the organization should be treated in a manner that is in line with their needs. As a result, the big question here is the extent to which human capital is exchangeable like other material assets of the organization. Even though some organizations have been successful in employing this approach, it is unlikely to work in the current dynamic environment where employees view themselves as volunteers or investors, and not assets of the organization. Employees are likely to feel dehumanized if treated this way.


Human resource management in all its aspects has always emphasized on the management of personnel. Unlike other resources, human resource is far more intricate and dynamic and has developed considerably in the last thirty years. At the present, human resource management in its most basic nature emphasizes on creation of market superiority through the use of contemporary HRM systems to improve workforce and enhance loyalty.

Talent Management is one of the best approaches in developing sustainable competitive advantage. Sustainable competitive advantage springs from priceless company resources that cannot be substituted or emulated by other companies, that is, talented personnel. Owing to the likelihood of incurring massive losses as a result of losing key talent, talent management has become very critical in the business world today. Its popularity has increased due to the diminishing number of the younger generation in the industrialized nations, which increases the probability of talent shortage in the near future. As a result, organizations are doing everything possible to attract and retain this pool of scarce talent. They are also striving to acquire the best talent in the labour market.


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