The conceptualisation and operationalisation of talent management : tyhe case of European internationally operated businesses

Kabwe, Bridget C (2011) The conceptualisation and operationalisation of talent management : tyhe case of European internationally operated businesses. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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Talent management (TM), both as a practice and an academic sub-discipline, lacks a strong conceptual foundation. This limitation significantly inhibits understandings of TM in its international dimensions. Accordingly the overarching aim of this thesis is to contribute to an overdue reassessment of TM within the international context by redressing the empirical and theoretical deficiencies, which are a direct hindrance to development of the field. The philosophy adopted was interpretivist, involving qualitative methods, that is, semi-structured interviews and documentary analysis were employed in data collection from 17 informant companies based in several European countries.

This study makes highly significant contributions in four major ways. Firstly, the empirical contribution is made through employing two phases of primary research. Phase One was an exploration of TM practices in 14 internationally operating organisations representing eight industries. Out of Phase One arose the notion of expectations as a key influence shaping TM in practice as well as indicating managerial and individual dimensions. Thus Phase Two explored the conceptualisation and operationalisation of TM from the perspective of management, on the one hand and talented employees, on the other. This was a highly significant step in the understanding of TM, because most empirical studies have tended to focus on managerial views. Secondly, the methodological contribution results from the novel adoption of narratives in analysing case studies. This approach made it possible to gain insights into TM as lived experience especially on the part of employees selected as talented.

Thirdly, the conceptual contribution arose from (i) contrasting and distilling the essence of many lax definitions of talent and TM; (ii) identifying the visible and invisible elements of TM in the domain of practice and(iii) employing a dual theoretical framework which integrated human capital theory and expectancy theory. Significantly the dual framework also offers a re-conceptualisation of TM as a social process in which various stakeholders are revealed to have disparate interests. Indeed the framework led to the notion of fracture in TM as a result of misalignment of expectations of management, on the one hand, and talent-managed employees, on the other. Lastly, by dint of the dual theoretical framework the study adds to the understanding of TM a new lens through which senior managers (and researchers) can clearly identify the gap between managerial intentions and the practical reality.

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