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Journal of World Business 45 (2010) 105108

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Journal of World Business


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Introduction

Global talent management

1. Introduction decade has been the unresolved issue around its denition and
intellectual boundaries. As Lewis and Heckman (2006, p. 139)
The topic of talent management has gained mainstream conclude there is a disturbing lack of clarity regarding the
acceptance in the practitioner community as a key management denition, scope and overall goals of talent management. In this
activity in recent years. This was prompted by research, in the late regard, Lewis and Heckman identify three key streams of thinking
1990s, by a group of McKinsey consultants who coined the phrase with regard to what talent management is. The authors aligned
the war for talent to reect the central importance of employees with the rst stream appear to be merely substituting the label
to the success of top performing companies (for a summary see talent management for human resource management, often
Michaels, Haneld-Jones, & Axelrod, 2001). Although the global limiting their focus to particular HR practices such as recruitment,
aspect of talent management may not have received explicit leadership development, succession planning and the like. A
emphasis in the consultants early work (neither multinational, second stream emphasizes the development of talent pools
global, nor international appear in the index to the Michaels et al., focusing on projecting employee/stafng needs and managing
2001 text), the vast majority of companies on which their research the progression of employees through positions (Lewis & Heck-
was based all had some degree of international operation. man, 2006, p. 140) typically building upon earlier research in the
The interest in talent management has not abated in the past manpower planning or succession planning literatures. The third
decade. A recent report highlighted that seven in ten corporate stream focuses on the management of talented people. This
leaders spend in excess of 20% of their time on talent management literature argues that all roles within the organisation should be
activities (Economist Intelligence Unit, 2006). It seems that Chief lled with A performers, referred to as topgrading (Smart,
Executive Ofcers (CEOs) are increasingly realizing that talent 1999) and emphasises the management of C players, or
management is so important that it cannot be left to the HR consistently poor performers, out of the organisation (Michaels
function alone (Economist Intelligence Unit, 2006). The Boston et al., 2001). Collings and Mellahi (2009) identify a further stream.
Consulting Group (2007) found that, although viewed as being of This stream emphasizes the identication of key positions which
critical importance, talent management was one of the areas in have the potential to differentially impact the competitive
which rms were least procient. Even more recently, a review by advantage of the rm (Boudreau & Ramstad, 2007; Huselid,
Beechler and Woodward (2009) concluded that notwithstanding Beatty, & Becker, 2005).
the current economic climate talent remains a critical agenda The wide variation in how talent management is dened raises
item for key organizational decision makers. two key challenges which apply equally to global talent manage-
While practitioners interest in the topic of talent management ment. The rst challenge is that scholars in this area need to gain
has been gaining momentum, academic research on the same topic clarity and build consensus regarding the meaning of global talent
has been developing at a slower rate. This special issue is intended to management from practical, conceptual, and theoretical perspec-
contribute to the emerging academic literature on global talent tives. The second key challenge is that global talent management
management and to advance the conceptual and empirical needs to differentiate itself from international human resource
grounding of this emerging area of interest. We begin by considering management. That is not to say that global talent management
some of the debates around the conceptual and intellectual cannot draw upon international human resource management (see
boundaries of global talent management. We then consider the for example Tarique & Schuler, 2009), but it must differentiate
factors which have contributed to the increasing interest in global itself from international human resource management to have
talent management. Finally we conclude by outlining the contribu- merit in being studied in its own right.
tions to this special issue of Journal of World Business. Global talent management (GTM) has been dened in broad
terms as an organizations efforts to attract, select, develop and
retain key talented employees on a global scale (Stahl et al., 2007).
2. The conceptual and intellectual boundaries of global talent
A key aspect of this denition is the focus on a key group of core
management
employees, rather than the multinationals entire human capital
pool (see also Becker, Huselid, & Beatty, 2009; Boudreau &
One of the key challenges which talent management has
Ramstad, 2007; Collings & Mellahi, 2009). This denition
experienced in establishing its academic merits over the past
emphasizes an international focus and highlights the role of
multinational enterprises internal systems in ensuring key

The editors are grateful of all of those who submitted their work to this special
strategic employees are attracted, retained and deployed to best
issue. Additionally we are extremely grateful to the special issues reviewers who meet the organizations strategic priorities. However, as noted
contributed greatly to the development of the papers published in this special issue. previously, a separate stream of literature emphasizes (Boudreau &

1090-9516/$ see front matter . Crown Copyright 2009 Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.jwb.2009.09.011
106 Introduction / Journal of World Business 45 (2010) 105108

Ramstad, 2007; Huselid et al., 2005) the importance of the competitive advantage for MNCs has been central to the discourse
positions which these talented individual employees ll in the surrounding strategic HRM in recent years, the extent to which
context of talent management systems and argues that this should organizations effectively manage their human talent especially
be the point of departure for talent management systems. Finally on a global scale often fails to live up to this hype (Cohn et al.,
in the global context there is also scope for comparative studies 2005; Scullion & Collings, 2006). Research has suggested that
which consider how talent management systems operate in MNCs are frequently unable to identify who their most talented
different national contexts. For example, Doh et al. (2009) explore employees are and where they are located around the world
talent management in the Indian context, while Iles et al. (2009) (Collings, Scullion & Morley, 2007). Global talent management is
contribution considers the Chinese context and McDonnell et al. critical because it is impossible for rms to leverage an asset they
(2009) consider the Irish context. Thus, the collective denition we do not realize they have.
propose for global talent management is as follows: To bring us closer to the goal of better understanding and
hopefully improving global talent management, this special issue
Global talent management includes all organizational activ- brings together a number of papers by leading researchers on
ities for the purpose of attracting, selecting, developing, and different aspects of global talent management from different
retaining the best employees in the most strategic roles cultural contexts around the world. New empirical and theoretical
(those roles necessary to achieve organizational strategic insights into global talent management are explored in the
priorities) on a global scale. Global talent management takes different contexts of Europe, Asia and North America. The
into account the differences in both organizations global emerging markets of India and China are given particular attention
strategic priorities as well as the differences across national due to their strategic importance, the distinctive cultures affecting
contexts for how talent should be managed in the countries talent management in those countries and the dearth of research
where they operate. about them.
A common theme of the papers in the special issue is the
Our hope is that the denition we offer is a starting point upon recognition that global talent management has emerged as a
which the research community can use to shape, build, and critical element of strategic human resource management in the
strengthen knowledge in the area of global talent management. multinational enterprise (Scullion & Collings, 2010). The con-
We now consider the factors which over the last decade have tributions in this special issue, which examine both strategic and
driven the emergence of global talent management as a key operational aspects of talent management seeks to provide a
strategic issue for managers and scholars alike. comprehensive overview of the area. The special issue also
highlights emerging topics which will shape the area of global
3. Factors inuencing the emergence of global talent talent management research over the next decade and seeks to
management provide a platform for researchers to develop our theoretical and
empirical understanding and knowledge of global talent manage-
Global talent management is a relatively new multi- ment in the future. Rather than representing a comprehensive and
disciplinary eld of enquiry which has emerged in recent years dening contribution to the literature on global talent manage-
as a key strategic issue for multinational corporations (MNCs) ment, we view the papers in this special issue as contributing to
for several reasons. First, there is a growing recognition of the the emerging conceptual and empirical foundations of this
critical role played by globally competent managerial talent in increasingly important area of study. A key challenge for the
ensuring the success of MNCs reecting the intensication of special issue, however, is to locate the current discussion and
global competition and the greater need for international debate about global talent management within the wider context
learning and innovation in MNCs (Bartlett & Ghoshal, 1989). of the current economic crises and a key aim for the special issue is
Second, competition between employers for talent has shifted to contribute to a more informed and critical research agenda in
from the country level to the regional and global levels global talent management in the context of the current global
(Sparrow, Brewster, & Harris, 2004). There is a growing economic crises.
recognition that MNCs need to manage talent on a global basis We now briey introduce the papers which make up the special
to remain competitive and that talent may be located in issue:
different parts of their global operations (Ready & Conger, 2007).
MNCs are facing growing difculties in recruiting and retaining 4. Contributions to the special issue
the necessary managerial talent for their global operations and
increasingly MNCs compete for the same global talent pool The paper by Doh, Stumpf and Tymon examines the challenges of
(Stahl et al., 2007). Third, shortages of managerial and talent management of knowledge workers in India, one of the largest
professional talent have emerged as the key HR challenge and fastest growing emerging economies in the world where
facing the majority of MNCs (Bjorkman & Lervik, 2007; Scullion economic activity has considerably outpaced the availability of
& Starkey, 2000). Fourth, research highlights that shortages of skilled employees. The authors develop and test a model of talent
international management talent have been a signicant management with data from 28 Indian companies and almost 5000
constraint on the successful implementation of global strategies professional staff. The paper highlights the importance of intrinsic
(Cohn, Khurana, & Reeves, 2005; Scullion, 1994) and shortages rewards as a key element of the talent management system in the
of leadership talent in particular were identied as a major Indian context. The authors suggest that employers should more
obstacle many companies face as they seek to operate closely examine non-pecuniary mechanisms to encourage
successfully on a global scale (Sparrow et al., 2004; Stahl employee retention and employee satisfaction, particularly in
et al., 2007). Finally, the growth of the emerging markets has challenging labour market environments.
resulted in a further demand for a distinctive type of managerial Our second paper by Tarique and Schuler provides a compre-
talent which can operate effectively in these culturally complex hensive review of the research in global talent management and
and geographically distant markets (Scullion, Collings, & seeks to better organize the literature through creating a frame-
Gunnigle, 2007). work for understanding and advancing further research in the area.
On balance, this suggests that, while the rhetoric of maximizing The framework highlights some critical challenges in global talent
the talent of individual employees as a unique source of management and the drivers of those challenges. The paper helps
Introduction / Journal of World Business 45 (2010) 105108 107

guide the future research agenda in this eld and also seeks to List of reviewers for the special issue
inform the work of senior HR professionals who are engaging with
talent management issues in the global context. Jyotsna Bhatnagar, Management Development Institute, India.
Our third paper by Makela, Bjorkman and Ehrnrooth seeks to Chris Brewster, University of Reading, UK.
address the fundamental question of who is considered a talent Saba Colakoglu, Rutgers University, USA.
and why and develops our understanding of the decision Fang Lee Cooke, University of Manchester, UK.
processes involved in the identication and evaluation of internal Peter Dowling, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.
talent in the MNC. A framework is developed by the authors which Jos Gamble, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK.
suggests that talent pool inclusion is a two-stage decision process Keith Goodall, University of Cambridge, UK.
involving both experience based and cognition based managerial Michelle Harrison, University of Limerick, Ireland.
decisionmaking. They use an in depth case study of a Finnish Tina Starr, University of Nottingham, UK.
MNE to highlight that talent pool inclusion is determined by a Kate Hutchings, Monash University, Australia
wider range of variables than that suggested by the existing Shenxue Li, University of Strathclyde, UK.
literature. Kristiina Makela, Hanken School of Economics, Finland.
The fourth paper by Mellahi and Collings adds to our under- Anthony McDonnell, Newcastle University, Australia.
standing both of the underlying causes of talent management Kamel Mellahi, University of Shefeld, UK.
failure in multinational enterprises and the barriers to effective Joyce Osland, San Jose State University, USA.
global talent management. Their paper contributes to theoretical Markus Pudelko, University of Edinburgh, UK.
development in this area, using insights from both agency theory Sebastien Reiche, IESE Barcelona, Spain.
and bounded rationality theory to explain the failure of global Margaret Schaffer, University of Wisconsin Milwaukie, USA.
talent management systems to effectively promote talent from Adam Smale, Univeristy of Vaasa, Finland.
across the corporate network. Vesa Suutari, Univeristy of Vaasa, Finland.
Next, McDonnell, Lamare, Gunnigle and Lavelle seek to redress Mohan Thite, Grifth University, Australia.
the empirical decit in the study of GTM through an empirical Arup Varma, Loyola University Chicago, USA.
study using empirical data from 260 MNEs in Ireland. Their study Denice Welch, University of Melbourne, Australia.
highlights that many MNEs continue to adopt an ad hoc rather than Geoff Wood, University of Shefeld, UK.
a strategic approach to the management of their high potential
staff and that integrated approaches to talent management are far
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1
Hugh Scullion* Tel.: +353 91495385.
2
David G. Collings1 Tel.: +1 732 445 5228.
J.E. Cairnes School of Business & Economics,
NUI Galway, University Road, Galway, Ireland