Whither Talent?

women in leadership

By Adrian Furnham

To what end can talent be defined, sought out and developed? In this article Andrew Furnham discusses the different ideas of what makes a talented individual in the world of business, and how to “manage talent” within an organisation.


A. Introduction

You cannot have escaped noticing that ‘Talent Management’ has become a very fashionable topic. In some organisations the Personnel Department (which then became HR department) has been renamed the “Talent Management Department”. Does that imply that everyone is talented, making the concept redundant; or is there an equivalent Talentless Management Department who have, of course a much more difficult task?

Organisations seem to believe that their ability to attract and utilise (young) people of talent is essential to their profitability and sustainability. They may be right. Some argue that talent management is more important than strategy, corporate culture, marketing etc. in assuring the long term success of the organisation. It is thought of as the main competitive advantage.

With bull markets there is a war for talent. Many assumed there was an under-supply of talented people at all levels, and thus organisations were in a competitive battle to attract and retain as well as develop, these special, but crucial people who would ensure, they hoped, that the organisation both thrived and prospered. They were thought of as the new generation who would be required to lead the organisation into the future and ensure its survival. Now in the bear market there is a surfeit of talent; an over-supply; wasted talent.

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