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A multidisciplinary review into the definition,
operationalization, and measurement of talent

ARTICLE in JOURNAL OF WORLD BUSINESS · JANUARY 2013
Impact Factor: 2.62 · DOI: 10.1016/j.jwb.2013.11.002

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Sanne Nijs Nicky Dries
University of Leuven University of Leuven
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Luc Sels
University of Leuven
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Available from: Nicky Dries
Retrieved on: 23 August 2015

com/locate/jwb A multidisciplinary review into the definition. KU Leuven. With the future research directions. 3000 Leuven. Luc Sels a. This multidisciplinary review aims to Talent operationalization contribute to the establishment of a stronger theoretical basis for talent-management by presenting a Talent measurement conceptual framework of talent in which the definition.Dries@kuleuven. By discussing managerial implications in the potential of offering interesting insights into the operationaliza.1016/j. 1 Tel. years. we provide practical guidelines for designing tion and measurement of talent. organizations seem to have talent-management by integrating insights fragmented across become increasingly convinced that the deliberate identification of different disciplines. contribute to the establishment of a stronger theoretical basis for 1. To achieve a comprehensive multidisciplinary review of the E-mail addresses: Sanne. Av.be (S.G Model WORBUS-640. 2006). gifted education. Lewis & Heckman. our systematic review shows that in fact a whole needed to transform talent-management into a legitimate field of body of literature exists outside of the HRM domain with the academic study. and vocational psychology respectively—that will guide readers in understanding and applying the proposed framework.: +34 93 402 90 40. building on fragmented insights from the literature—from the fields of HRM. 1090-9516/$ – see front matter ß 2013 Published by Elsevier Inc. we claim that performance functions as a general framework within which issues operationalizing and measuring talent is one of the major of predictive and construct validity are addressed. Naamsestraat 69.gallardo@ub.: +32 016 37 37 19. let alone measuring the positive psychology literature. No. operationalization. and measurement of talent.be the field—we used 1993 as the starting point of our literature (L. the vocational psychology literature.be (N.002 Please cite this article in press as: Nijs.002 . Belgium b Department of Economics and Business Organization.11. three talent is crucial for maximizing organizational performance literature streams were identified in addition to the HRM (Collings & Mellahi. 2009a). Diagonal 690. incorporate insights from the divergent literature streams. concluding part. Sels). Theoreti.1. human resource management (HRM) practitioners giftedness literature. thus covering insights developed over the last twenty 2 Tel.*. of Pages 12 Journal of World Business xxx (2013) xxx–xxx Contents lists available at ScienceDirect Journal of World Business journal homepage: www. Interestingly. Given that robust theory and therefore can help establish better conceptual foundations for building and accurate interpretation of empirical data cannot take talent-management. we systematically cal foundations for talent-management based on a clear oper. light on how talent-management scholars might further capitalize Although HRM scholars appear to be convinced that very few on the cross-fertilization between insights from different dis- theoretical frameworks for talent-management are currently ciplines so as to gradually establish the theoretical foundations available.org/10. http://dx. et al. Faculty of Economics and Business. http://dx. Spain A R T I C L E I N F O A B S T R A C T Keywords: Organizations report great difficulty in measuring talent accurately. The relationship between talent and excellent place before formal definitions are established. Search strategy * Corresponding author.edu literature on talent—which could account for the evolutions within (E. We systematically introduce 11 propositions into Theoretical propositions the framework.. peer-reviewed.3 a Research Centre for Organization Studies.2013. across 11 challenges the talent-management field currently has ahead of research propositions. operationalization. 2011). Dries). Nicky. S.Sels@kuleuven. Starting from the HRM perspective on talent. 08034 Barcelona.: +32 016 32 66 09.org/10. literature as being of particular relevance for this purpose: the however. it accurately for identification purposes (Tansley. 2009. positive psychology. ß 2013 Published by Elsevier Inc. academic articles considered in this review. The present paper aims to talent-identification practices grounded in sound theory. Gallardo-Gallardo). eva. A multidisciplinary review into the definition. 2004). and measurement of talent Sanne Nijs a. and report great difficulty defining what talent is. reflecting the lack of theoretical Talent definition foundations for talent-identification in the HRM literature.: +32 016 32 68 18. Tel.jwb. search. With the help of our search strategy.elsevier.Nijs@kuleuven.doi.11. Over the course of the last decade. which ationalization of talent appear largely absent in the academic counteract some of the limitations inherent to the HRM literature literature (Silzer & Church. Journal of World Business (2013).1016/j.2013. Luc. Nicky Dries a.2. We took four different steps to establish the final body of 3 Tel.doi. Faculty of Economics and Business. Nijs). Eva Gallardo-Gallardo b. we shed it (Wacker. operationalization and measurement of talent Multidisciplinary review and its relation to excellent performance is clarified. University of Barcelona.jwb.

2001). / Journal of World Business xxx (2013) xxx–xxx 1. 2009. Specifically. selection. Gallardo. Value Business Source Premier as the database of departure. we expanded our search to the draws inspiration from a resource-based view on humans. we chose to work people or positions to their organizations legitimizes dispropor- with explicit exclusion criteria with the goal of selecting only those tionate investment in certain employees or jobs (Becker & Huselid. Talent is typically operationalized as human capital. Becker and Huselid (2006) academic literature—we deliberately selected strengths and gifts argue that the value of talented employees depends on the specific as two additional search terms.jwb.002 . From a first analysis. et al. 1. Because both strengths and gifts refer to attributes that scarcities. 2009). 2010).1016/j. Because our aim was to contribute to better theoretical Silzer & Church. specifically. talents. or strengths). Lepak & Snell.4. definitions. By characterizing humans as capital. resources are. the giftedness manageable toward certain outcomes in the same way other literature. The HRM literature. foundations for talent-management by also considering academic The human capital perspective on talent described typically domains outside the HRM field. Cascio & Boudreau. Step 3: establishing exclusion criteria Huselid. Tansley. like talent—while these concepts. & Beatty.. 2011). 2005) and should therefore be allocated to high value. vocational psychology and positive psychology. and measurement of talent.. Dries. No. To this end. in PychInfo database.3. of Pages 12 2 S. The potential pitfalls of labeling employees as ‘human capital’ that is selected articles were situated in the HRM literature. 1. According to the HR their titles. development. we first developed a extensively discussed the topic of talent-management motivated general working definition of talent based on the meaning mainly by the ‘war for talent’. gifts. scope and aims. 2007. 2009a). McKinsey consultants (Michaels. 2004. As we were interested in talent and talent-identifica. Therefore. we are management purely from a resource-based view seems insuffi- confident it is at least representative of the work published within cient to capture the psychological mechanisms that come into play the talent domain. Nijs et al.G Model WORBUS-640. we concluded that the In general. These compe- 1. social and personality attributes which is embodied in the ability to perform labor so as to produce economic value We started our search by tracking articles that had ‘talent’ in (Farndale. term talent-management.e. Step 2: selecting search terms knowledge.2. clarity the human capital perspective offers about the precise 6 We for example excluded: Ng and Burke (2005). A preliminary analysis of these articles refers to the extent to which human capital is difficult to replace showed that talent was sometimes associated with ‘gifts’ and due to unique job or organization requirements and labor market ‘strengths’. Consequently. 2013). investigating talent and talent- Although the obtained article list may not be exhaustive. and deploy it. Dries. Our search in Business Source Premier resulted in a large 2011). we posit—in line with Lewis and Heckman (2006)—that the talent-management litera- ture is characterized by a disturbing lack of lucidity regarding its 4 We for example excluded: Florano (2003). each of our main search terms (i. meaning of the underlying construct ‘talent’ (Gallardo-Gallardo Please cite this article in press as: Nijs.. number of hits. and increments in improvement in quality or quantity result in an strengths) was used in conjunction with search terms like above-average return on strategic measures are seen as pivotal ‘identification’ and ‘measurement’ (see Appendix A).11. within which the talent-management talent is commonly understood as corresponding to an above. high uniqueness employees called ‘A players’ (Becker. literature is situated. The use of refers to the potential to contribute to an organization’s core talent as a search term resulted in a large number of hits across a competencies and advance its competitive position. detect. Employees who possess human capital that is rated high predict excellent performance. 1999). which employees are directed toward creating added value for The searches conducted across both databases resulted in a final their organizations (Dries. In general. we selected capital can be assessed in terms of value and uniqueness. In the English language. Given the focus of the present positions they occupy. a term introduced by a group of contemporary English dictionaries ascribe to the term (Gallardo. architecture model developed by Lepak and Snell (1999). (b) articles using talent as returns. & Axelrod. frequently differentiated between based on their past and current performance in terms of predefined competencies. & González-Cruz.2013. Scullion. Handfield-Jones. making them the most pivotal talent of the organization (Boudreau & Ramstad. develop. A multidisciplinary review into the definition. In accordance with our working definition of talent.e. when managing individuals.doi. Uniqueness wide range of journals. ments in terms of talent-identification.org/10. 2002). (Boudreau & Ramstad. This is partly driven by the limited 5 We for example excluded: Milton (2003). resulting in segmentation of the workforce on the basis of interchangeable with (a euphemism for) people or employees5. Inkson (2008) warns us for the set of 161 articles withheld for this review (see Appendix A).1. Journal of World Business (2013). scholars adhering to the human capital approach to majority of articles corresponding to our 3 main search terms were talent-management believe that the relative contribution of not relevant to our topic of interest. & Sparrow. a term used to denote the stock of competencies. These are subsumed under the umbrella domain (Gagné. the HRM literature has for achieving conceptual clarity about talent. The same criteria for exclusion were applied. employees are the concept of talent6 (or gifts. 2011). perform excellently in a given performance planning and retention. we workforce differentiation that refers to the investment of withheld articles based on three exclusion criteria: (a) articles that disproportionate resources where one expects disproportionate do not refer to human attributes4. Step 1: clarifying the talent construct 2. those positions for which small review. in both on value and on uniqueness are identified as the ‘talent’ of an contrast to talent have received ample conceptual attention in the organization (Lepak & Snell. S. the strategic contribution a specific job or a specific employee can and (c) articles that do not mention their vision on. Talent through an HRM Lens In order to find those articles that would be most informative From the late nineties onwards. articles that would be truly informative to our systematic literature 2006. and highly unpredictable nature of individual attitudes and articles were added to the list of 161 using the ‘backtracking’ behaviors is not taken into consideration adequately (De Vos & method (i. is mainly concerned with strategic invest- average ability that makes the individuals who possess. so as to detect the leaders of the future (Sharma & Bhatnagar. http://dx. 2013). Step 4: expanding the database tencies are associated with the capacity to take on senior jobs. This is reflected in the principle of review. the changing In order to ensure adequate interpretation of our findings. or definition of produce (Huselid & Becker. 2013). operationalization. review of the reference lists of the selected articles). human tion in the context of the business world.

since they were capable of high performance’’ (Periathiruvadi & Rinn. which two distinct predictors can be identified—innate abilities.jwb. Krampe. et al. within conceptualization issues are explicitly addressed. in turn. we posit that talent can be operationalized as an ability and an affective component which function as necessary preconditions First predictor: innate abilities in a specific domain of for achieving excellence which. No.e. currently tend to advocate a multidimensional conception of talent building on domain-specific theories of multiple intelligences 3. that the correlation between a single IQ perform excellently in one or more domains of human functioning. Ruban & Reis.1. 2013). and sometimes equated to in Bailey & Morley.e. Conceptual model of the definition..doi. et al. & Tesch-Römer. Robinson & Clinkenbeard. interpersonal excellence) or 1920. 2013.. Based on Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences (1983. Major. S. 2000). / Journal of World Business xxx (2013) xxx–xxx 3 Fig. Defining talent ‘‘Talent refers to systematically developed innate abilities that drive excellent performance in one or more domains of human Based on our conceptual framework of talent. Robinson. and measurement of talent. & Gallagher. Johnson. 2005). Baldwin. 2004). & Deary. talented children were defined as children who achieved performing consistently at one’s personal best (i. we explicitly address different views on Primarily based on the work of Gagné (1998a. 1. but are also frequently applied by HR practitioners. 2011). At the onset of the giftedness literature in performing better than others (i.002 . two components that predict excellence: an ability and an affective the conceptualization of talent that Gagné (2004) developed in his component. http://dx. By integrating insights literature. 2006. vocational psychology. score and exceptional performance later in life was rather weak operationalized as performing better than other individuals of the (Ericsson. Zigler.. operationalization. This leaves organizations with only excellent performance. Tansley. originating from the giftedness literature.1016/j. Boselie. 2005). or as performing consistently at their Informed by this finding. situated in the field of education (Brown et al. A multidisciplinary review into the definition. 2013. in which nine forms of Please cite this article in press as: Nijs.2013. 2005. of Pages 12 S. 2005). however. 1998). 2003. visualized in functioning’’.. talent is frequently associated with. ‘‘Talented individuals are those identified by profes- In what follows we also build on insights from outside the sionally qualified persons who by virtue of outstanding abilities are broader HRM domain to address this research gap.org/10. Within this perspective. scholars in the giftedness literature personal best’’. States—i. 2006. Operationalization of talent into two components referring to different areas of human functioning (Bailey & Morley. operationalization and measurement of talent. This was reflected in excellence). Nijs et al. Within our working definition of talent we distinguish between 1998. Fig. Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent (DMTG) is frequent- The ability component. 1993. Mayer.e.11.G Model WORBUS-640. and positive psychology. It enables individuals to It turned out. detected as having the potential to counter the specific limitations Insights into this component are mainly found in the giftedness inherent to the talent-management field. 1. intrapersonal high IQ scores due to a fixed innate trait. which is adequately illustrated by the minimal theoretical foundations for their talent-management federal definition widely used in educational settings in the United decisions (Thunnissen. typically on an IQ test tapping into intellectual ‘‘Talent refers to systematically developed innate abilities of giftedness (Preckel & Thiemann. same age or experience.. Robinson & Clinkenbeard. we propose talent within which psychological aspects are incorporated and the following definition of the ability component of talent. 2012. ly cited. and systematic development: 3. & Fruytier. Across all relevant literature streams. Our working definition of talent is the following: psychometric definitions of talent that focused on achieving a certain score. can be operationalized as human functioning. p. 153). individuals that are deployed in activities they like. find important. Journal of World Business (2013).. and in which they want to invest energy.

elapsing between first work and best work.. 2006). & capabilities). Kane (1986. have addressed this issue by advocating that primarily on multiple intellectual abilities. The key is to detect one’s unique strengths in order Second predictor: systematic development. or motives)’’ (Lubinski & Benbow. sports. logical. Although many people believe that genius is 2000).doi.. domain of human functioning (Baldwin. 2006.. 1999).. / Journal of World Business xxx (2013) xxx–xxx intelligence were incorporated (i. talented children. 2006. spatial intelligence. arts. leisure. Model of Giftedness and Talent (DMGT) as an interpersonal 2009). business. Lubinski. Scholars situated to deploy them in activities one is passionate about. functioning he initially distinguished by six major occupational Robinson & Clinkenbeard. genetically inherited. 1993.11. http://dx. in Bailey & Morley. Gagné non-formal. The multiple insights we activities in which interests can be reinforced and actualized. From the 1990s onwards. Accordingly. nat. social action. or informal learning activities inside or outside of the (2004) traditionally addressed this factor in his Differentiated school. No. not sufficient to wants to invest energy (Vallerand et al. S. operationalization. systematic development (construct validity). Feldhusen. activities one likes and finds Proposition 1. energy) and ‘interest areas’ (i. present in a small proportion of the population because they are Privette. influence on excellent performance (Bailey & Morley. 2000). existential intelligence. In the giftedness an affective component (construct validity). 2000). of Pages 12 4 S. adolescents and adults—also referred to as Attention for the affective component of talent resonates through ‘preferences’ and ‘orientations’ (Milgram & Hong. namely general or specific high ability. creative.. It can be attained by engaging in formal. in which the ability component and Benbow. linguistic intelligence. Next to motivation to invest. and thrive in. the essential role of ensure high-level achievement (Robinson et al. The frequently applied Proposition 2.G Model WORBUS-640. Since the eighties. referred to by Gagné (1998a) as gifts. needs. Pfeiffer. academics. arts. This shift reflects the achievement are likely to be the unique personal and behavioral increasing attention given to interest areas when investigating dispositions that the individual brings to the actual performance.e. Innate motivation and interests in attaining excellence is highlighted abilities. person–environment fit is crucial for obtaining optimal achieve- nent considers non-intellectual attributes and how these differen. 1994). Eftekhari-Sajani. as well. and spiritual intelli. several authors in the giftedness While the definition of the ability component of talent focused literature. finds important and in which one innate dispositions are.e.. and technology). p. require effort and lead to extraordinary performances in seven domains of human are not always inherently enjoyable. 2010. and a environments an individual is likely to enter.e. musical intelligence. socio-affective. match between personal preferences and reinforces available from you must not only know what they can do (their abilities. Deliberate practice refers to intellectual. goal-orientated. of talents. Gagné. Gagné revised his Differentiated Model of Giftedness and studies have discussed what we label ‘affective’ factors as vital to Talent (DMGT) and replaced the seven domains of human excellent performance (Bailey & Morley. find important. Gagné. With the concept of ‘passion’. Numerous other authors argue that motivation mathematical intelligence. Greenhaus & Callanan.. 2003). 2005). 1983) can be achieved (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi.or workplace (Ericsson et al. although necessary. into distinct elements we shed light on what the construct of talent the affective component is made up of two main elements: entails exactly—a topic underexamined within the HRM literature ‘motivation to invest’ (i. and business operations) based on adequately by stating that the factors ultimately accounting for Holland’s work on vocational interests. In The affective component.. technical. science and technology. in press. 2000.e. and cation of interest areas is believed to be crucial in order to locate the vocational psychology literature. construct is operationalized as encompassing both an ability and First predictor: motivation to invest. 2004. collected from these different streams are summarized in the leading ideally to the delivery of excellent performance (Lubinski & following definition of talent.. 2000). literature mainly the concept of motivation. The measurement of talent can only be valid if the important)..org/10. and in which they want to invest energy.e. intrapersonal intelligence. perform excellently in one or more domains of human functioning’’. into talents in order to deliver excellent performance in at least one Second predictor: interest. 2008. vocational psychologists assess the affective component of talent are integrated: interests as a key component of talent with the goal of supporting individuals in finding a fit between the person they are and the ‘‘Talent refers to systematically developed innate abilities of job or career they aspire to so that extraordinary performance individuals that are deployed in activities they like. 146). ment. is used to denote positive characteristics that allow tion and specificity of the ability domains. task commitment.2013. you must also know what they want (their interests. activities in which one wants to invest to date. the environment on the other (Achter. p. It enables individuals to 2006). It states that talent is the combination of three encompassing both innate domain-specific abilities and amount of clusters.e. and sensori-motor) that can activities that are structured. a wide range of 2009. described as the inclination created purely through genetics—known as the ‘Amadeus Myth’— toward an activity one likes. groups (i. 222) summarizes the main point of these studies administration and sales. instead resemble that of Gagné. but differ slightly in terms of categoriza. catalyst that influenced the development of gifts into talents. the positive psychology literature. work in. Luthans. Journal of World Business (2013). and measurement of talent. 1999). the affective compo. engage in deliberate practice (Bailey & Morley. peak performances (i.jwb. Identifi- the giftedness literature. et al. might be achieved (Arnold & Cohen. capacity and preference to uralistic intelligence. 2006.. 2002). bodily-kinesthetic plays a central role in achieving excellence in that it exerts a intelligence. and the human individuals to thrive and prosper (Cascio & Luthans. Other conceptualizations of talent closely In the positive psychology literature the term strengths. must be nurtured (Rea.. with an average of ten years functioning (i. episodes of superior functioning.e. 1993. social service. Benbow. 1994).002 . Gagné distinguished between four ability domains (i. Please cite this article in press as: Nijs. Extended and interests are widely discussed in the giftedness literature and the deliberate practice is a necessary condition for the manifestation of vocational psychology literature and assumed to have a positive talent into excellence. A multidisciplinary review into the definition.1016/j. Ericsson gence). The in the giftedness literature are generally convinced that the assumption is that only in activities that are conducted with aptitudes necessary to develop talent in a specific domain are only passion. and motivation. et al. The measurement of the ability component of three-band talent definition of Renzulli (1986) forms an adequate talent can only be valid if this component is operationalized as illustration. This is predicted by a match between personal abilities and tially affect the performance of individuals: ‘‘To predict which ability requirements of the environment on the one hand. positive influence on the willingness. in relation to investments. Nijs et al. As By dissecting both the ability and affective component of talent illustrated by this fragment and by the above definition of talent. has received attention. 1998). functioning domains considered (Feldhusen.

In what mances (Gladwell. Only a few individuals—so-called outliers—show the connecting definition. 2006). assert that each individual possesses a certain talent entails exactly and how it relates to excellent performance— set of strengths (e. 1999). 1999). In addition to talent encompassing an ability and an affective Intrapersonal excellence. in activities one is passionate about (Vallerand et al. theoretically sound talent-identification practices.. which is uncommon in the detecting those individuals who are capable of delivering excellent giftedness literature. and one experience due to the presence of rare talents (Brown et al. their involvement and motivation. that excellence should on A players (Becker et al..e. http://dx. by systematically elaborating on issues of construct and essential to detect one’s unique strengths in order to deploy them predictive validity. identification practices are often installed with the aim of Renzulli’s (2005) approach to talent. we adopt as a basic assumption that talent is excellence as performing better than others—resulting in a focus evidenced by excellence—or put otherwise. By well.. Mayer. it is typically argued that these employees practitioners—we posit that it is crucial to measure the two deserve disproportionate investments because they are capable of underlying components of talent. and measurement of talent.e. could argue that excellent performance would thus be the best Heller. et al.e. resources.. as a result.. which is believed to substantially increase the discuss interpersonal (i. orientation of all employees and intrapersonal excellence than the operationalization of talent toward activities they like. in the literature. adaptability. No. A multidisciplinary review into the definition.. stance it takes.000 hours in perfecting certain talents.. find important and in 3. integrated. The operationalization of talent in either an ability are more likely to adopt talent-management practices in which or an affective component is less valid for predicting interpersonal there is egalitarian investment—i. performing better than others) and productivity of employees and in turn positively affect organiza- intrapersonal (i. Nijs et al. In the measure of talent—a view frequently subscribed to by HR HRM literature. Proposition 4. He stated that everyone has a role to play which the war for talent runs rampant.e. talent. 1999).doi. 2005. but possess the ability to do Please cite this article in press as: Nijs. we fulfillment. According to Ericsson et al. and encouragement individual performances that could advance the attainment of necessary to achieve their full potential through maximization of their strategic goals (Lepak & Snell. performing consistently at one’s personal best) tional performance (Wood. 2005). currently not performing excellently. Given that organizations today dominant today. Kashdan. Accordingly. 2004. we should provide all concerned with making accurate predictions regarding excellent people with the opportunities. Linley.. Lewis & Heckman. they are more than ever in societal improvement and.2013.002 . to invest energy.G Model WORBUS-640. perform significantly better than others of the same age or Although talent manifests in observable excellence. these authors argue that high-level performances that can be applied to measure the ability and affective are not feasible for everyone (Milgram & Hong. Adherents of the ‘strengths-based approach’ argue that and interests operate. S. / Journal of World Business xxx (2013) xxx–xxx 5 Proposition 3. Proposition 6. In line with this definition. The component of talent as well as interpersonal and intrapersonal emphasis thus lies on the identification of those individuals who excellence.11. Renzulli advocated a more ‘inclusive’ conception operate within a continuously evolving knowledge economy in of talent already in 2005.. we aim to address this According to these authors. Operationalization of excellence as the main criterion for talent which they want to invest energy. Although the operationalization of component. orientation of a select group of high performers toward activities they like. Interpersonal excellence. utilizing everyone’s strengths is crucial. operationalization. of Pages 12 S. Measuring talent their assumption of a genetic basis for talent (Gagné. Journal of World Business (2013). 1998b). find important and in which they want in both an ability and affective component (predictive validity). 2003). is closely related to the approach typically performances. thus completing the in-depth discussion of our talent definition. discipline) and that it is the a main concern of HR practitioners—have remained largely absent specific constellation of strengths that makes everyone unique. Only by assessing both enhancing organizational performance by their capacity to the ability and the affective component.jwb. It is explicit.e. 2009)—remains to a large extent be the main criterion for talent.org/10. Positive psychologists Buckingham and Clifton Unfortunately however. 1998a.g. 2009. as necessary preconditions to excellent physical and psychological health outcomes such as individual performance within a specific domain. are more likely to adopt talent-management practices in which there is differential investment—i. Organizational decision makers who operationa- talent can only be valid if this component is operationalized lize excellence as performing better than other individuals of the as encompassing both motivation and interest areas (construct same age or experience in a specific domain of human functioning validity). (1993)—and in line with the In this next section we build on our previous discussion of majority of scholars in the giftedness literature—the motivation to definitions and operationalizations of talent by addressing the engage in lifelong deliberate practice differs among individuals as ‘measurement layer’ of our proposed framework (Fig. will result in performing consistently at one’s personal best (i.. excellence as two distinct operationalizations of excellence as the 2011). main criterion for talent.2. operationalization. employees who are achieve excellence (Lepak & Snell. in which both an ability and an affective component are the maximum of one’s capacity) (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi. so as to subsequently deploy their talents in a way adopted by authors situated in the positive psychology as well as that could enhance the organization’s performance and competi. & Hurling. follows we discuss the specific talent measures and methods Therefore. we want to offer support to HR practitioners in designing which is demonstrated to be crucial for achieving top perfor. and measurement motivation to invest 10. Organizational decision makers who operationa- lize excellence as performing consistently at one’s personal best. Sternberg & Davidson. as is assumed in the giftedness literature. 1). together with innate abilities and system. 2009). Scholars in the giftedness literature hold the belief that not all individuals can be talented. This is due to 4. This generates positive atic development. With the present review. as well. Maltby. innate factors determine merely which research gap by proposing a conceptual framework of talent in set of strengths can be developed and not whether or not you can which the relationship between talent and excellence is made develop talent at all. we posited that motivation 2000). theoretical papers explaining what (2001). This In the previous section we introduced our definition of talent. for instance. The measurement of the affective component of Proposition 5.1016/j. In what follows. 2005. the vocational psychology literature due to the ‘non-selective’ tive position (Collings & Mellahi.

2012. Ability component are extensively validated tools capable of capturing a wide variety of characteristics that enable human flourishing in particular Innate ability. Major et al. Hillenbrand. As for motivations and interests two large groups of measures We argue. Periathiruvadi & Rinn. Gasser. / Journal of World Business xxx (2013) xxx–xxx so in the future. & Benbow. 2012). 2009a). 2009b). questionnaires that are believed to be of particular value for 2010. & Bakker. Nijs et al. 2009. Parker.. 2001). Fetters. 1998). Performance can be Organizations can choose to adopt a talent definition in which assessed with the help of assessment centers in which the either the ability and/or affective component is—to a greater or knowledge and skills base of employees is evaluated. 2012.002 . and educational background is a frequently conducted practice (Silzer assessments of knowledge and skills as measures in their talent- & Church. Such decisions lack the power for predicting the sustained 2012. & Arthur. 1995. Steen. 2006. HR practitioners frequently use so-called Spreitzer.doi. In the HRM field specific IQ. 2005).org/10. Reade. Roberts.2. Seligman. & Borgen. 2002. 2001). 2010. vocational psychologists and positive psychologists have been tests. These tests are frequently combined with subjective judgments 2002). van Woerkom. The centers and ‘stretch’ assignments (Silzer & Church. 2013. excellence is the main criterion by which talent can be currently detected (Robinson. 1993)—or evoked by providing individuals with perform excellently (Buckingham & Clifton. but also the validity of the identification process. and measurement of talent.2013. can be probed using certain interview shown to be a necessary predictor of excellence. experience) employees have systemati. A multidisciplinary review into the definition. 2009) 4. and self-evaluation (Bailey & 1998) and the Career Anchors Inventory developed by Schein Morley.. these exercises can be applied to referred to as the ‘nine-box’ methodology. 2009a). 1995). Examples of self-report ment Test. 2000. Peterson.. cally developed throughout the life span and are capable of Whitty.1016/j. they need to be techniques—for instance. that can be identified: standardized self-assessment tools and reflec- talent-identification practices should not only aim to detect the tion exercises (see Table 1).. to identify strengths as drivers of excellence. No. we identify a wide range of multifaceted and Standardized self-assessment tools. Within this regard. Heaphy.e. Although innate abilities have the course of life. Informed by the theories about multiple performance domains. that can be applied in talent-identification procedures (re-)orient individuals toward an occupation or career that (see Table 1) such as WISC-R. The latter should be an important concern for organizations engaging time aspect is the main differentiator between talent and potential. Thus. Linley et al. also those employees who have the potential to be excellent in Standardized self-assessment tools. ‘talented’ according to this methodology. and the Self-Regulation and Concentration Test (Bianco. From the eighties onwards. intelligences we previously discussed (Bailey & Morley.jwb. In the HRM field specific reflection tasks as is the case in the Intelligent Career a number of methods are applied to assess the (amount of) Card Sort exercise (Amundson. Vocational psychologists domain-specific ability tests designed to capture specific innate have long developed and validated self-assessment instruments to abilities. in accordance with Silzer and Church (2009a). assessing (the amount of) previously acquired prefer achievement tests. collected through supervisor. http://dx. In the positive psycholo- different (larger) roles or activities in the future. performance. Proposition 7. Larson. the Wechsler Individual Achieve. Furnham & Lester. Parker. of Pages 12 6 S. 2009. 1986. Lubinski. Borgen. 2005) and the Inventory of Interpersonal Strengths (IIS) (Hatcher & Rogers. the Study of Values (1928. & Quinn. Hunter. Littman-Ovadia & Lavy. 2006. Park. & Peterson. Rust. nomination forms that focus on particular domains of human Reflection exercises. moments of successful talent deployment. the biographical interview technique combined with a particular skills and knowledge set in order to (Kelchtermans. a number of self-report questionnaires are proposed against basing talent-identification decisions solely on perfor. on a high level of performance and simultaneously show high the basis of which individuals can make more effective career potential within a given functioning domain are considered decisions. Riester. we advise gy literature. Preckel & Thiemann. talent already manifested in a given organizational setting. developing more open-ended methods that support individuals ing. thereby influencing not only the typically operationalized as the possibility to perform well in a specific measures and methods they will use for identification higher or different role and is mostly assessed using development purposes.G Model WORBUS-640. 2002) and so-called ‘reflected best self’s-exercises improving further. Interests. in talent-identification. Lubinski. (Meyers. these exercises should result in ratings (Silzer & Church. detecting interests are the Strong Interest Inventory (Betz & Saccuzzo & Johnson. knowledge and skills (i. & Bracco. as experienced over Systematic development. Organizational decision makers who operationa- 2009). The StrengthsFinder mance scores—which only reflect currently deployed abilities— (Buckingham & Clifton. To this end. supervisor. & tions are interested. both functioning are frequently applied. Affective component them to discover and undertake activities that (better) match their motivation and interest areas. the Values in Action Inventory of because they only evidence what is manifest at the present time. Please cite this article in press as: Nijs. peer. 2007. Money. Journal of World Business (2013). 2003. Only employees who demonstrate the formation of ideas of what one might become in the future.11. Baldwin. & da Camara. S. Regardless of the specific are nine possible combinations of performance and potential focus on motivation or interests. The integration of in eliciting the unique and continually evolving meanings they these ability tests is driven by the fact that IQ demonstrated to be a ascribe to talent by reflecting on meaningful life and work superior predictor of job performance after recruitment (Schmidt & experiences and how talent plays a role in them. interpersonal and intrapersonal excellence in which organiza. in Schmidt. at least when there detect both motivations and interests. operationalization. 2002). 2005). corresponds to their vocational interests. & Benbow. are often introduced in selection procedures. but Motivation. identification practices. lize talent mainly by the ability component are more likely to In addition. Potential is lesser extent—emphasized. Sanders. Larson & Borgen. 2007. Depending on the specific ‘performance-potential’ matrices for talent-identification—also questions asked or tasks given. et al. in order to avoid ‘false hits’ and ‘false While potential refers to the future possibility of excellent misses’. 2006.1. Strengths (VIA-IS) (Brdar & Kashdan. typically utilized to evaluate verbal and/or analytic reason. peer and self-ratings of per- knowledge and skills by investigating an individual’s résumé and formance within particular domains of human functioning. Diessner. exercises on ‘possible selves’ (Markus & Nurius. Dutton. can be managed toward excellence by stimulating 4. To this end. rating scales and (1996).

of Pages 12 G Model talent.. http://dx. and measurement of Table 1 Talent measures and methods. et al. No.2013.11. A multidisciplinary review into the definition. / Journal of World Business xxx (2013) xxx–xxx Self-Regulations and Concentration Test X X X Gifted Rating Scales-School form X X X X Scales for Rating Behavioral Characteristics X X X of Superior Students Marker’s DISCOVER model X X X Iowa Acceleration Scale X X X Adjusted Gifted Rating Scales-School form X X X X Adjusted Scales for Rating Behavioral X X X X Characteristics of Superior Students Teacher nomination scales X X X Self-nomination scales X X X Peer nomination scales X X X Tel-Aviv Activities and Accomplishment X X X X Inventory HRM literature Verbal reasoning tests X X X Analytic reasoning tests X X X Assessment centers X X X X Development centers X X X X Stretch assignments X X X X X X X Résumé X X X Vocational psychology Strong Interest Inventory X X X The Study of Values X X X Careers Anchors Inventory X X X The Intelligent Career Card sort X X X X X X X The biographical method X X X X X Positive psychology StrengthsFinder X X X The Values in Action Inventory of Strengths X X X The Inventory of Interpersonal Strengths X X X Possible selves exercise X X X X X Reflected best self-exercise X X X X X X X 7 . WORBUS-640.doi.jwb. Journal of World Business (2013).002 Please cite this article in press as: Nijs. S. Literature stream Measures and methods Characteristics of the measures and methods What? Who? How? Ability Systematic Motivation Interests Tests Self Peer Supervisor Standardized Open-ended development Giftedness literature WISC-R X X X Wechsler Individual Achievement Test X X X Standard Raven’s Progressive Matrices X X X Advanced Ravens Progressive Matrices X X X Torrance Test of Creativity X X X SAGES X X X Scholastic Aptitude Test X X X Defining Issue Test X X X S.org/10. Nijs et al.1016/j. operationalization.

essential to lize excellence as performing consistently at one’s personal best obtain a holistic view of the talents of employees (Ericsson et al. we could gain more insight into the profile of the most suitable 4. of innate and systematically developed abilities. however. Intrapersonal excellence ‘identifiers’ of talent.11. To this end. Contextualizing talent 4. 2004).g.. Journal of World Business (2013). we posit that lize excellence as performing better than other individuals of the organizational decision makers who operationalize talent both by same age or experience in a specific domain of human functioning the ability and the affective component are the most suitable are more likely to prefer methods and measures benchmarked assessors. Vaughan & Hogg. 2002). all interacting in determining excellence (Parker. for instance. Proposition 9. personal characteristics (Tormala. operationalization. but neverthe- population. Interpersonal excellence The (organizational) context (Bailey & Morley. of those individuals (e. implicit person theory. Furthermore. supervisor. Typically. et al. motivations and 1997). Organizational decision makers who operationa- Informed by the insights in the present paper. talented than others. The assumption underlying the principle of cut-off points is that individuals who 5. Pfeiffer. In order to detect those talents that lead to intrapersonal prefer standardized self-assessment tools and open-ended reflec. Proposition 10. son to their peers (Gagné.. prevalence. 2006) will exert an influence on the talent definition an organization subscribes to Measures reflecting an underlying focus on interpersonal and subsequently the talent-identification practices it will install. operationalizations. Only this way the identified talents can be accurately against an individual’s own (past) performances and capabilities— deployed in a manner that benefits both the individual and the reflected by a focus on subjective experiences of excellence in their organization. widely held in the giftedness literature. leading to identification with We offer some suggestions for future research. Tsay & Banaji. 1998b. Pfeiffer. those individuals that tional characteristics (e. 2005)— cut-offs range from the top 0. Organizational decision makers who operationa- lize talent both by the ability and the affective component of talent 5. assess for which types of organizations operationalizing excellence The issue of cut-off points is closely related to discussions about as interpersonal versus intrapersonal excellence is most beneficial.doi. 2006. No. remains unknown and therefore is in urgent need of further representing extremely to mildly talented individuals in compari. and measurement of talent.2013.G Model WORBUS-640. 5.org/10. current and (expected) Scholars operating within the discussed literature streams maximum performance. excellence are predominantly used to determine which individuals making it more likely for some individuals to be detected as are capable of outperforming others.3. measures of talent should be applied to gain insight into the enced by assessees. and assessments of knowledge and skills with self. so as to investigates attitudinal and behavioral reactions to (not) being adequately deploy them in environments in which performances identified as talent and links this to specific talent operationalization Please cite this article in press as: Nijs. scrutiny. Jia. the way in which interpersonal and intraper- expresses the percentage of individuals within a given population sonal excellence affect organizational excellence—a relation often that can be considered talented (Gagné. 2012.g. http://dx. little attention has been paid so far to how specific According to the majority of vocational and positive psychol.. argue that instruments capable of measuring the affective progression over time is an important variable. are most suited.001 to 10 percent of performers. lize talent mainly by the affective component are more likely to 2001). individuals against their own (perceptions of) performance. This makes a combination of various instruments.002 . assumed but difficult to research (Paauwe & Boselie..2. interests. cut-off points. personality). excellence. A multidisciplinary review into the definition. culture) relate to a certain perform above a certain score) are frequently applied—both in the definition and operationalization of talent seems useful. Organizational decision makers who operationa.g. / Journal of World Business xxx (2013) xxx–xxx Proposition 8. Consequently. are more likely to prefer methods and measures benchmarked 1993). 2005). at one’s personal best can be reached (Buckingham & Clifton.jwb. 2009).4. sector. talent-identification practices. Inserting assessors and assessees into the equation exceed a predefined relative or absolute threshold are in the possession of a particular rare ability that enables them to deliver The personnel selection literature and the social psychology performances impossible to achieve by the majority of the literature—beyond the scope of the present article. Directions for future research are more likely to combine achievement tests. insight into the definition. By empirically investigating the characteristics and absolute cut-off points in their talent-identification practices. which can be component of talent form a necessary extension to ability captured through follow-up measurement—see.. of Pages 12 8 S.1016/j. & Norton. on the basis of which empirical studies could be designed. size. tapping into Proposition 11. because they will engage in the most valid measurement against a specific norm population—reflected by a focus on relative approach to talent. so as to determine the gap between past. research that explicitly unique constellation of talents that everyone possesses. either with a relative (e. 2009). 2009). the top 10 percent of performers of a Therefore research that could help clarify if and how organiza- certain group) or an absolute norm (e. these cut-off points are implemented less useful—show that talent definitions and measurements are to detect the A players who perform better than others (Becker subjective by nature due to the influence of assessor and assessee et al. In this regard. methods and measures designed to benchmark tion exercises as measures in their talent-identification practices. Nijs et al. talent-identification practices. talent definitions. Especially educational as in the HRM field—to distinguish between the ‘haves’ valuable within this respect are research endeavors that could help and the ‘have nots’ (Bélanger & Gagné.. 2011. higher predictive power for interpersonal and intrapersonal excel- lence. Prevalence To date. Organizational decision makers who operationa- both the ability and the affective component of talent.. operationalization and measurement of assessment tools and reflection exercises as measures in their talent.g. peer and self-ratings of performance within particular domains of human Through our multidisciplinary review we aimed to offer more functioning. 1998b. and measures are experi- ogists.1. the measures. S. Within this perspective. because talent is believed to be a complex constellation literature on personal development plans (PDPs) (Taylor & Edge.

HRM scholars. Nevertheless. Interpersonal and intrapersonal excellence. Boudreau and Ramstad (2005. as described throughout this paper. team.. we argue that exceptional ability can occur in a multitude most suitable and will therefore benefit the organization the most. assert that all purposes because. providing employees with opportunities for practice is essential As summarized in Proposition 9. social capital) and teamwork in today’s relevant areas of human functioning and providing employees business environment—is certainly valuable to address in further with opportunities for systematic development) and self-respon- research (Al Ariss & Syed. implement talent-identification with the Throughout the literature—albeit in different literature main goal of detecting those individuals that are capable of taking streams—it is argued that both the exclusive and the inclusive on senior jobs with broad responsibilities and are therefore seen view of talent. 2011. Secondly. of Pages 12 S. operationalization. & Suutari. 2010. In organizational outcomes.2. Managerial relevance be convinced that workforce differentiation—corresponding to a focus on interpersonal excellence—is the way to go about By discussing managerial implications in terms of defining and managing talent. given intrapersonal excellence) should be aligned with the strategic aims their strategic direction. which depending on the organization at hand. http://dx. not all organizations are convinced that workforce differentiation will positively affect the attainment of strategic 6. Smith & Victorson. it directly affects kind of employees.org/10. as demonstrated in this paper. Van Zijderveld & Sonnenberg. motivation. & Zollo. articulating invisible motivations and interest areas).e. but have not yet developed The measures and methods presented in Table 1 emphasize these them in a systematic way thus can be trained toward excellence different components of the talent construct and vary in terms of Please cite this article in press as: Nijs. in their seminal work on ‘pivotal positions’. it might be advisable for organizations to not only Throughout this review.G Model WORBUS-640. Measuring talent on the fruitful mixture of specific innate and developed abilities. 2007). can generate positive 2003. Therefore.. 2012). Guo. 2008). Iandoli. the value of particular abilities varies be operationalized as leading to intrapersonal excellence. detected. organizations need to settings (Edwards & Sproull. Given the widespread use of teams in within the group of talented individuals and this on the basis of the organizations (Guzzo & Dickson. Jokinen. 2013. & Pepermans. we demonstrate that talent can also activities of an organization. we posit that not all talents can be equally valuable to an because such an exclusive interpretation of talent clashes with organization. developed and deployed in designated.e. 1). emphasizing interpersonal versus talent domains are most valuable for their organizations. A multidisciplinary review into the definition. 2006. However. 2013). As the expression of talent into excellent performance depends 6. van practice can differ considerably between employees equally Zijderveld. Hofmans. of domains. certain opinion organizational decision makers hold about the scarcity of organizations hold a reluctant attitude toward differentiation talent. one might investigate individuals take a certain responsibility in articulating these to how the talents of individuals. examine how talent can be manifested and identified in team In addition to developmental support. With the help of our of human functioning.. et al. Nijs et al. it is often assumed that organizations. can strengthen or hinder each other in achieving individual. 2013. it is crucial that (Oltra & Vivas-López. No.1. Since abilities are always linked to a specific domain their culture (Iles.. As motivation and climate and social beliefs on definitions and assessments of talent interests are not entirely visible to other parties. Since measure innate abilities. or organizational excellence. Kossek. We state that organizational character- accordance with Gagné (2009) and Buckingham and Clifton istics will determine which operationalization of excellence is the (2001). 1985). mainly adopting an individual differentiation (Huselid & Becker. typically adopting a human capital perspective to talent. 2010). it would be relevant to level of practice they have had to date. 2008. combining instruments that (Capaldo. 1996).e. forms a valuable contribution to the field (Buckingham & Clifton. This relational aspect of talent fell We conclude that a valid assessment of talent requires striking outside the scope of our review. referring to interpersonal and intrapersonal as future leaders (Chamorro-Premuzic & Furnham. organization. and implying more literature. detecting social networks (i.. seem to 6. Firstly. possess the necessary innate abilities. posit that an organization’s talent definition serves strategic 2007). 2013).jwb. with the term workforce order to achieve excellence. talent-identification practices grounded in sound theory.3. 2011). which may or may not be related to the core conceptual model (see Fig. not only the ones holding leadership the concrete identification practices preferred by organizational positions—as is often assumed in the HRM literature—can in fact decision makers which are subsequently interpreted and enacted be pivotal for guaranteeing the long-term success of an upon by employees (Wright & Nishii.doi. due to the potentially negative impact unequal treatment can exert on the motivation and performance levels of employees Ability and affective component. Dries. S. Informed by these findings. 2013). Brewster. and measurement of talent. 2011)—but to also differentiate perspective on talent. organizational decision makers (Arnold & Cohen. Defining talent goals. 2002). By focusing on this more support individuals in orienting them toward activities that draw aggregated level. Since the amount of received (Gelens.. of the organization (De Vos & Dries. Related to this. Thunnissen et al. From an individual to a relational perspective ee’s need for further development) seems desirable. Zhao & Du. & Ozeki. some organizations voice concern measuring talent. We identification tools and procedures. & van Gorp. excellence as criterion for talent respectively. Regardless of the specific not identified as talented (Gelens et al.1016/j. their strategic direction. in the HRM reflects a more inclusive view on talent. 2012). capable of achieving excellence. opportunities arise for studying effects of group upon their motivations and interests areas.e. Dries.11. systematic development. we focused on talent as something differentiate between talented and less talented individuals—often that is individually held. differential investment in their learning and development (customized to each talented employ- 5. 2001). before implementing specific talent. of which leadership is only one. sibility (i. we provide practical guidelines for designing about applying workforce differentiation for two main reasons. Sonnenberg.002 .. but—given the importance of a balance between organizational responsibility (i. and practice is installed to optimize the skills and knowledge sets of interests is advisable in order to obtain a holistic view of the talents employees—which are by definition trainable—employees who of employees so as to accurately predict excellence (Parker. Chuai. Journal of World Business (2013). & Preece. 1998. Roberts. 2012. in the HR literature. we advise What seems to be certain is that the specific talent definition organizational decision makers to carefully assess which specific organizations adhere to (i. regardless of egalitarian investment. 2011).2013. / Journal of World Business xxx (2013) xxx–xxx 9 and measurements.

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