Inclusive and Exclusive Talent Perspectives

Talent management can be approached from either an inclusive or exclusive perspective. These perspectives reflect quite differing understandings of what constitutes talent. But more than that, they also communicate different understandings of what constitutes organizational culture and of what organizational membership, organizational participation, and organizational contribution might mean. At the outset, it is important to bear in mind that although inclusive and exclusive approaches have usually been considered binary opposites—with exclusive versions being generally more favored—there is an increased understanding that they are not mutually contradictory and might be more productively viewed as polar positions along a spectrum of possibilities [32-34].

Inclusive Talent Perspectives From these perspectives, talent is recognized as existing widely within the organization and all organizational participants are included in the process of talent management [35]. Thus, inclusive approaches provide all organizational participants with an equal opportunity to demonstrate talent, even though some may later fail to do so and be subsequently removed from the talent pool. As Swailes and Downs [36] note, fully inclusive talent management ‘is the recognition that all employees have talent, together with the ongoing evaluation and deployment of employees in positions that give the best fit and opportunity for employees to use those talents’ (p. 6). They add that talent should be evaluated through a process of consultation between employees and their organization. When talent levels fall below the standards that have been set, there is an expectation that the organization will assist employees to develop their talents, use them in more effective ways, or deploy them in different situations in which their talents might be better optimized. In inclusive talent management approaches, there is also an understanding that the standards for evaluating talents will be set ‘democratically, not arbitrarily.’

Crucially, inclusive talent perspectives recognize that all organizational participants have been recruited, selected, and hired because they possess talents that are valuable for the enterprise. In that sense, inclusiveness is as much about the recognition of legitimate organizational belonging and contributing as it is about the actual recognition of talent. The way in which the organization recognizes and appreciates talent is reflected in the organization’s utilization of these resources for its present and future growth. However, the organization also remains sensitive to how those possessing talent view themselves, to their sense of contributing to the workforce, and to their perception of organizational belonging, trust, and loyalty. As Downs and Swailes [37] put it: ‘Talent identification should encourage people to consider and to realize what matters to them in line with the interests of the organization’ (p. 277).

Exclusive Talent Perspectives Historically, the dominant approach has been an exclusive perspective in which: (a) talent is understood to reside with the few in the senior levels of the organizational hierarchy; and (b) talent management is devoted to the acquisition, retention, and promotion of those identified few [38]. Exclusive approaches are often linked to contexts in which there is high workforce differentiation, and where employees perform distinct and segregated activities [39, 40]. Exclusive approaches also understand that talent is a scare resource and that its distribution is highly skewed—certainly in the general population, and most likely in organization. With these assumptions in mind, it has seemed more efficient, in terms of organizational resources, to focus only on those who have been identified as possessing high talent potential. It is always difficult to calculate rates of return on talent, but some have questioned the putative higher rates of returns generated by investing exclusively on those that have those identified as having high talent potentials [41].

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