This chapter aimed at contributing to a better understanding of the concepts of “talent” and “talent management”, from a different perspective of this topic by analyzing the perceptions of third year students that are finishing their graduation and will be facing the challenges of finding a job. Therefore, in the context of the curricular unit of International Human Resources Management, the students were invited to answer a set of questions to explore how they define talent and talent management. Based on the obtained answers, it was possible to explore how these students perceive the importance of knowing what a talent is and what perceptions they have about which companies are exemplar in the management of talents, as well as the role that HRM can play in attracting, retaining or wasting/losing talents.
Aligned with the literature the results show that it was not easy for the students to define what talent management is. Different dimension were adopted by the respondents, with a dichotomy on corporate responsibility and individual responsibility for identifying and developing talent. This dichotomy was complemented not only with another corporate versus individual aim, but also with the concepts/strategies of commitment, values and reciprocal instrumentality. Interesting is that talent management, from the different dimensions through which it was defined, is considered to be a responsibility of the organization as well as of the individual.
When trying to define what talent is, the respondents fail in their attempt, as in previous studies 8 . In their attempt, students have related the concept with different characteristics at the personal, individual, group and organizational levels. But most importantly, respondents highlight that, regardless of the level talent is defined, there is a need for development and continuous improvement of a talent.
On the role that HRM may have to attract and retain talent, the main finding is that HRM has to act in coordination with all the areas of an organization, and never as an isolated department. Additionally, respondents present different strategies and practices for HRM, and the organization, to be successful in attracting and retaining talent, but most significant is that the emphasis in all of those is the need for HRM, and the organization as a whole, to see and consider first the person(s) and not only the talent. This positioning of the respondents is aligned with the perspective of human capital , in which the view is that employees are unique and valuable in an organization. However, the respondents recognize that HRM practices are influenced by the institutional and cultural contexts of each society and that it is important for HRM principles, policies and practices to have a vertical and horizontal fit [14, 19].
HRM is consider to have an important role in talent management through the implementation of different practices, such as: recruitment and selection of internal or external persons that can potentiate talent in an organization; continuous training of all workers and creation of good working conditions; and fair and attractive practices of remuneration, incentives and benefits. Additionally, respondents call attention to the problems of HRM to focus only on individuals identified as talented, as advocate by some perspectives of talent management [19, 21, 22], since it can be negative to the organizational culture and discourage the other employees, putting at risk teamwork and collaborative spirit.
As a consequence of the difficulty in defining what talent is, the respondents when asked to identify talents, they did it in three main categories: personality with persistence as the most mentioned talent; knowledge, in which to know how to communicate was the most cited; and group, with teamwork as the talent most quoted. But the respondents also identified individuals and organizations as an example of talent, with a considerable list of names of persons and companies being mentioned. When directly asked to identify a business company that in the opinion of the respondents manage adequately their talents, the list is diversified with names of companies from Portugal, but also from other countries, and different activity sectors. The main criteria to select the companies were appropriate leadership and good human resources practices. Regarding the identification of teams/persons with good capacities in managing talent, the diversity was considerable, from sport teams to singers.
However, when asked about the reasons for an organization to waste/lose its talents, the respondents were very unanimous in mentioning poor organization management and poor human resource management, as a consequence of a devaluation of people considered talents or of the skills that characterize them as talents.
Finally, when questioned about their own talents, the most predominant were the ability and willingness to learn, leadership, ability to work as a team, creativity and persistence, tolerance and willingness to help others, from a rather long list. Although the students that participated in this study are not professionals or have studied talent management, their perception is important and shows the relevance of both practice and theory of IHRM in this particular subject.
The participants of this study will be, most likely, employees of twenty-first century organisations that are facing important challenges in what concerns human capital, and particularly talent management. One key aspect of strategic human resources policy is the maximization of the talent of individual employees as a unique source of competitive advantage for organisations. Therefore, it is important to better understand how organizations effectively manage their talents and also that both organizations and employees/individuals are aware that the context is one of the increasing global competition where talent management plays a central role in organizational and personal success. Both organizations and individuals have to be able to identify, develop and continuously improve their talents, as in the words of the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa [42: p. 148]:
To be great, be whole; don’t exaggerate Or leave out any part of you,
Be complete in each thing. Put all you are Into the least of your acts,
So too in each lake, with its lofty life,
The whole moon shines.