Talent management: En undersøgelse af de sociale konsekvenser

Signe Prangsgaard Andersen & Astrid Maria Kirstine Poulsen

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis is a study of how Talent Management (TM) influences employees by its existence. The point of departure is curiosity about this HR concept, which is receiving growing interest among both practitioners and researchers despite the lack of a clear definition. By analysing how TM influences the employees who become involved in a talent program, we examine one of the blind spots in TM: the talent aspirants. We define this particular employee category as people who have been nominated for the talent program, but not selected. Hence, our field of study is how TM influences the subjectivity of talent aspirants, based on the assumption that people produce their selves through work. By analysing the literature on TM, we identify two different arguments. The hegemonic view revolves around business economics. Within this discourse, TM exists due to its ability to function as a facilitator for company success. Taking business economics as point of departure also entails that the talent is objectified as a pawn to fulfil company strategy. This implies that the talent can be shaped and moved around within the organisation dependent on how and where it adds value. The counter-argument criticises this view by arguing that a talent program will affect the employees involved. From this perspective, TM has social consequences. Whereas the hegemonic discourse does not articulate the talent aspirants, the counter-argument states that these people will become traumatised and demotivated when turned down during the talent program. We argue that the discourse surrounding TM in the literature and in practice affects the shaping of talent aspirants. The case example illustrates that the talent is objectified as a special type of employee with special competencies which are pre-defined by the company. Hence, the company creates an image of the ideal talent which the talent aspirant becomes subject to. By analysing the stories of four talent aspirants, we find that TM influences the talent aspirants in different ways. We see how two talent aspirants are shaped by the discourse in a way that makes them able to produce meaningful rationales as to why they should not be selected as talents. Due to this, the objectification and their subjectivities merge. On the other hand we also find that some talent aspirants feel objectified in a way which is not compatible with their selfunderstandings. This results in very emotional reactions to being turned down. The conclusion is that talent aspirants are influenced in different ways by TM, implying that both the hegemonic view and the counter-argument are too simplified. The shaping of talent aspirants is far more complex. Furthermore, a paradox arises since TM is said to be about harvesting special competencies. This implies a push perspective. However, when competencies are pre-defined by the company this entails a pull perspective. In this way TM can be said to prevent its own objectives.

EducationsMSc in Human Resource Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2009
Number of pages204