The Changing Face of Talent Management


Talent management practices are slowly shifting to become more inclusive. What this means is that organisations are beginning to see each of their employees as having untapped potential, rather than talent as being restricted to a select few. Or as Josh Bersin has put it, ‘people management is replacing talent management’. Psychological research would support this shift, suggesting that it is likely to support organisational performance.  

The impact of labels

Lane4’s research has found that organisations are moving away from labelling certain employees as being ‘high potentials’. Research from educational psychology would suggest that this move is a wise one. In a clever experiment1, the Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck praised children for their hard work or their natural talent after completing a task. Sure enough, only those who had been praised for their natural talent chose to avoid more challenging tasks in the future. However, for high-potential individuals to become high performing ones, it’s vital to continue pushing and stretching themselves, instead of protecting their ‘high potential’ label. Does your organisation single out and give labels to the employees which it deems as ‘talented’?

The self-fulfilling prophecy behind talent

The second problem with the traditional view of talent is that it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Higher expectations of certain individuals can lead to increased performance; otherwise known as Pygmalion effect. One of the most famous examples of this is a study where teachers were told that some children had higher potential than other children2. Even though these children were actually selected at random, these children became the high performers. So within business, it’s clear that expecting highly of all direct reports in business is a must. To what extent do the leaders in your organisation expect highly of all of their employees?

Performance depending on ‘b-players’

‘High potential’ labels and expecting highly of only certain employees may also demoralise those who are not deemed as ‘talent’ by the organisation. This is despite some researchers even arguing that companies’ long-term performance depends on the unsung commitment of the organisation’s “B players” 3. This is not to deny that some employees will have greater levels of potential than others. Instead, it’s to focus instead on how organisations can recognise the achievements of, and get the most out of, all of their employees.

The role of talent management is becoming less and less about identifying and ranking the ‘top talent’, and is shifting to become more inclusive in order to recognise and utilise the talents of each and every employee. To what extent does your organisation provide people management, rather than simply talent management?




1. Dweck, C. (2012). Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential. Constable & Robinson Limited

2. Rosenthal, R. & Jacobson, L. (1968). Pygmalion in the Classroom. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston

3. DeLong & Vijayaraghavan. (2003). Let’s hear it for B players. Harvard Business Review, 96-102

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