Publication Details

Wiblen, S. & McDonnell, A. (2019). Connecting 'talent' meanings and multi-level context: a discursive approach. International Journal of Human Resource Management, Online First 1-37.


Through an in-depth, multilevel case study of a professional services firm, this paper illuminates what stakeholders mean when they use the term 'talent'. The paper underlines how various contextual factors including, workforce composition, ownership structures and individual perceptions influence talent meanings within an organisation. Our analysis of talent phenomena at a multiplicity of levels illustrates that it is not only about the words, phrases, and terms employed when talking about talent that requires examination. There is a need to deliberate on the meanings that underpin the talk because while stakeholders may talk the same way they may mean different things. The paper makes a key theoretical contribution through specific recognition of the importance of thoughtful reflection of how stakeholders discursively construct meanings because 'talent' is a concept, which requires translation via talk to become meaningful within the material world and these meanings are influenced by context. Thus, we cannot infer, that talent meanings radiate within organisations, nor across organisational boundaries, industries or countries because discourses arise and materialise within specific contexts and we must acknowledge that talent discourses can not be removed from the context in which they operate.

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