Talent Management in academia: An exploratory study in Dutch universities using a multi-dimensional approach

Research output: ThesisDoctoral thesis 2 (Research NOT UU / Graduation UU)


Many business leaders, practitioners and academics attach great value to talent and TM, but there is still little known about how (and how well) TM really works in practice. In addition, current assumptions, viewpoints and actions in both academic and practitioner literature appear to be based on a narrow and biased TM ‘paradigm’, in which the organizational perspective (in particular of organizations in the private sector, multinationals and organizations in the US-context) is underlined. This thesis aims to identify and explain what happens in practice, and intends to contribute to the building of a broader and more balanced theoretical framework for TM. To do so, theoretical approaches from companion academic disciplines ─ HRM, OB, organization theory and educational psychology ─ are added as new ‘building blocks’ and linked to the dominant viewpoints in the TM literature. Second, to give counterbalance to the tendency to use universal models to explain TM in all organizations, this thesis contextualizes talent and TM; it takes the impact of the context and its interrelated actors into account. Third, this study goes beyond a focus on management interests, and investigates to what extent other stakeholders benefit from TM. In particular, the employee perspective on TM is included. The talents’ needs and preferences, and their perceptions of the value of the TM practices implemented by their employer are explored. Finally, the thesis bridges the gap between theory and practice. In contrast to many conceptual TM papers, the value of the new theoretical ‘building blocks’ is explored in empirical research. The empirical data were collected in an explorative, longitudinal study on TM policies and practices in five Dutch university departments. The central topics in the study were: the operationalization of talent, TM objectives, TM practices, the chain of processes in developing and implementing TM (including the factors that influence that process), and the perceived outcomes and effects, from both an organizational and the employees’ perspective.

The study showed that the two crucial actors in TM - the organization and the talented employee - have a different perception of the intended and actual value of TM. For the organization TM has particularly economic value, while the talents accentuate the non-economic value of TM. The organization is capable of shaping and implementing a TM system that meets its needs, so from an organizational perspective TM is effective and valuable. Since the needs of the talented employees are insufficiently addressed in the intended TM objectives and practices, and often also in the implementation of TM, TM has less value for the talents. Various factors at the institutional, organizational and individual level affect the shaping of TM, in which the influence of the actors involved in TM is significant. At the institutional level the role of the government as an external stakeholder in the shaping of the TM policy is remarkable, as is the vital role of academic line management in the implementation. The autonomous reaction of the talented employees to the TM practices of their employers is also worth noting.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Utrecht University
  • Boselie, Paul, Primary supervisor
  • B.G.M., Fruytier, Co-supervisor, External person
Award date9 Jan 2015
Print ISBNs978-90-393-6268-6
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jan 2015


  • talent management
  • talent
  • Strategic HRM
  • stakeholder value
  • pluralist
  • excellence
  • universities


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