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Quid pro quo? Examining talent management through the lens of psychological contracts

Mathias Höglund (Hanken School of Economics, Helsinki, Finland)

Personnel Review

ISSN: 0048-3486

Article publication date: 3 February 2012




The present paper aims to explore the direct and indirect linkages between HRM practices and human capital within a talent management framework. The study extends previous research on the direct effects of HRM to examine how employee responses to HRM practices mediate the linkage between HRM and human capital.


The paper applies psychological contract theory as a lens to assess employee perceptions of the extent to which talent qualities are rewarded and the effect of such perceptions on employee‐felt obligations to develop skills.


The results indicate that HRM practices are positively related to employee‐perceived talent inducements and that talent inducements fully mediate the direct relationship between skill‐enhancing HRM and human capital. What is more, psychological contract obligations to develop skills partially mediated the relationship between talent inducements and human capital. These results imply that the differential treatment of employees based on criteria constituting talent can have positive effects on employee motivation and felt obligations to develop skills and apply these in service of the organization.


The presented framework and empirical findings reflect a dynamic view of talent management in which talent is not only a label granted to a static group of employees. Through the lens of the psychological contract, talent management can function as a framework within which to define, communicate and engender the development of qualities considered important for the achievement of present and future organizational goals.



Höglund, M. (2012), "Quid pro quo? Examining talent management through the lens of psychological contracts", Personnel Review, Vol. 41 No. 2, pp. 126-142.



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