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The Rhetoric, Politics and Reality of Talent Management: Insider Perspectives

Managing Talent: A Critical Appreciation

ISBN: 978-1-83909-094-3, eISBN: 978-1-83909-093-6

Publication date: 2 October 2019


In this chapter, Barbara Zesik draws on her experience as an HR Director in international businesses and on her empirical research with actors in talent situations across multiple industry sectors to explore the tensions between the rhetoric and reality of life in talent pools. Focussing on the relatively under-researched social and political aspects of managing talent and using seldom heard voices from people in talent programmes she illustrates how talent identification and management ‘really works’ and offers suggestions for better practice.

Managerial anxiety as a key obstacle to managerial capability, effectiveness and meaningful talent management is explored and organisational failures, such as the lack of development for managers and the persistent use of lag-measures, such as performance ratings, in talent assessment are analysed. Empirical research, conducted applying a social constructivist perspective, is relevant to academics and practitioners alike by offering a less theoretical, and perhaps more realistic perspective of talent management practices in organisations for academics and a more pragmatic, approachable and relatable viewpoint for practitioners.


Zesik, B. (2019), "The Rhetoric, Politics and Reality of Talent Management: Insider Perspectives", Swailes, S. (Ed.) Managing Talent: A Critical Appreciation (Talent Management), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 51-69.



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