Standing on the shoulders of giants? A critical review of empirical talent management research

Eva Gallardo-Gallardo (School of Industrial Engineering of Barcelona (ETSEIB), Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya-Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain)
Marian Thunnissen (Research Centre for Social Innovation, Hu University of Applied Sciences Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Publication date: 4 January 2016



The purpose of this paper is to frame empirical literature on talent management (TM), and to provide a clear and comprehensive picture of the topics under investigation, the conceptualization of TM, and under-explored areas.


The authors adopted a systematic review that covers empirical research on TM which has been published between 2006 and 2014 in academic peer-reviewed journals. A total of 96 articles were included in the review. A bibliometric as well as a content analysis has been carried out.


The results reveal that the Anglo-Saxon context (in particular EU) has a great impact on empirical TM research. Also research foundations and designs are not very rigorous. A slight awareness of context and culture was found. Empirical TM research is predominantly built on an exclusive approach to TM. Yet, how TM works in practice and how well (from the perspective of multiple actors) as well as the role and perceptions of line managers are under-explored areas.

Practical implications

The paper gives vision and direction to practitioners in particular on the definition of talent and TM.


This study frames the extent and nature of empirical research on TM, and it is the first to specifically and objectively examine the advances made in the field and to identify under-explored areas. By doing so, it helps to avoid presumptions and misguided beliefs, to advance the knowledge of TM issues in organizations and regions, and to better channel future research.



Gallardo-Gallardo, E. and Thunnissen, M. (2016), "Standing on the shoulders of giants? A critical review of empirical talent management research", Employee Relations, Vol. 38 No. 1, pp. 31-56.

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