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A multi-dimensional approach to talent: An empirical analysis of the definition of talent in Dutch academia

Marian Thunnissen (Research Centre for Social Innovation, HU University of Applied Sciences, Utrecht, The Netherlands)
Pleun Van Arensbergen (Institute for Management Research, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands)

Personnel Review

ISSN: 0048-3486

Article publication date: 2 March 2015




The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the development of a broader, multi-dimensional approach to talent that helps scholars and practitioners to fully understand the nuances and complexity of talent in the organizational context.


The data were collected in two complementary research projects on the definition and identification of talented academics in the early stages of their careers. The first study focussed on defining and developing talent within university departments, in which the perspectives of management, policy advisors and talented employees themselves were taken into account. The second study investigated talent selection in the specific context of grant allocation by the Dutch Research Council (NWO).


The results suggest that the conceptualization of talent cannot be disconnected from its context. In particular, the perceptions of the different stakeholder groups in an organizational context have a major impact. Although talent is generally perceived as a combination of multiple components, this general outcome conceals the unilateral approaches to talent of the separate stakeholder groups. These unilateral interpretations of talent also affect the design of the talent management system. The paper describes the difficulties organizations are confronted within developing and implementing their talent programs.


This broader approach regards talent as a bundle of integrated components, and takes the impact of the organizational context and its interrelated stakeholders into account.



Thunnissen, M. and Van Arensbergen, P. (2015), "A multi-dimensional approach to talent: An empirical analysis of the definition of talent in Dutch academia", Personnel Review, Vol. 44 No. 2, pp. 182-199.



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