Introductory Literature Review

During my first piece of writing, I contextualised the growing leadership crisis in schools. This position paper argued for the research question; ‘The growing school leadership crisis in Queensland schools: Is talent management a solution?’. In my second paper, I have taken a focus on introducing the literature and developing my definitions through a mini-literature review. Having this paper critiqued by an academic operating in the field of business was daunting, however it highlighted that the key principles in the paper were relevant and held valid position in the field of education. Now onto paper three…research methodology.

Extending my definition

Defining Talent Management

Talent management simply signifies the efforts an organisation undertakes to attract individuals, build the capacity of their employees, deploy employees to where there is a need and retain skilled and valuable employees to achieve strategic objectives and future needs of a workplace  (Baqutayan, 2014; Silzer & Dowell, 2010). However, how talent management is defined precisely is highly contested.  Lewis and Heckman (2006) identify that there is a significant lack of clarity regarding the definition, scope and overall goals of talent management.  This diversity in definition, purpose, intent and approach is widely evidenced in the literature (Asplund, 2019; Hoff & Scott, 2016; Khorida & Meliala, 2018; Myung, Loeb, & Horng, 2011; Schiemann, 2014; Silzer & Dowell, 2010; Vaiman & Collings, 2013).  The difference is believed to be primarily caused by the level of inclusivity, focus on potential or performance, development of talent internally compared to external recruitment and systems and processes used within and organisation (Vaiman & Collings, 2013).  Ingram and Glod (2016) identified that the diverse definitions can be framed into four main perspectives; practices and functions related to human resource management; identification and development of valuable competencies of talented employees; employee supply, demand and internal succession planning; and the identification of pivotal positions rather than talent itself.

This diversity in definition should not be seen as a detractor from exploring the principles of talent management or seeking ways to improve talent management systems in the workplace (Boudreau, 2013).  Instead there is suggestion that there is value in exploiting the diversity of definitions that exist (Boudreau, 2013; Dries, 2013).

While there is diversity in definition, there are common themes that are visible across definitions;

  • Talent management is systematic and strategic with the purpose to improve the outcomes and competitiveness of a workplace (CIPD, 2014; Collings & Mellahi, 2009; Hoff & Scott, 2016; Ingram & Glod, 2016; Mishra & Sarkar, 2018; Silzer & Dowell, 2010).
  • It serves the purpose of attracting, developing, deploying and retaining employees (CIPD, 2014; Hoff & Scott, 2016; Khorida & Meliala, 2018; Schiemann, 2014; Silzer & Dowell, 2010).
  • Employees are developed to create a talent pool, through an inclusive approach (all employees) or exclusive approach (identified individuals) (Asplund, 2019; Earley & Jones, 2011; Ingram & Glod, 2016; Roy & Devi, 2017)
  • It involves some form of assessment of an individual’s performance, potential or desired characteristics and attributes (talents) to identify the best fit for a role (Macfarlane, Duberley, Fewtrell, & Powell, 2012; Silzer & Dowell, 2010; Turner, 2018).
  • Practices that form talent management are culturally and contextually specific to workplaces (Collings, Scullion, & Vaiman, 2015; Frost, 2016; Vaiman & Collings, 2013)

For the purpose and intent of this paper, a narrow definition for Talent Management has been developed from the literature to assist in answering the research question.  Talent Management will be defined as a balanced approach to inclusive and exclusive practices to identify (recruit and recommend) teachers with talent, already working within the field of education, to develop a pool of potential school principals.  As this research is specifically aiming to address the growing leadership crisis in schools, this definition intentionally excludes the elements of retention and development once in the role of a principal.  It also deliberately focuses on internal identification, rather than recruitment from external sources as it is uncommon for non-teachers to be competitive for the role of a school principal (Richardson, Watts, Hollis, & McLeod, 2016).

A pondering thought…

High potential leaders are often described as having aspiration or want for leadership, ability, agility and engagement (Bridgespan, 2012; Dries, Vantilborgh, & Pepermans, 2012; Ginther, 2014; Murphy, 2004).  They possess superior or rare qualities and skills that enables the possibility of development to help a company achieve objectives (Rebeťák & Farkašováb, 2014).  Rebeťák & Farkašováb (2014), describe this as being quite similar to talent where a “talent” has the abilities, skills, expertise, personal qualities and potential for the future.  What is missing from Rebeťák’s & Farkašováb’s (2014) description is the principle of aspiration.

This leads me to question, how important is personal aspiration for leadership in being identified as a High Potential and can aspiration be developed in an individual? Are we missing out on capturing a whole pool of talent because they do not display aspiration for leadership for a multitude of reasons such as family, work-life balance, self-doubt or no visible career pathways. Could it be that potential leaders just don’t know about the value of a leadership opportunity?   According to the neuroscience of mimetic desire, once someone else shows value in something, we want it and value it as well.

In the context of education, are school principals advocating the real value and impact of the position to teachers and the benefit it has for them as individuals? There is already a suggestion that this may be so as a lack of understanding about the varied and complex aspects of the role of a principal is cited as one of the reasons for a declining interest in principalship (AITSL, 2015, QTU, 2018; The Wing Institute, 2018).

Could it just be that aspiration needs to be defined further.  Must aspiration in the context of high potentials be viewed as an aspiration for a leadership position, or could it simply be the aspiration for improvement of oneself?



Measuring and Managing Talent

According to Baqutayan (2014), there are three elements to growing talent within the workforce.   Psychological contracts, which relate to informal obligations between an employer and employee, which are developed through mutual beliefs and perceptions.  In many respects, this relates to Social Exchange Theory and the principles that more an employee is invested in, the greater commitment to the employer.   Secondly, Baqutayan (2014), identifies that Career Paths are an integral part of any Talent Management process, providing talented employees room to grow, both locally and as part of the global enterprise.  The third element is the development of a talent culture, which espouses the values, beliefs, behaviours and environment required to attract, engage, and retain committed and competent employees.

From a personal viewpoint of working in education in Queensland, these three principles are significantly challenged, specifically in the primary sector.  In primary education in Queensland, there is limited promotional career path opportunities prior to principalship.  This is usually restricted to a Head of Department (Curriculum) or Deputy Principal in comparison to the secondary sector, where there are multiple opportunities for leadership, such as Year Level Coordinators, Heads of Department, and often multiple Deputy Principals.  Even in other states, such as Victoria there are multiple formal opportunities for positions of added responsibility whether as paid or unpaid positions including; year level coordinators, specialist teachers, leading teachers, assistant principals

There is also a superficial and inconsistent approach to a talent culture.  Existing processes such as Developing Performance Planning, encapsulated within the Employee Performance, professional development and recognition policy are implemented with significantly diverse levels of diligence.

While, developing talent is often associated with strong business outcomes, Baqutayan (2014), drawing on various studies identifies that there are 7 psychological outcomes of Talent Management for the individual employee;

  • Becoming more innovative
  • Always participating in teamwork
  • Using more emotional intelligence
  • Developing positive mindset
  • Positive attitude
  • Professionalism
  • Ambition

These psychological outcomes are also viewed as indicators of a talent within the workplace.  A talent could therefore be seen as an individual that is innovative, engages collaboratively in team work, displays strong emotional intelligence, holds a positive mindset and attitude, models professionalism and maintains drive and personal ambition.

While what is seen as talent is workplace specific, these attributes could be seen as a broader set of traits of talent across professions and employment fields.




Exploring current trends in Talent Management in the Business World

Frost (2016) defines talent as “people with ambition and potential…it refers to aptitudes of different people matched to the needs of an organisation”.   What is interesting, is that the idea of potential within talent management continues to be raised across the literature and is a key element to be explored and defined.  However, it is High-Potential that needs to be considered, where, “high-potential employees are the ones who have the ability, aspiration, and engagement aspects” to provide organisational competitive advantage, positive influence on performance (Sweis, Sharef, Jandali, Obeidat and Andrawes, 2018).

The concept of talent being connected to the needs of an organisation, provides further thought about the importance of standards and that what is deemed as talent is occupation specific. Every organisation should have its own set of criteria and conceptualisations of what is deemed as talent (Sweis,, 2018). It confirms the difficulty of transfer-ability of skills from outside of education into the education space and connects to the findings from Roza, Elio, Harvey & Wishon (2003), where it is unlikely that applicants from outside of education will be considered for principal positions.

Homogenous Talent Management or HTM has been the popular talent management strategy of the business for the last few decades, however as Frost (2016, p.7) identifies “HTM is talent management that fails to account for or benefit from difference”.

Corporations that approach Talent Management from a HTM approach, are often adopting homophilic practices in their recruitment and promotional processes.  It is reflected by employing “the known” – employees from within the existing workplace or with pre-established relationships, even when an unknown candidate may be better.   Employing from the known, reduces risk, but can limit opportunity for growth.

In business, most promotions also go to extroverts over introverts and approaches to employing difference are more often focused on recruiting difference that can assimilate into the existing culture, rather than difference that can challenge and enhance existing practices and culture.

There has been a growing awareness for the need for diversity, however this is more superficial for example by the use of quotas.  While there are positives to quotas in assisting employers to help identify unconscious bias, they can be seen as a “rearguard action, a crude, insensitive intervention and another barrier to the free flow of talent”.   Creating targets for one marginalised group can further exclude other marginalised groups.

Quotas can further reduce the incentive of target groups to invest and can be internalised as a subsidy and reduce drive and confidence of applicants from target groups.  Further, quotas can add uncertainty into promotion decisions as to whether it is a merit or quota decision for appointment.

Frost (2016) calls for a new inclusive approach to talent management (ITM), which doesn’t create targets and rules to follow, but removes barriers, focusing on all employees reaching and working at potential.

Sweis, (2018), reflect that talent management can have a substantial impact upon an individuals effectiveness in the team environment.  However, individuals who self-identify as being able to perform and offer more, feel entrapped by their roles, due to a lack of acknowledgement from their managers, lack of talent definition and current positioning that fall below their competences.

You get what you advertise for…

Darling-Hammond, Meyerson, LaPointe, & Orr (2010) identified that while there was a growing rate of principal shortage being reported in the US by superintendents, it was found that there was not a shortage of candidates, it was more a shortage of well-qualified candidates who are willing to work in the places of highest demand.   This supports the findings of the Wallace Foundation, where the shortage of principals, was rather a matter of definition.  Roza, Celio, Harvey and Wishon (2003) identified that while there were more people certified to be principals than the number of vacancies, there was some difficulty, in some area in finding good school principals.  However, Hine (2003) argues that while yes there are adequately certified principals in the US, few actually wish to apply for the position of principal.

The challenges to attracting teachers to school leadership have been well documented in the literature and include; role complexity, general lack of understanding about the varied and complex aspects of the role of principal, perceptions around the inheritance of school leadership, the difficulty in transition from classroom teacher to principal, lack of clear pathways for career progression and disparity between high levels of responsibility and financial remuneration are making the role unattractive to qualified and suitable applicants (AITSL, 2015; The Wing Institute, 2018; Queensland Teachers’ Union, 2018).  Richardson, Watts, Hollis and McLeod (2016) in their analysis of the advertising used for principal vacancies, propose another contributor to the shortage of applications.

They identified that while there is a global shift in evolution of leadership in corporations, non-profits, government agencies and NGOs, with leadership position roles and titles addressing the changing demands in organisation responsibility, this shift is not as evident in education. In the world outside of education, there are new roles being created such as Chief Innovation Officer and User Experience Manager, who are addressing the needs of organisations to respond to customer and workload demands.  Richardson (2016) identified that this shift in leadership demand is affecting the principal shortage.  A significant finding from Richardson was the variance between what researchers and academics identify as the role of the principal, and what districts advertise for when seeking new principals.   While the advertisements studied, identify the role of principal as interchangeable across districts, what is advertised for continues to be in the classic areas of day to day management and operations, similar to what was expected decades earlier.  Richardson (2016) suggest that the difficulty in finding “good principals” for schools, is a reflection of the underwhelming sameness of their principal advertising.

What Richardson’s analysis of these advertisements further provides, is a scope of what is currently being expected from employers.  From a talent management position, this list could contribute to informing principals of themes to identify potential aspirants and contribute to an aspirants planning when developing their performance.  In Australia, many of these expectations are evident in the Australian Professional Standards for Principals.




More thinking about justifying talent management as a response to declining aspirations of teachers for the role of principal.

The quality and adequacy of principal preparation is cited as being one of the major contributing factors to declining principal applicant pools (AITSL, 2015, Darlin-Hammond et al., 2010; The Wing Institute, 2018; Rowland, 2017; Zellner et al., 2002).  However, there are other factors, just as pertinent to declining aspirations. These include the lack of understanding about the varied and complex aspects of a principal’s job; the perception that school leadership is inherited; the difficulty of transition from classroom teacher to principal and a lack of clear pathways for career progression (AITSL, 2015; The Wing Institute, 2018; QTU, 2018).  Aspiration for leadership is also seen to decrease the longer that a teacher is the classroom (ACER, 2013; Australian HR Institute, 2018; William & Morey, 2015).  These factors can be addressed through a full talent management system.

An additional thought is around the language described in principal preparation.  This includes, recruitment, recommendation, support and retention.  However, I believe that we need to also include “recognising potential” as part of the process.   This brings into the discussion what is the difference between identifying potential vs identifying performance.   Maybe the framework of talent management could be recognise & recruit, recommend and reinforce (building capacity/supporting practice) and finally retain.  This practice of identifying potential (or High Potential) was employed through the Future Leaders project run by Education Queensland and QELI from 2015 to 2017 and something to further review in regards to its potential as forming part of a talent management system.

Continuing to rework and refine my research project

The largest challenge I am finding in my research, is clarifying what I am examining.  The more I read, the more my perceptions change and the more I need to consider.  So…after more reading and lots of conversations, I present an iteration of my research project.  I know this won’t be the last, nor is the question right, but it is getting closer.

Is talent management the response required to address the growing school leadership crisis in the Queensland Schooling context?

This study will examine the challenges of a talent management system in Queensland schools, by taking into consideration culture, legislation, policy, practices, values and role of participants and facilitators of talent management. It will more specifically look at how existing principals can navigate this minefield of factors, to effectively talent manage teachers from early in their career to build greater aspiration for the role of school principal. It will further explore how aspirants in Queensland can be trained to continue, what Early & Jones (2011) define as the “regular flow” of potential leaders.  Based on the work of Asplund (2019), Myung, Loeb & Horng (2011), Schiemann (2014), Turner (1960) and Vaimann & Collins (2013), I will define talent management in this research project as a balanced approach to inclusive and targeted practices that are used to identify (recruit and recommend) and develop potential leaders early in their career from within education. ACER’s Staff in Australia’s School 2013: Main Report of the Survey defines early career teachers as being within their first five years of teaching.



Some curious thoughts to explore

1) It is recognised that there is a decrease in interest in the role of principal, and that the longer a teacher spends in the classroom, the less aspiration they have to move into leadership (Williams & Morey, 2015).  However, is this due to a building interest and confidence in personal skills in teaching in a classroom? Is it that early career aspiration is about escaping the challenging environment of the classroom? Or could it be that teachers see the role of principal as attainable (false sense of readiness) in early career teachers, but with time and experience in a school the challenge and complexity of the role becomes too evident and results in teachers shying away from the role of the principal?

2) Wasonga and Murphy (2007) identify the dispositions required of leaders to drive student outcomes.  One of these is the skill of being egalitarian in their beliefs.  The values of egalitarianism in education is also raised by Asplund (2019). Yet, the practice I am proposing of Talent Management, with targeted systematic and strategic identification, recruitment, recommendation and support of aspirants, could be seen as contrary to the values of egalitarianism.