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Talent Management and Employee Retention: Implications of Job Embeddedness- A Research Agenda

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  • Kerala Institute of Local Administration

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In the current business scenario, talent management is known as a popular retention strategy for talented employees, but how talent management leads to greater employee retention is an unexplored terrain. Based on an extensive literature review, the present article suggests a theoretical framework that introduces job embeddedness as an intervening variable for exploring how talent management practices influences employee’s intention to stay. In addition, it discusses the influence of talent management practices on various dimensions of job embeddedness. The multiple propositions suggested provides HR practitioners with insights to strive for retention of talented employees through talent management, by focusing on various initiatives that increase the link, fit and sacrifice dimensions of embeddedness. Keywords: Talent Management, Job Embeddedness, Employee Retention, Link, Fit, Sacrifice
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Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2829273
TALENT MANAGEMENT AND EMPLOYEE
RETENTION: IMPLICATIONS OF JOB
EMBEDDEDNESS- A RESEARCH AGENDA
Anoopa Narayanan*
*Doctoral Research Scholar, School of Management Studies,
Cochin University of Science and Technology, Kerala, India
Email: anoopanarayan@gmail.com
Abstract In the current business scenario, talent management is known as a popular retention strategy for talented employees, but how
talent management leads to greater employee retention is an unexplored terrain. Based on an extensive literature review, the present article
suggests a theoretical framework that introduces job embeddedness as an intervening variable for exploring how talent management practices
inuences employee’s intention to stay. In addition, it discusses the inuence of talent management practices on various dimensions of job
embeddedness. The multiple propositions suggested provides HR practitioners with insights to strive for retention of talented employees
through talent management, by focusing on various initiatives that increase the link, t and sacrice dimensions of embeddedness.
Keywords: Talent Management, Job Embeddedness, Employee Retention, Link, Fit, Sacrice

The irreversible shift from the industrial age to informational
age has given rise to knowledge jobs, which has intensied
demand for high caliber managerial talent. This increasing
demand along with growing propensity for employees to
switch the company has made employee retention a real
concern for organisations. Study of Hay Group shows that in
next 5 years, the global turnover rate is expected to rise from
20.6 to 23.4 percent (Hay Group, 2013). Deloite’s Human
Capital Trends Study 2014 identies retention as one of the
top two people issues of organisations (Bersin, 2013).
Due to the huge differential value created by a talented
employee, the recent researches in human resource area
tend to focus on retention of talented employees than of
entire workforce. No organisation can even imagine hazards
of losing a top talent, especially to its rival organisation.
At times, even a single employee can change the destiny
of the organisation. Mckinsey and Company highlight
the importance of talented employees by pointing out
that a best software developer can write 10 times more
usable lines of codes than average developers (Michaels,
Handeld- Jones, & Axelrod, 2001). Over the last few years,
managing top talent has become a hot topic of discussion
among academicians and HR practitioners. The combined
pressure of demographic, workforce and market forces
has made managing talented employees a herculean task.
It is in this scenario the HR practitioners and consultants
advocates ‘talent management’ as a panacea for dealing with
all talent-related issues and in last one decade it is evolving
as a valuable human resource initiative for talent retention.
Talent management that includes identifying, developing
and cultivating of those individuals who are of great value
to an organisation, gains prominence because of its claim on
reducing turnover of talented employees which is a serious
concern of organisations.
Even though practitioners and consultants praise talent
management for the miracles it can create in an organisation,
how talent management leads to greater employee retention,
seems to be an unexplored terrain. Not many studies have
focused on how the talent management practices lead to
increased talent retention rates. Like any other management
strategy, talent management cannot directly inuence the
retention behaviour of employee. So what could be the
attitude developed in talented employees that may inuence
their behaviour is crucial in understanding the role of talent
management in employee retention. The term employee
retention used throughout the article refers to the retention
of talented or high potential employees identied by the
organisation, and to whom the talent management initiatives
are focused.
The objective of this article is to develop testable propositions
concerning the link between talent management practices
and employee retention, and the mediating inuence of
perceived job embeddedness. This paper starts with an
Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2829273
Talent Management and Employee Retention: Implications of Job Embeddedness- A Research Agenda 35
overview of talent, talent management, job embeddedness,
and turnover intentions. In the next section the proposed
conceptual framework and testable propositions for future
research are presented. The conclusion summarises the major
ndings of the study and possible managerial implications.

Talent
The starting point for any Talent Management research must
inevitably be an exploration of what is meant by ‘talent’
(CIPD, 2007) but it is really hard to nd a universal denition
of talent. There are numerous denitions of talent found
in the academic Human Resource Management (HRM)
literature. Similarly human resource practitioners’ literature
also contributes various organisation-specic denitions of
talent which are highly inuenced by the industry type and
nature of the work. Such denitions are dynamic and can
vary between organisations, or within the same organisation
over time (Tansley, 2011).
Talent can be conceptualised in two broad ways- object
and subject approach. In object approach, talent refers to
personal characteristics or an innate ability that manifests in a
particular eld, whereas in the subject’ approach talent refers
to a person or persons of talent who possesses special skills
or abilities. Even though the object approach has a better
t with the etymological meaning of talent (Tansley, 2011),
the subject approach seems to have much more prevalence
in organisational practice and talent management literature
(Gallardo-Gallardo, Dries, & González-Cruz, 2013).
In an article of Chartered Institute of Personnel and
Development (CIPD) denition of talent which takes a
subject approach to talent concept is given as “talent as
individuals who can make a difference to organisational
performance, either through their immediate contribution
or in the longer term by demonstrating the highest levels of
potential” (CIPD, 2007).

Talent Management (TM) is a term in common currency
today but became popular after Mckinsey & company
coined the term ‘War for talent’ in 1997 for their research
on talent management & practices (Michaels et al., 2001).
Since then there was a huge explosion of literature in the
talent management area which is still continuing. This
growing numbers of articles and books on the topic make
one believe that ‘talent management’ is a well-dened area
of practice supported by extensive research and a core set
of principles, but in fact, a majority of them lack empirical
research support.
Talent management lacks a consistent denition and clear
conceptual boundaries (Collings & Mellahi, 2009; Ashton &
Morton, 2005; Lewis & Heckman, 2006) and is considered
as a complex and continually evolving concept (Lockwood,
2006). Lewis and Heckman (2006) through an extensive
review of the literature identied three distinct strains of
thought around the concept of talent management which
includes- rebranding the human resource management
in the label of talent management, concentrating on the
development of talent pools, focusing on talent generically
irrespective of its organisational boundaries or specic
positions. Collings and Mellahi (2009) incorporated a fourth
stream which emphasizes the identication of key positions
rather than the talented individuals.
The novelty in the term talent management and its associated
legitimacy has fascinated many organisations to rename their
human resource management system. But unfortunately
they fail to differentiate talent management from normal
human resource management, so the criticisms like old wine
in new bottle emerges. Human resource management is a
wide umbrella of numerous employee related practices, but
talent management is a focused strategy which aims at high
potential employees or talented employees.
For dening talent management, it is important to consider
the two major approaches to talent management- exclusive
and inclusive approaches. The exclusive approach follows
the ‘workforce differentiation’ concept and understands
talent as an elite subset of the employees in the organisation
who can make a difference to the organisational performance
(CIPD, 2007). The inclusive approach is often from
‘humanistic’ considerations, and suggests allocation of all
of the organisational resources equally among employees,
as everyone in the organisation has potential ‘talent’
(Iles, Chuai, & Preece, 2010). These approaches to talent
management have emerged based on the subject approach of
talent. Even though inclusive approach seems appealing, it is
exclusive approach is the most prevalent approach to talent
management found in HR practice and widely supported
in the literature (Ready, 2010; Gallardo-Gallardo et al.,
2013). In this article, talent management takes an exclusive
approach with the denition given by Blass (2007) who
denes talent management as the additional management
processes and opportunities that are made available to people
in the organisation who are considered to be ‘talented’.

Over past ve decades, academicians and management
practitioners have shown sustained interest on the employee
turnover concept, as voluntary employee turnover is always
a key concern for the organisations. Turnover is dened as
the “individual movement across the membership boundary
of an organisation” (Price, 2001). Often studies focus on
36 Journal of Strategic Human Resource Management Volume 5 Issue 2 June 2016
voluntary turnover, as actual turnover fails to distinguish
between cases where individuals have decided to leave and
cases where they were forced to leave like death, retirement
and dismissal. Voluntary turnover is the “voluntary cessation
of membership of an organisation by an employee of that
organisation” (Morrell, Wilkinson, & Loan-Clarke, 2001).
Managing turnover is crucial for any organisation because
of the huge cost associated with a same, which includes the
cost associated with pre-departure, recruitment, selection,
orientation & training, and lost productivity (Tracey &
Hinkin, 2008). Researchers have identied several factors
that contribute to turnover, ranging from demographic factors
to job embeddedness, and thereby suggesting different
new strategies that go well beyond traditional solutions to
increase the retention rates. The raging demand of talent
employees and difculty in managing them had shifted
the focus of literature to talent retention than employee
retention in general. Academicians and practitioner are much
concerned about the various practices that may reduce the
employee turnover rates. Whenever the discussion focuses
on talented employees, the talent management comes into
picture and is positioned in human resource management
literature as an effective strategy for reducing turnover of
talented employees.

Mitchell, Holtom, Lee, & Sablyn (2001) developed a new
perspective to view employee retention, job embeddedness,
which represents a broad set of forces, both on-the-job
factors and off-the-job factors that inuences an employee’s
decision to stay in the organisation. The more embedded an
employee, lesser will the chances to leave the organisation.
This construct challenges the conventional wisdom of
employee dissatisfaction as a major predictor of quit and
role of money in making them stay. It threw light to various
other reasons for leaving which may be unrelated to their
jobs and in many cases it could be an unexpected event or
shock (Holtom, Mitchell, Lee, & Inderrieden, 2005).
The critical dimensions of job embeddedness includes
(1) ‘link’ that refers to formal or informal connections
that employee holds with individuals, organisation, and
community, 2) ‘t’ which is the perceived compatibility or
comfort of the employee with an organisation and with the
environment, and (3) ‘sacrice’ that represents the perceived
cost of material or psychological benets that are forfeited
when quitting the organisation. These dimensions include
both on-the-job and off the job, that can be represented by
three-by-two matrix, that includes six dimensions-links, t,
and sacrice associated with the organisation and with the
community (Holtom, Mitchell, & Lee, 2006).
Studies highlight that embedded employees have lesser
intentions to leave the organisation (Bambacas & Kulik,
2013; Bergiel, Nguyen, Clenney, & Taylor, 2009; Mitchell
et al., 2001). Apart from a single construct, each dimension
of job embeddedness also contributes signicantly to lower
the turnover intentions. It is been identied that better the
t dimension, the higher the likelihood that the employee
feels professionally and personally tied to the organisation.
Similarly higher the number of links between the employee
and the organisation as well as the community, the more will
be his binding with the organisation. Also, when more an
employee has to give up when leaving, the more difcult it
will be to leave the organisation (Mitchell et al., 2001). In
short, higher the dimensions of embeddedness- t, link and
sacrice, higher will be employees’ intention to stay in the
organisation.

    
     

In this section, the reasoning of the framework is discussed
and testable propositions concerning the relationships between
talent management, job embeddedness and intention to stay
are developed. The objective of the suggested framework is to
explain the role of job embeddedness in the relation between
talent management and employee’s intention to stay.


Organisations are very concerned about the employee
turnover as they recognise talented employees as source of
competitive advantage. Talent management is considered as
the most adopted human resource initiative to tackle with
talent turnover issues. Researchers have identied that when
perceived level of talent management practices increases,
turnover intentions observed in talent employees decreases
(Oehley & Theron, 2010; Plessis, 2010; Sonnenberg, 2011).
When organisations employ more talent management
practices, it signals an organisation’s interest in investing in
its people. This may enhance the psychological connection
between organisation and the employees. These psychological
responses may result in lesser turnover intentions. Certain
studies have gured out variables like psychological
contract (Tuin, Brouwer, & Bovee, 2010; Sonnenberg,
2011) and organisational justice (Gelens, Hofmans, Dries,
& Pepermans, 2014) as intervening variables in the relation
between talent management and behavioural outcomes like
turnover intentions.
Talent Management and Employee Retention: Implications of Job Embeddedness- A Research Agenda 37

Instead of viewing the relationship between talent
management and intention to stay through most frequently
studied psychological variables, this article look through
job embeddedness perspective. Job embeddedness is a
broad array of inuences that enmesh the employees in the
organisation or makes them stay back in the organisation,
which is been a key factor in understanding why people stay
in an organisation (Mitchell et al., 2001). Talent management
provides number of additional opportunities to high potential
employees and create an organisational environment in
which employees enmesh. Employees may become highly
embedded as the organisation facilitates in creating close
links in the organisation, providing good t jobs and thereby
enhancing the sacrices they have to make while leaving
the organisation. The embedded employees show greater
tendency to stay back with the organisation. So talent
management through creating highly embedded employees
enhances higher intention to stay among employees. These
relationships linking Talent Management Practices, Job
Embeddedness, and Intention to Stay is proposed as a model
that is diagrammatically represented as shown in Fig. 1.
8
<Figure head> Fig. 1: Proposed model linking Talent Management Practices, Job Embeddedness, and Intention
to Stay
<B level> Talent management practices and Link
The dimension of link refers to the connections between an employee and other employees, groups, or
organisations, includes both on-the-job and off-the-job links. On-the-job links or links-organisation considers
the formal and informal connections that exist between an employee, other people, or groups within the
organisation, whereas, off-the-job links or links-community addresses the connections that exist with the
community (Holtom et al., 2006). Talent management practices may contribute in increasing the connections
both in the organisation and community, which significantly influence the turnover intentions of the employees.
According to CIPD (2015) high-potential in-house development schemes, coaching, mentoring and buddying
schemes are identified as the organisations’ most commonly used and effective talent management activities.
These activities may link the hi-potential employees with more senior leaders and top management executives,
thereby increasing on-the-job links of the employee. Mentoring is an excellent practice to cultivate strong bonds
between a hi-potential employee and his mentor, which may make the employee more tied with his mentor as
well as the organisation (Holtom et al., 2006). In addition cross-functional project assignments, internal
JOB
EMBEDDEDNESS
TALENT MANAGEMENT
PRACTICES
INTENTION TO STAY
LINK
SACRIFICE
FIT


The dimension of link refers to the connections between an
employee and other employees, groups, or organisations,
includes both on-the-job and off-the-job links. On-the-job
links or links-organisation considers the formal and informal
connections that exist between an employee, other people, or
groups within the organisation, whereas, off-the-job links or
links-community addresses the connections that exist with
the community (Holtom et al., 2006). Talent management
practices may contribute in increasing the connections both
in the organisation and community, which signicantly
inuence the turnover intentions of the employees.
According to CIPD (2015) high-potential in-house
development schemes, coaching, mentoring and buddying
schemes are identied as the organisations’ most commonly
used and effective talent management activities. These
activities may link the hi-potential employees with more
senior leaders and top management executives, thereby
increasing on-the-job links of the employee. Mentoring
is an excellent practice to cultivate strong bonds between
a hi-potential employee and his mentor, which may make
the employee more tied with his mentor as well as the
organisation (Holtom et al., 2006). In addition cross-
functional project assignments, internal secondments
provided as part of talent management initiatives can also
create more opportunities for the employee to develop a
stronger network in the organisation, which may make his
turnover decision tougher.
Organisations may also provide opportunities to join courses
leading to a management/ business qualication (for example
MBA) which may link the employee with the nearby
communities and enhancing off-the-job links. Similarly
encouraging the participation in external conferences,
workshops and events can help the employee to develop a
network outside the organisation. Even though not common,
organisations may provide external secondments which
provide temporary transfer for a temporary assignment
outside the organisation, which also is an opportunity
to develop off-the-job links. In short, the role of talent
management in increasing the links of the employees cannot
be ignored, leading to Proposition 1.
38 Journal of Strategic Human Resource Management Volume 5 Issue 2 June 2016
Proposition 1: Talent management practices may positively
inuence the link dimension of job embeddedness.

The dimension of t in job embeddedness concept refers
to an employee’s perceived compatibility or comfort with
the organisation (on-the-job t) and the larger community
(off-the-job links). It is really important that the person’s
values, career goals and plans for the future must ‘‘t’ with
that of the organisation as well as the bigger community.
The rst place to focus in building t in the organisation
is in the recruitment and selection process (Holtom et al.,
2006). The organisations practicing talent management,
consider competencies as the building block (Dalziel, 2004)
and conducts recruitment and selection of external talent
based on the competencies of the position. So only those
candidates who have competencies to excel in that position
may be hired. Also, talent management promotes potential
assessment to be applied in recruitment process which
provides a clearer picture of a candidate (Berger, 2004),
thereby increasing the on-the-job t. Even though ‘recruit
heavily from the local communities’ can increase t of the
employees, this hiring practice may not be favoured by the
talent management that highlights the competencies- based
hiring.
Studies show that satisfaction with training and development
opportunities is a best predictor of organisational t (Dyk,
Coetzee, & Takawira, 2013). Talent development, being a
main activity of talent management, ensures that the most
suitable development initiatives for high potential employees
may be adopted for improving the competencies that the
employees lack for his/ her career ahead.
Bambacas & Kulik (2013) highlight the inuence of the
performance appraisal and organisational rewards on the
t dimension. Talent management promotes unbiased
performance appraisal and potential assessment based on
the organisational competencies, and organisational rewards
are decided based on these assessment results. The recent
development of talent analytics promotes more objective
measures in deciding the performance and potential level
of the employees, which may also signicantly contribute
in increasing the on-the-job t. So it could summarised as
Proposition 2.
Proposition 2: Talent management practices may positively
inuence the t dimension of job embeddedness.

Sacrice dimension in job embeddedness represents the
perceived cost of material or psychological benets that an
employee has to forfeit while leaving the organisation. It may
be understood as psychological and material exit barriers in
leaving an organisation. When the sacrice increases, the
employee has to give up more when leaving which makes
the exit from the organisation difcult. It was identied that
satisfaction with career opportunities (Dyk et al., 2013), and
employee development activities (Bambacas & Kulik, 2013)
increase employees’ perceptions of sacrice (Holtom et al.,
2006).
Any additional benets an organisation provides which will
be lost while leaving the organisation makes the sacrice
dimension higher. Talent management, by denition itself is
the additional opportunities provided to talented employees.
So increase in number of the talent management initiatives
in the organisation can cause signicant increase in the cost
of leaving the organisation, which can be summarised as
Proposition 3.
Proposition 3: Talent management practices may positively
inuence the sacrice dimension of job embeddedness.


Being the additional management practices provided to
talented employees in order to nurture them and elicit
positive work attitudes, talent management may link the
employees more tightly to the organisations, provide more
t in their job domains, and enhance the benets they have
forfeit while they quit. This in turn enhances the intention
to stay of employees. Literature have investigated the role
of human resource practices on job embeddedness and
turnover intentions, and identied that job embeddedness
shows a mediating effect in the relation between various
human resource practices and turnover intentions (Bergiel et
al., 2009; Bambacas & Kulik, 2013; Ghosh & Gurunathan,
2015). Bergiel et al., 2009 identied that Job embeddedness
fully mediated the effect of compensation and growth
opportunities on turnover intention. Talent management
are additional initiatives provided to talented employees in
addition to normal human resource, so the embeddedness it
creates is ought to be more than the normal human resource
practices.
Talent management is a mutual investment relationship,
where employees are beneted with career development
and organisations with enhanced performance. Hom, Tsui,
Wu, Lee, Zhang, & Fu (2009) established the mediation
effects of job embeddedness on the relation between mutual
investment employment relationship and turnover intention.
In addition, it ensures the participation and involvement
of the employees in the organisation and position itself
as commitment based HR strategy. The inuence of
commitment-based HR practices on employees’ intention to
quit is mediated by job embeddedness (Ghosh & Gurunathan,
Talent Management and Employee Retention: Implications of Job Embeddedness- A Research Agenda 39
2015). Being a commitment based practice as well as mutual
investment relationship, talent management practices
conrms the inuences on turnover intentions, through job
embeddedness. In short, this article suggests the mediation
role of job embeddedness leading to Proposition 4.
Proposition 4: Job embeddedness mediates the relation
between talent management practices and intention to stay
of employees.

In the present paper, a theoretical framework that introduces
job embeddedness as an intervening variable for exploring
how talent management practices inuences employee’s
intention to stay is been presented. The current paper may
offer insights for academics as well as for HR practitioners,
in developing a future research agenda and in managerial
practice.

The developed research agenda consists of propositions
linking talent management practices, job embeddedness and
intention to stay. An empirical study to test the proposed
model in organisations can ensure more legitimacy for talent
management as a retention strategy. Studies can attempt to
analyse the variations in embeddedness and intention to stay
of employees in organisations with different levels of talent
management maturity in the organisation. Longitudinal
designs may be the most appropriate, even though a bit
challenging, which can help to study how talent management
practices inuence job embeddedness which will in turn lead
to employee intention to stay.

From a theoretical point of view, there is a lack of theoretical
support on how talent management practices help in retaining
high-potential employees. Despite talent management
having a direct inuence on turnover intentions; this article
discusses the inuence of talent management initiatives in
creating embedded high potential employees and thereby
leading to lesser turnover rates, which may provide a research
agenda in future studies on the topic of talent management.
An empirical study that takes into account the variations
in talent management practices and job embeddedness and
its effects on outcome variables such as turnover intentions
would more insight into the model that would show the
direction and strengths of these relationships.
On the practical side, this paper encourages HR practitioners
to assess the role of job embeddedness in the relation between
talent management and employee retention, instead of merely
focusing on efforts for the talent retention. Furthermore, the
multiple propositions provide HR practitioners with insights
to strive for retention of talented employees through talent
management, by focusing on various initiatives that increase
the link, t and sacrice dimensions of embeddedness, and
thereby increasing the retention rates of the employees.

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