A new year is born, and the blog is back to cover new developments and research findings within I/O psychology and HRM. The biggest focus will of course be awarded to my own research topic, namely talent management. Although it has been almost two decades since the term “the war for talent” was coined, this is still a field where a lot keeps on happening from one year to another. So, what better way to start off 2017 than by looking into where talent management might be headed? I have taken to scientific journals, conferences, industrial developments, and my own conversations with managers and HR professionals over the past year to round up three broad talent themes that will most likely become increasingly relevant in the coming year. The first one out is a topic that can scarcely be avoided due to both demographic and legal reasons: Age.
Traditionally, talent management has mostly been aimed at the junior segment of the workforce. Chances are that we will see this shifting in 2017. It cannot be lost on anyone that large parts of the Western world, and not least Europe, have an aging population. The seniors are healthier than ever, and many will want and/or need to work longer. Many of the late baby boomers and early generations X:ers will likely work well into their 70s. And on top of this we have the increasing legal focus on age as grounds for discrimination.
In other words, companies are facing a situation where age will need to be factored into the talent equation. For instance, is it always reasonable to put an upper age limit on your talent pool? This is not just a fairness issue – there are also important strategic reasons for wanting to include the older segments into talent management initiatives. If talent really is a scarce resource, few organizations can afford to say no to large pools of potential talent on such irrelevant grounds as age.
Still, there are indications that they do. Swailes and Blackburn (2016), for instance, showed that older employees had a smaller chance than younger of being included in talent pools. This is in line with research showing that age stereotypes are alive and well in organizations: For instance, we tend to consider older employees as less productive (Posthuma & Campion, 2009), less willing to learn, and more change resistant (Ng & Feldman, 2012). Transcending these stereotypes and the “think talent, think young” mindset is a major challenge that will likely increase its presence in 2017.