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Talent Evolution - Who has Control?: A conceptual framework: A qualitative investigation into the concepts of employability within third level undergraduate and post-graduate engineering students in Dublin, Ireland

Davis, Drew Jay (2017) Talent Evolution - Who has Control?: A conceptual framework: A qualitative investigation into the concepts of employability within third level undergraduate and post-graduate engineering students in Dublin, Ireland. Masters thesis, Dublin, National College of Ireland.

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Purpose (Hypothesis) – Framed by graduate talent management, the purpose of this paper was to construct a conceptual model and framework ‘Talent Evolution - Who has Control?’, figure 1. This paper initials a rationale research question worthy of further study, recognising the current trends and the complexity of the employer-graduate exchange regarding graduate management. The stock market crash of 2008 (recent recession) has radically shifted the concepts of McKinsey’s War for Talent to a new vantage point, with scarring implications such as unemployment, underemployment, and aggressive upskilling, leading graduates to practice career resilience- an individualist and consumerist approach to gain employment. Rather than simply classifying employability and accessing graduate talent as a stationary and ridged procedure, theory of talent evolution argues that employability is an indefinite and heuristic process of obtaining meaningful and challenging work. Ultimately embodying career resilience practices, a constant shift between career-efficiency and self-efficiency, superior to institutional and entry-level employability. But the underlying principle of this evolutionary process is- ‘who has control?’. in other words, ‘who has control over managing talent? Who defines and controls employability? Is it the employer or the graduate?’

Design/methodology/approach –Talent evolution, as a conceptual model, was comprised of a theory building process, using three sets of semi-structured focus groups within a collective engineering student body, against contextual data and conventional employability theories. By applying a thematic analysis of some core themes that have emerged from academic literature such as but not limited to; Makki, Salleh, Memon, and Harum (2015), Shaw and Fairhurst (2008), Garavan (2007) and Bedingfield (2005), Knight and Yorke (2003), and
Chambers, Foulon Handfield-Jones, Hankin, and Michaels III, E (1998) War for Talent report ‘talent evolution’, figure 1. Emerging themes from contextual data was inspected to demonstrate talent evolution as a testable hypothesis within an inductive philosophical framework. These emerging themes, such as employability, work readiness, talent management and career-self-efficiency, were implemented within the data collection process and analysis, table 1, Braun and Clarke (2006). The primary data consisted of three sets of in-depth focus group interviews of third-level undergraduate and post-graduate engineering students located in Dublin, Ireland. In addition, the collection of data was examined qualitatively, and Saldaña, J. (2015), Matusovich, Streveler and Miller (2010), and Eisenhardt and Graebner (2007) research was used as a template to design the conceptual model of ‘Talent Evolution - Who has Control?’ as illustrated in figure 1. Incorporating a qualitative investigation and inductive reasoning, the engineering students, as the population sample, procured an enlightened enquiry into the concepts of talent management and employability, from a post-structuralist, interpretivism perspective.

Findings – This paper illustrates an in-depth profile of millennial third level engineering students, signifying the complexity of a student’s employability and position within the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematic (STEM) labour markets, and the organisational graduate management systems. Advancing from Makki et al., (2015) and Dacre-Pool, Sewell, and Sewell (2007) and Knight and Yorke (2003) theoretical frameworks, this qualitative investigation reviewed, from the perspectives of third-level students, has positioned the capability of a graduate’s employability within the highly volatile and complex knowledge economy and workplace environment. Specific characteristics such as millennial individual’s identity, learning styles, employability engagement, previous experiences, and expectations within the employer-graduate exchange was critically analysed and charted within existing theoretical and contextual data. Thus, illustrating the ambiguity of current management schemes, Human Resource Management strategies (HRM) and Strategic Human Resource Management (SHRM) towards graduate talent development. Therefore, adapting to employability, within the employer-graduate exchange is not a statement, but an organic and indefinite process, that is dependent upon an individual’s career exploration practices, such as ‘future vision’ or ‘career tasters’ and perspectives of the labour market and the employer-graduate exchange, demonstrating the importance of ‘corporate fit’ or ‘personal fit’. An individual’s experiences form the conceptual framework of talent evolution, a constant pursuit of obtaining challenging and meaningful work, engaging in career resilience, work readiness, boundary-less careers, life-long learning, and career-self efficiency. While at the same time, acknowledging that the individual is responsible for their own development or fall-backs in obtaining career-self efficiency.

Research limitations/implications –The findings and logical analysis of this paper is a radical shift from the confinements of War for Talent, and conventional organisational career models. This paper is a qualitative and thematic analysis paper, that can be tested within mainstream inductive and deductive conceptual frameworks regarding key themes and topics of employability, work readiness, graduate resourcing, and graduate development. However, the series of semi-structured focus groups of third level engineers was conducted within a short space of time, capturing the transitory and intrinsic perspectives of an engineering student’s perceptions and expectations of employability and talent within a restricted career map and limited workplace experience. This unfortunately illustrates the preliminary effects of talent evolution. Conclusions based on this paper is limited to evidence procured within the scope of the working sample. Most notably, only five women were included in this study, which is relative the participation levels within the collective student body and the engineering degree of a third-level institution located in Dublin. Therefore, by examining the assumed relativity of these engineers, against theoretical and contextual data, elevated the suitability of talent evolution, expanding the academic, conceptual, and thematic models of employability and graduate talent management. Further in-depth longitudinal and quantitative studies, relating to third-level students as the new theorists of employability, is necessary to transfer talent evolution within various geographical points, adapting the proposed conceptual model to various academic disciplines. Either at a national and international scale, analysing the structural and interpretative frameworks of ‘what defines employability?’ is necessary to determine if the theory of ‘Talent Evolution-Who has Control?’ is an effective theoretical and practical model, addressing the underlying issues related to managing an intergenerational workforce. In addition, this further research within various geographical and academic spectrums is crucial to prove that talent evolution is not solely confined within this paper working sample, third-level engineering students or in Dublin, Ireland.

Practical implications – There is an assumption that individuals must conform to the ideal of career efficiency, and must religiously exercise in theoretical models of employability. These theoretical models, such as Dacre Pool et al., (2007) ‘Key of employability’, Knight and Yorke (2004) USEM model, and Law and Watts (1977) DOTS model are governed by the principles of generic organisational and firm specific SHRM perspectives. Realistically, talent from an organisational perspective, are exclusively chosen groups of individuals that receive access to opportunities that enhance their careers, as graduates are perceived as precious assets to an organisation, illustrating strategic effectiveness to high performance and profitability, Cabellero and Walker (2010), Garavan (2007) and Bedingfield (2005). This paper proposes that third level students/graduates are the new theorists of employability, regaining control of their idiocentric career exploration and talent development. Collectively, third-level students have regained control over the employer-employee exchange, compelling employers, and corporations to mitigate their scientific and mass production talent strategies to a new forum. The recent recession has resulted in graduates’ adopting an entrepreneurial and consumerist approach to job seeking activities, and embodying a new trend of voluntary resignations, causing a challenge in corporate SHRM and ROI tactics. Talent evolution recognises the need for corporations to treat graduates as individuals with various interpretations and engagements of employability. The practical implications of this paper are to refocus the employers theoretical and idealistic models of employability, using the graduate millennials as the new key to stabilise labour market demands and talent supply. Suggesting that third-level student’s understandings and engagements of employability controls the supply-demand equilibrium within the labour market. Talent evolution, as a conceptual model, is an organic process, acknowledging that millennial graduates are on a quest to obtain challenging and meaningful work. Therefore, rather than orchestrate a linear process, talent evolution allows ‘free’ career management and individuals indefinite process in obtaining career-self efficiency as the new frame of reference, accepting employability a life-experiences of career exploration and talent development.

Originality/value – The main contribution of this paper is to refocus the individual’s adaptive nature to the economic, technological, demographic trends and the uncertainty of the unregulated market. Individuals, such third level engineers must to manage their own careers freely, regaining control regarding employability and talent management capabilities, incorporating ‘talent evolution’ within a graduate’s workplace learning and academic-skill development. This has altered the prospective workplace performance, subconsciously altering employer’s perceptions of graduate development schemes, employer expectations and designing and procuring employability-based relationships, enhancing the prospects of self-efficiency and idiocentric career exploration.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > Issues of Labour and Work > Classes of Labour > Graduate Employment
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management > Human Resource Management
Divisions: School of Business > Master of Arts in Human Resource Management
Depositing User: Caoimhe Ní Mhaicín
Date Deposited: 14 Nov 2017 09:23
Last Modified: 14 Nov 2017 09:23

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