Purpose: This article addresses three concerns about the operationalization and possible effects of exclusive talent management; the core assumptions that underpin and shape talent practices, the problem of fair talent identification and potentially adverse employee reactions.
Design/methodology/approach: This is a conceptual paper that integrates empirical research on talent and talent management with ideas from business ethics.
Findings: Organizations should not simply assume that they meet the underlying assumptions of talent management. Where the assumptions can reasonably be shown to be valid, then a framework based on a set of principles is suggested to guide organizational approaches towards responsible talent management.
Practical implications: The article provides talent practitioners with a set of principles, or at least some substantive suggestions, to be considered in the design of socially responsible talent management programmes and in programme evaluation.
Social implications: The article provides guidance for organizations wishing to improve the care of their workforce in relation to strategies of employee differentiation based on performance and potential.
Originality/value: Despite the burgeoning literature on talent management, the topic has not received much attention from an ethical and socially responsible viewpoint. This article adds to that literature and suggests further research particularly concerning the existence of real talent differences on which the entire talent management project is based.