Subjective Bias in Talent Identification

  • Denise HollandEmail author


This chapter explores talent identification during the early stages of the merger and acquisition process. Acquiring management teams need to balance the assessment of accurate talent information with decisions that will influence integration planning which may ultimately affect the acquisition outcome. Acquirers may rely on inside information from target executives and as transformational change events, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) creates political arenas that increase the risk of overshadowing talent by poor and biased talent decisions and political manoeuvring. Talent identification is an underexplored area within M&A contexts which run the risk of informal talent identification and subjective decisions. The chapter proposes a framework for future study and identifies the need to extend and re-engineer HR due diligence to include a deeper analysis of expanded talent pools.


Talent Talent identification Mergers and acquisitions Bias HR due diligence 


  1. Aguilera, R. V., Dencker, J. C., & Yalabik, Z. Y. (2008). Institutions and organizational socialization: Integrating employees in cross-border mergers and acquisitions. In A. Y. Lewin, S. T. Cavusgil, T. Hult, & D. Griffith (Eds.), Thought leadership in advancing international business research (pp. 153–189). London: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  2. Aguinis, H., & O’Boyle, E. (2014). Star performers in twenty-first century organizations. Personnel Psychology, 67(2), 313–350.Google Scholar
  3. Allatta, J. T., & Singh, H. (2011). Evolving communication patterns in response to an acquisition event. Strategic Management Journal, 32(10), 1099–1118.Google Scholar
  4. Angwin, D. (2001). Mergers and acquisitions across European borders: National perspectives on pre-acquisition due diligence and the use of professional advisers. Journal of World Business, 36(1), 32–57.Google Scholar
  5. Angwin, D. (2004). Speed in M&A Integration: The first 100 days. European Management Journal, 22(4), 418–430.Google Scholar
  6. Antila, E. M. (2006). The role of HR managers in international mergers and acquisitions: A multiple case study. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 17(6), 999–1020.Google Scholar
  7. Antila, E. M., & Kakkonen, A. (2008). Factors affecting the role of HR managers in international mergers and acquisitions: A multiple case study. Personnel Review, 37(3), 280–299.Google Scholar
  8. Ashkenas, R., Francis, S., & Heinick, R. (2011). The merger dividend. Harvard Business Review, 89(7/8), 126–133.Google Scholar
  9. Avedon, M. J., & Scholes, G. (2010). Building competitive advantage through integrated talent management. In R. Silzer & R. E. Dowell (Eds.), Strategy-driven talent management: A leadership imperative (pp. 73–119). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  10. Becker, B. E., Huselid, M. A., & Beatty, R. W. (2009). The differentiated workforce: Transforming talent into strategic impact. Boston: Harvard Business Press.Google Scholar
  11. Beechler, S., & Woodward, I. C. (2009). The global “war for talent”. Journal of International Management, 15(3), 273–285.Google Scholar
  12. Birkinshaw, J. M., Bresman, H., & Hackanson, L. (2000). Managing the post-acquisition integration process: How the human integration and task integration processes interact to foster value creation. Journal of Management Studies, 37(3), 395–424.Google Scholar
  13. Björkman, I., & Søderberg, A. M. (2003). Quo vadis, HR?: An analysis of the roles played by the HR function during the post-merger process. In A. M. Søderberg & E. Vaara (Eds.), Merging across borders: People, cultures and politics (pp. 177–202). Copenhagen, Denmark: Copenhagen Business School Press.Google Scholar
  14. Boudreau, J. W., & Jesuthasan, R. (2011). Transformative HR: How great companies use evidence based change for sustainable advantage. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  15. Boudreau, J. W., & Ramstad, P. M. (2007). Beyond HR: The new science of human capital. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.Google Scholar
  16. Bower, J. L. (2001). Not all M&As are alike – And that matters. Harvard Business Review, 79(3), 92–101.Google Scholar
  17. Briscoe, D., Schuler, R., & Tarique, I. (2012). International human resource management: Policies and practices for multinational enterprises (4th ed.). New York/London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  18. Brown, M., Hyatt, D., & Benson, J. (2010). Consequences of the performance appraisal experience. Personnel Review, 39(3), 375–396.Google Scholar
  19. Bruner, R. F. (2004). Applied mergers and acquisitions. Wiley Finance, University Edition.Google Scholar
  20. Buono, A. F., & Bowditch, J. L. (1989). The human side of mergers and acquisitions. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  21. Cartwright, S., & Cooper, C. L. (1992). Mergers and acquisitions: The human factor. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.Google Scholar
  22. Cascio, W., & Boudreau, J. (2010). Investing in people: Financial impact of human resource initiatives. New York: Financial Times Press.Google Scholar
  23. CFO. (2010). Human capital management and the success or failure of M&A. A report prepared by CFO Research Services in collaboration with Aon Hewitt. CFO Publishing LLC. Available at: Accessed 29 Mar 2018.
  24. Chang, C. H., Rosen, C. C., & Levy, P. E. (2009). The relationship between perceptions of organizational politics and employee attitudes, strain, and behaviour: A meta-analytic examination. Academy of Management Journal, 52(4), 779–801.Google Scholar
  25. Clark, E., & Geppert, M. (2011). Subsidiary integration as identity construction and institution building: A political sensemaking approach. Journal of Management Studies, 48(2), 395–416.Google Scholar
  26. Collings, D. G. (2014). Toward mature talent management: Beyond shareholder value. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 25(3), 301–319.Google Scholar
  27. Collings, D. G., McDonnell, A., & Scullion, H. (2009). Global talent management: The law of the few. Poznan University of Economics Review, 9(2), 5–18.Google Scholar
  28. Collings, D. G., & Mellahi, K. (2009). Strategic talent management: A review and research agenda. Human Resource Management Review, 19(4), 304–313.Google Scholar
  29. Collings, D. G., Scullion, H., & Morley, M. (2007). Changing patterns of global staffing in the multinational enterprise: Challenges to the conventional expatriate assignment. Journal of World Business, 42(2), 198–213.Google Scholar
  30. Coulson-Thomas, C. (2012). Talent management and building high performance organisations. Industrial and Commercial Training, 44(7), 429–438.Google Scholar
  31. Deloitte. (2010). Talent edge 2020: Blueprints for the new normal. Available at: Accessed 31 Mar 2018.
  32. Dulebohn, J. H., & Johnson, R. D. (2013). Human resource metrics and decision support: A classification framework. Human Resource Management Review, 23(1), 71–83.Google Scholar
  33. Evans, P., Pucik, V., & Björkman, I. (2011). The global challenge: International human resource management (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.Google Scholar
  34. Fisher, C. D. (1986). Organizational socialization: An integrative view. Research in Personnel and Human Resources Management, 4(1), 101–145.Google Scholar
  35. Gallardo-Gallardo, E., Dries, N., & González-Cruz, T. F. (2013). What is the meaning of ‘talent’ in the world of work? Human Resource Management Review, 23(4), 290–300.Google Scholar
  36. Galpin, T. J. (2010). Refining due diligence to jump start effectives integration. In R. Gleich, G. Kierans, & T. Hasselback (Eds.), Value in due diligence: Contemporary strategies for merger and acquisition success. Aldershot, UK: Gower Publishing.Google Scholar
  37. Galpin, T. J., & Herndon, M. (2007). The complete guide to mergers and acquisitions (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  38. Gomes, E., Weber, Y., Brown, C., & Shlomo, Y. T. (2011). Mergers, acquisitions and strategic alliances: Understanding the process. London: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  39. Haleblian, J., Devers, C. E., McNamara, G., Carpenter, M. A., & Davison, R. B. (2009). Taking stock of what we know about mergers and acquisitions: A review and research agenda. Journal of Management, 35(3), 469–502.Google Scholar
  40. Harding, D., & Rouse, T. (2007). Human due diligence. Harvard Business Review, 85(4), 124–131.Google Scholar
  41. Harvey, M. G., & Lusch, R. F. (1995). Expanding the nature and scope of due diligence. Journal of Business Venturing, 10(1), 5–21.Google Scholar
  42. Hitt, M. A., Harrison, J. S., & Ireland, R. D. (2001). Mergers and acquisition: A guide to creating value for stakeholders. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Holland, D. (2015). Talent retention: An interpretive study of talent’s pull-to-stay post-acquisition – A multiple case study. Ph.D. dissertation, National University of Ireland Galway.Google Scholar
  44. King, K. G. (2016). Data analytics in human resources: A case study and critical review. Human Resource Development Review, 15(4), 487–495.Google Scholar
  45. Krug, J., & Hegarty, W. H. (2001). Predicting who stays and leaves after an acquisition: A study of top managers in multi-national firms. Strategic Management Journal, 22, 185–196.Google Scholar
  46. Krug, J. A. (2009). Brain drain: Why top management bolts after M&As. Journal of Business Strategy, 30(6), 4–14.Google Scholar
  47. Lafforet, C., & Wageman, R. (2009). Going beyond the financial issues in turning a merger into a success. Leader to Leader, 2009(53), 44–51.Google Scholar
  48. Larsson, R., & Finkelstein, S. (1999). Integrating strategic, organizational, and human resource perspectives on mergers and acquisitions: A case survey of synergy realization. Organization Science, 10(1), 1–26.Google Scholar
  49. Lewis, R. E., & Heckman, R. J. (2006). Talent management: A critical review. Human Resource Management Review, 16(2), 139–154.Google Scholar
  50. Mäkelä, K., Björkman, I., & Ehrnrooth, M. (2010). How do MNC’s establish their talent pools? Influences on individuals’ likelihood of being labelled as talent. Journal of World Business, 45(2), 134–142.Google Scholar
  51. Marks, M., & Mirvis, P. (2011). Merge ahead: A research agenda to increase merger and acquisition success. Journal of Business and Psychology, 26(2), 161–168.Google Scholar
  52. Marks, M. L., & Mirvis, P. H. (1998). Joining forces: Making one plus one equals three in mergers, acquisitions and alliances. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  53. McCarty Kilian, C., Hukai, D., & McCarty, C. E. (2005). Building diversity in the pipeline to corporate leadership. Journal of Management Development, 24(2), 155–168.Google Scholar
  54. McDonnell, A. (2011). Still fighting the “war for talent”? Bridging the science versus practice gap. Journal of Business and Psychology, 26(2), 169–173.Google Scholar
  55. McDonnell, A., & Collings, D. G. (2010). The identification and evaluation of talent in MNE’s. In H. Scullion & D. G. Collings (Eds.), Global talent management (pp. 56–73). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  56. McSweeney, B., & Happonen, E. (2012). Pre-deal management. In D. Faulkner, S. Teerikangas, & R. J. Joseph (Eds.), The handbook on mergers and acquisitions (pp. 171–194). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  57. Mellahi, K., & Collings, D. G. (2010). The barriers to effective global talent management: The example of corporate élites in MNEs. Journal of World Business, 45(2), 143–149.Google Scholar
  58. Meyers, M. C., van Woerkom, M., & Dries, N. (2013). Talent—Innate or acquired? Theoretical considerations and their implications for talent management. Human Resource Management Review, 23(4), 305–321.Google Scholar
  59. Michaels, E., Hanfield-Jones, H., & Axelrod, B. (2001). War for talent. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.Google Scholar
  60. Mirc, N. (2012). Connecting the micro- and macro-level: Proposition of a research design to study post-acquisition synergies through a social network approach. Scandinavian Journal of Management, 28(2), 121–135.Google Scholar
  61. Nijs, S., Gallardo-Gallardo, E., Dries, N., & Sels, L. (2014). A multidisciplinary review into the definition, operationalization, and measurement of talent. Journal of World Business, 49(2), 180–191.Google Scholar
  62. Pfeffer, J. (2001). Fighting the war for talent is hazardous to your organization’s health. Organizational Dynamics, 29(4), 248–259.Google Scholar
  63. Picot, G. (2002). Handbook of global mergers and acquisitions: Preparation, implementation and integration. New York: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  64. PWC. (2012). Human resource due diligence. Available at: Accessed 30 Mar 2018.
  65. Ranft, A. L., & Lord, M. D. (2000). Acquiring new knowledge: The role of retaining human capital in acquisitions of high-tech firms. The Journal of High Technology Management Research, 11(2), 295–319.Google Scholar
  66. Ready, D. A., Conger, J. A., & Hill, L. A. (2010). Are you a high potential. Harvard Business Review, 88(6), 78–84.Google Scholar
  67. Rhoades, L., & Eisenberger, R. (2002). Perceived organizational support: A review of the literature. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87(4), 698–714.Google Scholar
  68. Roberson, L., Galvin, B. M., & Charles, A. C. (2007). When group identities matter: Bias in performance appraisal. The Academy of Management Annals, 1(1), 617–650.Google Scholar
  69. Schneider, B. (1987). The people make the place. Personal Psychology, 40(3), 437–453.Google Scholar
  70. Schuler, R., & Jackson, R. (2001). HR issues and activities in mergers and acquisitions. European Management Journal, 19(3), 239–253.Google Scholar
  71. Schuler, R. S., Jackson, S. E., & Tarique, I. (2011). Global talent management and global talent challenges: Strategic opportunities for IHRM. Journal of World Business, 46, 506–516.Google Scholar
  72. Shapiro, A. (2007, September 13). Talent spot. Accountancy Age, p. 21.Google Scholar
  73. Shimizu, K., Hiee, M. A., Vaidyanath, D., & Pisano, V. (2004). Theoretical foundations of cross-border mergers and acquisitions: A review of current research and recommendations for the future. Journal of International Management, 10(3), 307–353.Google Scholar
  74. Silzer, R., & Church, A. H. (2009). The pearls and perils of identifying potential. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 2(4), 377–412.Google Scholar
  75. Sparrow, P. R., & Makram, H. (2015). What is the value of talent management? Building value-driven processes within a talent management architecture. Human Resource Management Review, 25(3), 249–263.Google Scholar
  76. Stadler, K. (2011). Talent reviews: The key to effective succession management. Business Strategy Series, 12(5), 264–271.Google Scholar
  77. Stahl, G. K., Angwin, D. N., Very, P., Gomes, E., Weber, Y., Tarba, S. Y., et al. (2013). Sociocultural integration in mergers and acquisitions: Unresolved paradoxes and directions for future research. Thunderbird International Business Review, 55(4), 333–356.Google Scholar
  78. Stahl, G. K., & Voight, A. (2008). Do cultural differences matter in mergers and acquisitions? A tentative model and examination. Organization Science, 19(1), 160–176.Google Scholar
  79. Swailes, S. (2013). The ethics of talent management. Business Ethics: A European Review, 22(1), 32–46.Google Scholar
  80. Tarique, I., & Schuler, R. S. (2010). Global talent management: Literature review, integrative framework, and suggestions for further research. Journal of World Business, 45, 122–133.Google Scholar
  81. Thunnissen, M., Boselie, P., & Fruytier, B. (2013). A review of talent management: ‘Infancy or adolescence?’. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 24(9), 1744–1761.Google Scholar
  82. Tienari, J., & Vaara, E. (2012). Power and politics in mergers and acquisitions. In D. Faulkner, S. Teerikangas, & R. J. Joseph (Eds.), The handbook of mergers and acquisitions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  83. Tormala, Z. L., Jia, J. S., & Norton, M. I. (2012). The preference for potential. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 103(4), 567–583.Google Scholar
  84. Ulrich, D. (2007). The talent trifecta. Workforce Management, 86(15), 32–33.Google Scholar
  85. Ulrich, D., & Dulebohn, J. H. (2015). Are we there yet? What’s next for HR? Human Resource Management Review, 25(2), 188–204.Google Scholar
  86. Vaiman, V., Scullion, H., & Collings, D. (2012). Talent management decision making. Management Decision, 50(5), 925–941.Google Scholar
  87. Villalonga, B., & McGahan, A. M. (2005). The choice among acquisitions, alliances and divestitures. Strategic Management Journal, 26, 1183–1208.Google Scholar
  88. Walsh, J. P. (1988). Top management turnover following mergers and acquisitions. Strategic Management Journal, 9(2), 173–183.Google Scholar
  89. Weber, Y., Tarba, S. Y., & Reichel, A. (2011). A model of the influence of culture on integration approaches and international mergers and acquisitions performance. International Studies of Management & Organisation, 41(3), 9–24.Google Scholar
  90. Whelan, E. (2011). It’s who you know not what you know: A social network analysis approach to talent management. European Journal of International Management, 5(5), 484–500.Google Scholar
  91. World Economic Forum. (2011). Global talent risk – Seven responses. Geneva, Switzerland: World Economic Forum.Google Scholar
  92. Yost, P. R., & Plunkett, M. M. (2010). Developing leadership talent through experiences. In R. F. Silzer & B. E. Dowell (Eds.), Strategy driven talent management: A leadership imperative (pp. 313–348). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  93. Zander, O., Zander, L., & Tildiz, H. T. (2012). Building competitive advantage in international acquisitions: Grey box conditions, culture, status and meritocracy. In A. Verbeke & H. Merchant (Eds.), Handbook of research on international strategic management (pp. 211–237). Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.J.E. Cairnes School of Business and EconomicsNational University of Ireland GalwayGalwayIreland

Personalised recommendations