Purpose – This research reports insights from the practices of talent management (TM) in SMEs in the manufacturing sector in greater Suzhou area, China, with the primary aim of building a theory for TM as a systemic model in the format of a talent management framework (TMF). It also aims at describing the attributes of the respective constructs which make up the TMF. Finally, it aims at providing a practitioner’s model based on the TMF and insights gained from the study and the practitioner’s experience.
Design/methodologies – The methodologies used were (1) review of literature and practices; (2) theory building; and (3) action research, using the framework suggested by multiple-case study as a mode of data collection via the methods of semi-structured interviews and surveys, and data interpretation via different types of triangulation.
Findings – Despite limited resources and access-to-field issues, it seems clear that the senior manager/owner of an SME is the only influencer on the TM approach. The practices involved may not be systematic or even well-documented but they are perceived still to serve the purpose of the SME. Even where the practices are not holistic and incomplete, they effectively map into the relevant constructs of a hypothetical TMF, which suggests that the TMF can indeed be applied as a generic systemic model for TM.
Research limitations – Although 6 case studies are not adequate to reach any statistically meaningful conclusion, the TMF thereof derived and its constructs can be used as a foundation to selectively or holistically study the TM system model for validity and reliability by future research.
Academic and managerial contributions – (i) Academically, a talent management theory has been generated as a systemic model in the form of a TMF with the relevant constructs. A comprehensive definition has been established for both ‘talent management’ and ‘competency’ which can be a basis for further research and improvements on the definitions. As for (ii) managerial contributions, this study provides a practicable model with detailed descriptions of the attributes of every construct of the TMF as well as recommendations to deal with subtleties when applying the practitioner’s model in business organizations.
Originality – This research has built the TM theory via a double-loop feedback TMF based on action research findings. By integrating feedbacks on both the TM processes and values generated for the stakeholders, a comprehensive definition of TM and competency is made possible.
Key words – Talent Management, Competency, Practitioner’s Framework